Global Autism Project Responds to First South Asian Autism Network Conference

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Global Autism Project is hopeful that SAAN will serve as a forum for regulating and directing the work done towards building capacity and raising awareness of ASD within the region and globally.

The Global Autism Project and SOREM in front of the SOREM site

Raising awareness is critically important, but as the organization has learned through its partnerships around the world,the work needs to extend beyond discourse and into the realm of on-the-ground action.

As the first annual South Asian Autism Network (SAAN) meeting convenes in New Delhi today, the Global Autism Project is hopeful to learn more about the progress being made in advancing the understanding and availability of resources for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The South Asian Autism Network was the result of the international conference on autism held in Bangladesh in July 2011. Attendees from countries including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Republic of Maldives adopted the “Dhaka Declaration. Its seven-point agenda included an emphasis on improving the capacities of healthcare professionals and increasing awareness so that those affected would receive the services and support they need within their home countries.

While the Dhaka Declaration was crucial in bringing to light the ever-increasing need for such services, its call to arms has not yielded observable results. Raising awareness is critically important, but as the organization has learned through its partnerships around the world, the work needs to extend beyond discourse and into the realm of on-the-ground action.

As SAAN is still a relatively new network seeking to make a true impact in member countries, the hope is that it will serve as a forum for regulating and directing the actual work being done to build capacity and awareness. This can only be achieved by hearing from those who are working on the ground and empowering those individuals to hold SAAN accountable for following through on their declared objectives and responsibilities.

Local capacity building is incredibly important as it provides communities with the sustainability they need to establish and advance services for individuals with autism. Current efforts focused on this type of local capacity building should serve as models for future endeavors. Of equal importance is an emphasis on evidence-based treatments, such as the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to ensure integrity and quality in service delivery. One such example is the work of the Society for the Rehabilitation of the Mentally Challenged (SOREM) in Chandigarh, India. The Global Autism Project has been working in partnership with SOREM since January 2010. Together, they have trained local teachers within the community, organized events to raise awareness, and expanded their clinical capacity to advance SOREM’s goal of helping affected individuals and facilitating their place in society. Global Autism Project places great importance on the idea of capacity building within a regional context, something also mentioned within the Dhaka Declaration. Hopefully the outcome of today’s SAAN meeting will be another step in exactly this same direction.

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Molly Pinney
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