A Global Voice for Autism is a U.S.-based organization that exists to help children with autism in conflict-affected communities. Through parent and teacher trainings in evidence-based practices, family support and community education, we work to provide communities with sustainable tools to support their children with autism.
In 2012, Founder and Executive Director Melissa Diamond met the mother of a child with autism while traveling in Jerusalem. The mother lived in the West Bank and was spending three weeks in Jerusalem learning about her daughter’s autism diagnosis. After the three weeks, she planned to return to her home in the West Bank and hide her daughter in her home due to the autism stigma in her community and the lack of resources available to her daughter. Diamond has a close friend who has autism and was struck by the realization that if her friend had been born in a different community, she might never have had the opportunities to attend school, to have friends or to become an active part of her community. A Global Voice for Autism was founded on the belief that children cannot control where they are born and that birthplace should not determine a child’s opportunities to communicate and to access education. A Global Voice for Autism operates under the fiscal sponsorship of Watson University and is in the process of applying for 501(c)3 status in the United States.
Since 2014, A Global Voice for Autism has launched two sites in Jenin and Ramallah, Palestine, two communities that have few options for families of children with autism. Additionally, there is shame in these communities around autism due to a belief that a particular children’s television channel hypnotizes children “causing them to get stuck inside themselves” and, therefore, causes autism. We have worked in these communities to train families in evidence-based practices for supporting their children with autism, to provide parent and sibling support and to educate the communities about autism and about how they can support individuals with the diagnosis. Families who participate in our programs have access to online follow-up consultations with Board Certified Behavior Analysts who provide support and feedback through video exchanges following the three-month training program.
We are currently working to launch a program that will support 160 Syrian refugee students with autism at a school in Mersin, Turkey. While these students attend the school, the school says that they are currently excluded from the educational process given the lack of trained teachers and professionals. Syrian refugee families of children with autism are dually disadvantaged due to the lack of available autism services and their struggles as refugees. We are working to access Syrian refugee communities to help them access services, education, and support.
A Global Voice for Autism
The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.