2014 ended on a wonderful note for IRODA’s work in Tajikistan. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, and with support of the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Open Society Foundation IRODA hosted a week of training on ‘Autism Diagnosis and Intervention’. This was the first opportunity IRODA has had to train doctors within the government health system on the diagnosis of autism. It was also the first time that people working in the disability sector came from around the country to receive training in practical skills for working with children with autism.
A training team made up of four professionals from Australia and Bangladesh trained 27 doctors to effectively diagnose autism, and equipped 21 professionals from both the government and non-government sector to work effectively with children with autism and their families. IRODA is very pleased with the opportunities that this has opened up for the progression of its work. In the past children with autism have frequently been mis-diagnosed and without access to therapy or support. As a result of the training there are now a group of doctors from around the country who have the skills and resources to appropriately diagnose autism, and the Ministry of Health is committed to improving systems and processes that will allow them to do so more efficiently.
Prior to IRODA’s work in Tajikistan children with autism were generally admitted to hospital for a 7-day period and given medication (usually inappropriately) as a means of the doctors determining their diagnosis. One doctor who participated in training week initially challenged the trainers as to how it was possible to diagnose a child without hospitalizing and medicating them. This same doctor later in the week acknowledged that it not necessary or helpful to hospitalize a child for diagnosis, and suggested that the doctors consider taking off their white coats when they were interacting with the children through the play based diagnostic assessment.
Along with the wonderful benefits of these 48 professionals gaining new skills and knowledge IRODA was really pleased to see changes in attitudes of the training participants. We look forward the impact that this will have on the lives of children with autism and their families in Tajikistan. Thank you for partnering with us in the past, and we hope you will continue to work with us during 2015 as we support the growing number of children with autism that we have contact with.
Since beginning it’s work IRODA has endeavored to create opportunities for children with autism to participate alongside their peers. Last month IRODA was very pleased to be able to co-locate it’s services within a mainstream school in Dushanbe. Previously IRODA had been renting facilities privately but is very grateful for the move to the school and the new opportunities that this is providing.
With the support of AAR Japan, IRODA has set up an Early Intervention Room, Resource Class and Special Small Class within School No. 72 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Around 40 children with autism visit the school each week and participate in the early intervention program, special small class or inclusive education program.
Lots of exciting new opportunities have been created with the move to the school. Children with autism are now supported to join some of the mainstream lessons while at other times of the day access a specialized program run by IRODA staff. A relationship has been formed with the art and music teachers and children in IRODA’s special small class have lessons with teachers from the school.
Co-locating with a mainstream school has been a big step towards seeing children with autism accessing the education system in Tajikistan. With your support we hope to create many more new opportunities for children with autism to participate alongside their peers.
This month, two volunteers will be undertaking an Autism Awareness Bicycle Ride in Tajikistan in support of IRODA. The funds they raise will be used support IRODA’s autism diagnosis training scheduled for November. The ride will start in Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan, and will take the IRODA cyclists through rural mountain communities that have limited access to autism resources.
In addition to raising money, the two adventurers will raise awareness while traveling throughout Tajikistan. They plan to connect with local healthcare providers to share information about autism and the resource and support that is available. Through these meetings, the women will also collect data that will allow IRODA to assess healthcare providers’ current level of knowledge about autism, and most importantly, identify healthcare providers and communities that can benefit substantially from attending a diagnosis training in the near future.
Please consider donating in support of the Autism Awareness Bicycle Ride so that more health care workers can attend IRODA’s week-long autism diagnosis training seminar. There are currently no professionals within the Tajik government health system who are trained to diagnose autism appropriately. Your support could change this. IRODA would like to reach 40 participants during this workshop, which will be led by visiting international specialists. You can donate directly to this cause via the global giving site.
We at IRODA are thankful to those of you who come alongside us as we work to make a difference in the lives of many children and families in Tajikistan. The opportunity to raise funds and awareness through dedicated IRODA supporters such as these cyclists is very exciting.
The end of June saw the completion of another school year in Tajikistan. This year 11 children with autism have also begun a well-deserved summer break after attending school alongside their peers for the very first time. Beginning summer holidays is exciting for any student, but for this group of children the completion of a school year is particularly momentous as it marks the overcoming of many challenges in order to participate at school.
Since commencing its work IRODA has advocated for children with autism to have access to the education system in Tajikistan. Previously a child with autism would be automatically denied the opportunity to enroll at school. However with increases in both knowledge and resources three mainstream schools have started to partner with IRODA and support children with autism to attend school.
Your support of IRODA’s pioneering work in Tajikistan is creating wonderful new opportunities for learning for children with autism. Through your ongoing partnership we look forward to seeing many more children experience the feeling of achievement that comes with the completion of a school year.
In February, IRODA hosted its second annual Central Asia Autism Network (CAAN) conference, which brought together parents and professionals from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. During this three-day event stakeholders participated in training and discussions that will help move the work among people with autism in Central Asia into new and exciting areas. Conference participants benefited greatly from presentations given by guest speakers from Bangladesh, India, and Russia. Likewise, the staff of IRODA left the conference energized: hearing from others who have pioneered improvements in autism care despite facing the same types of challenges that exist in Tajikistan, has brought both a renewed hope and excitement for the future of IRODA.
Immediately following the conference, Tajikistan reached a milestone in the treatment of autism. The national Ministry of Health and IRODA came to an agreement that will allow IRODA to train professionals at the key diagnostic centers in Tajikistan in the administration of an autism diagnostic tool. Since beginning its work in 2010, IRODA has advocated for both official recognition of autism in Tajikistan, and for national use of an evidence-based diagnostic tool for young children. The recent decision from the Ministry of Health has been a great encouragement to the IRODA staff and families who continue to work hard and persevere through many challenges to see the situation for people with autism in their country transformed.
With support from the Ministry of Health and improved processes for diagnosis, IRODA anticipates that the number of children correctly diagnosed with autism at an early age will increase rapidly. Your continued support allows IRODA to provide these services to children and their families in Tajikistan. As IRODA staff and families celebrate milestones and moments that will change the future for people with autism in Tajikistan, we hope that you too can share in the excitement of being part of an organization involved in such ground breaking work.
Thank you once again for your support.
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