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Autism Association hosts Open Day
The Autism Association of Barbados (AAB) has been working hard over the last seven years to do away with labels associated with autism spectrum disorders and provide support to parents, families and teachers of children with autism, as well as the children themselves.
This was revealed at the AAB’s Open Day held yesterday at its Respite Care Centre in Durants, Christ Church. The event signalled the end of the AAB’s week of activities, simultaneously marking World Autism Awareness Day.
President Lawton Walcott gave an outline of the work being carried out by the AAB since its inception in 2004. They have organised a series of activities catering to children with autism, including fun days and Christmas parties, as well as a summer camp in 2006. In addition, the AAB has sought to increase awareness about the disorder through public seminars featuring experts in the field. The organisation has also engaged in training sessions for parents and teachers, led by trainers from Surrey, UK and Toronto, Canada. Persons have also benefited from overseas training organised by the AAB in teaching and coping skills.
The president however lamented that some of those training seminars did not produce the desired results. “We were hoping that from those seminars we would have a cadre of persons for our Respite Care Centre… That wasn’t to be. I think two out of the ten or so came [to lend a hand],” he remarked.
Nonetheless, one of those who did get on board, Akil King, was singled out as a treasure to the AAB and received a rousing round of applause from those gathered. The contribution of other volunteer caregivers present, Mario Holder and Peter Quintyne, was also recognised. Walcott also acknowledged the greatly appreciated support of several individuals, namely Pierrot Holloway and Rosalind Hurley, and parent organisation, the Barbados Council for the Disabled.
He highlighted the AAB’s Respite Care pilot project, supported by the Maria Holder Memorial Trust, where parents can leave their children with qualified, trained caregivers during the day to attend to other business.
“We have needs in every department. For caregivers, users – we have two young men here now and we would like to get that up to six, because the protocol calls for six,” he said in reference to the Centre. “We need support of members and volunteers. Almost anyone can help by being a member, volunteer, caregiver, or even by your goodwill and your words of encouragement.”
He also noted that the AAB was seeking to employ physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech language therapists in the Centre order to enhance the development of its users.
Don’t give up
Meanwhile, featured speaker, Patricia Inniss, left a strong and uplifting message with the parents in the audience: “Never say never”.
A government consultant, biochemistry researcher and herself the mother of an autistic young lady, Inniss shared some of the challenges she encountered while raising her daughter Akilah and stressed how emotionally draining the experience can be for caregivers.
“The worst part about dealing with autism – with any disability – is the emotional stress, the depression it puts you and leaves you in,” she observed.
However, she also highlighted the positives about the condition. “What I love about autism is that you learn to see people as they are,” she said. “We learn to dispense of labels and misunderstandings.”
She urged parents not to allow the labels placed on their children to prevent them from making a connection with their children and drawing them out of their world.
“Everyone was telling me what Akilah would never be able to do,” she recalled. However, given that modern medicine still does not understand many things about how the brain works, she urged parents to challenge such absolute statements.
“Who am I or who are you determine what their life will be?” she questioned. “Who are we to determine what is going on in the realm of disability, in the realm of people we do not understand? Who are we to say never?” (YA)