Global Autism Awareness: Three Students Got Us Started
In 2016, three students from the Harvard Graduate School of Education approached us about internships. They were interested in autism in their home countries: China and Pakistan. All three had personal connections to someone with autism and wanted to help them, their families and their communities. They were also aware that in Pakistan and China autism is frequently kept out of view: children with autism are kept at home, only rarely attend schools, and often have not even received an official diagnosis.
We sat down with these students to brainstorm how a semester project could turn into something useful that could have a significant impact on these children and their families.
In the “Technology Education Innovation” Program at the Harvard Ed School we have all been trained in the iterative design process. The process starts by figuring out what the problem is that you are trying to solve.
This is trickier than you might think!
We asked these students to each tell us a story: tell us what is happening in your country with children who have autism. What are the problems we are trying to address?
Once we better understood the problem we asked these students to delve into the research: were their stories supported by research? After several rounds of back and forth – theories discussed based on personal experience and connecting these to research on autism and culture in China and Pakistan -- the students concluded that their home countries did not have access to basic research-based information about how to recognize the early signs and symptoms of autism in children.
The students then picked our best articles on autism diagnosis and treatment from our blog and tools from our free resources page to share. For China, the students then translated articles (in Pakistan English is a commonly read language). Then – and key to the whole process – was choosing social media platforms and online magazines where these articles and tools would be viewed by people in these countries – and surmounting cultural barriers by encouraging people to read them. Thus our Global Autism Awareness Project (GAAP) was started!
The project was a success! As these students posted the articles to social media we watched as we got thousands of hits coming in from China and Pakistan.
Update 2020: As of today our article on recognizing signs and symptoms of autism translated into Chinese has been read by 63,884 people! With gratitude to Syeda Farwa Fatima, M.Ed., Sihan Yang, M.Ed., and Myra LalDin, M.Ed.
Angela Nelson, CEO Stages Learning
Editor: Autism Resources & Community