The Society for the Welfare of Autistic Children (SWAC) began developing its activities for children with autism in Bangladesh in 2000. Initially, this work was started on a small scale by a group of devoted parents. By 2001, SWAC had registered with the Social Service Department and began to greatly expand its activities for the benefit of children and adults with autism.
Since the inception of the Prerona Project in 2007, parents, teachers, and other members of SWAC have been passionately involved in trying to get the Bangladesh government to acknowledge that autism is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. We strongly believe that the government should take necessary steps to foster a better understanding of autism and to provide better educational services for children with autism.
During the last four years of the Prerona Project, notable efforts have been undertaken to increase awareness of the rights, needs, and potential strengths of persons with autism. SWAC has networked extensively with partners and other organizations to raise awareness about autism in Bangladesh.
Through seminars, workshops, and training programs, and through the observation of various autism awareness days including International Disability Day, World Autism Awareness Day, and National Disability Day, our parents, teachers, and professionals have made great progress towards developing their skills and increasing their knowledge about autism. We celebrated the first three annual World Autism Awareness Days with enthusiasm and organized several different special programs including a rally, arts and crafts fair, and discussion on autism.
During the last four years, SWAC arranged seven day-long workshops on ‘Understanding Autism’ outside of Dhaka (in Bogra, Rajshahi, Khulna, Rangamati, Sylhet, Chittagong and Pabna). After receiving positive feedback from various professionals including architects, doctors, teachers, and others, we were encouraged to arrange more programs like this to further raise awareness.
In the presence of celebrities, students of SWAC participated in two drawing competitions, organized by the Mastermind School (an English medium school) and SEID Trust (a non-governmental organization), in which SWAC students won first and second place. These programs inspired the autistic children and gave them confidence in their abilities to perform and demonstrate their talents alongside typically developing children.
Over the past four years, the Prerona Project Manager and members of SWAC have taken part in numerous seminars and conferences organized by NFOWD, WHO, Action for Autism, New Delhi India, Shafallah Centre, Doha, Qatar, amongst others. Everything that has happened over the past four years has encouraged us to move forward with our children with hope and expectation.
The views expressed in this story are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.