Autism Speaks participated in the launch of GAPH-Bangladesh and co-hosted a conference — “Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities in Bangladesh and South Asia” — together with the Bangladesh government, the Centre for Neurodevelopment & Autism in Children (Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University), the World Health Organization (WHO), and WHO’s South East Asian Regional Office (SEARO). Andy Shih, Ph.D., vice president of scientific affairs for Autism Speaks, provides more background in ‘Autism Speaks Goes to Bangladesh.’
Here is the official press release, International Conference Launches Revolutionary South Asia Autism Network.
Several news outlets provided coverage of the “Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities in Bangladesh and South Asia” Conference. Here are some major headlines:
Sonia Gandhi for South Asian partnership on autism (The Hindu)
Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi on Monday praised Bangladesh’s “path breaking innovations” in micro-finance, education, women’s empowerment and public health as she underlined the need for a partnership in South Asia to provide affordable services to millions of autistic children. Read more.
Meeting on autism begins in Dhaka (BBC)
A two-day international conference on autism has begun in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. Experts and policy makers from around the globe will focus on promoting awareness on autism in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. Read more.
Recognise gifted kids as persons: Sonia (bdnews24.com)
The first-ever international conference on autism in the region has kicked off amid tight security and with high hopes of generating ‘greater awareness’ on the plight of the ‘gifted’ children. Read more.
Sri Lanka’s First Lady speaks at the autism conference in Bangladesh (ColomboPage)
Sri Lanka’s First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa addressed the two-day international conference on autism that began today at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in Dhaka to seek ways to enhance autism related services in Bangladesh as well as in the South Asian region. Read more.
Meet’ll promote autism cause, says Saima (bdnews24.com)
As Dhaka is ready to host the region’s first-ever international conference on autism on July 25 and 26, the child psychologist who envisaged the high-profile meet regards it as a ‘way forward for autism awareness’. Read more.
Better care for autistic children (The Financial Express)
Autism is a disease specially noted in children that afflicts sufferers with varying degrees of mental impairment. Cases of autism are not uniformly the same. Some autistic children are seen to have reasonable intelligence to produce even average results in examination. But others are seen to be performing too poorly in academics from their mental handicaps. One similarity seen among autistic children in their varying degrees of mental capacities is the inability to communicate or form relationship with others. Read more.
This is a guest post by Pat Kemp, Autism Speaks’ Executive Vice President – Awareness and Events. Pat, who is married, has three children and a stepson. One of his children is a young adult who has autism.
Twenty-five years ago when I first heard the word “autism,” there was nowhere to turn. No internet, most doctors didn’t know, psychologists had heard of it in grad school but weren’t sure what it really was. The support groups back then were primarily mothers seeking people in similar circumstances looking for that one hour of respite with other people dealing with similar situations. What was I to do? I was a father, working full-time with two other older children, searching feverishly to find any kernel of information to save my son with autism. I went to the library, frantically searching for information that would guide me through the process of saving my child who was rapidly fading away before my very eyes. After pushing and prodding, virtually panicking; I discovered that there was someone in San Diego named Bernard Rimland who started an organization called Autism Research Institute. I called and called until I spoke with him ‘live.’ He was kind, gentle, and understanding of my family’s plight. What he did was to give me ‘hope’ because he was collecting data to try to determine a path or paths to help families like mine whose children were fading away. I collected and sent Dr. Rimland all the data that I could gather from my son with hopes that it could lead to ‘something’ that may help him.
Well, as the advertising tagline said “We’ve come a long way baby,” I was impressed and amazed at what I saw at the Autism Research Institute/DAN! Conference this past weekend in Baltimore. There were hundreds of attendees searching for answers, including many fathers and grandparents. There were many experts in their respective fields sharing their knowledge, answering questions. No matter where you stand on the autism topic, you would have appreciated the sense of community that was there. Much has changed since I started this journey into autism a quarter century ago with my son. With technological advances, I am now able to post this blog and share my experience. But I couldn’t help think to myself during the conference that this was the “House that Bernard Rimland built” many years before. Though there remains so much yet to do, it may never have occurred without the vision of one person, Bernard Rimland, who was kind enough to answer my phone call. This one person who gave me and my family hope. Thank you Dr. Rimland. You would have been proud of what I witnessed this past weekend.
Yesterday was the final day of the conference and they saved the best for last (and not just because Autism Speaks was presenting). Dr. Peter Mundy spoke about one of the reasons that children with autism don’t spontaneously share joint attention may be because they find objects to be more interesting than the social world. Dr. Laura Schriebman discussed about how behavior is not random. When a child with autism acts out or tantrums, parents and therapists really need to determine what the antecedent was and how to remove or change it. No behavior occurs “for no reason” – there is always something that has triggered it, it’s just a matter of determining what it is. Dr. Nirit Bauminger spoke about social interaction among adolescents and ways to facilitate friendship. Her research found that individuals with autism can develop great friendships, and that friendships with their neurotypical peers can be very similar to typical peer friendships.
The last session of the day was Autism Speaks. Considering that it was the last session of a long three-day conference, we were surprised and overjoyed by the turnout for out talk. The room was packed, which told us that there was strong interest among the Filipino community about Autism Speaks and how we can help. The three of us – Andy, Michael and Dana – spoke about the Global Autism Public Health (GAPH) Initiative and our experiences around the world. We each explained a different part of the three-pronged process which aims to enhance research, services and awareness in the country through collaboration. The most important part of GAPH is community support – the families, teachers, therapists and doctors. Autism Speaks role is to act as a catalyst to help the community achieve lasting change for families coping with autism. We then concluded our talk by turning the microphone on the audience and posing the question, “what are the greatest needs of the Filipino autism community?” The response from the attendees was terrific and the development of a successful GAPH program looks very promising.
The closing ceremonies included a beautiful performance by Autism Angels – a trio of young women with autism from Autism Society of Philippines families. They sung beautifully. Their performance was followed by the niece of the Borromeos, our conference organizers, who sang an incredibly touching poem written by Charlie Borromeo for his grandson Julien. Julien was the inspiration for the development of the Autism Hearts Foundation, and the International Autism Conference would never have been possible without their leadership. We concluded the way we began with a hand print ceremony where all the speakers and dignitaries dipped their hands in paint to create a mural as a lasting testimony to the coming together for the cause of autism Philippines.
We just want to take this opportunity to again thank the Autism Hearts Foundation, the Autism Society of the Philippines, The First Gentleman’s Foundation, and the UC Davis MIND Institute for their instrumental roles in making the IAC a reality. This conference is a monumental achievement and Autism Speaks is honored to have been a co-sponsor and participating speakers. It has been an educational, touching, and truly unforgettable experience. We thank them for hosting us in their beautiful country and look forward to long-lasting partnerships and friendships.
By Dana Marnane, National Director Communications and Marketing and Michael Rosanoff, MPH, Assistant Director, Public Health and Scientific Review, Autism Speaks