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For Our Readers: Stages Learning started a new service project in January of 2016: The Global Autism Awareness Project (GAAP). Partnering with students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education we are working to destigmatize autism around the world and provide information to help children receive early diagnoses and find treatment.
As a part of this project we have connected to several other global autism outreach projects. Below is information about one new organization that is doing incredible work now with Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Imagine fleeing your home due to war and starting over with nothing. Now, imagine supporting a child with autism through it all. If that isn’t challenging enough, imagine that you are an individual with autism trying to understand the sudden changes in your routine and the newfound uncertainties of daily life as a refugee. You are forced to stay still for hours in crammed transportation in the middle of the night on your way to safety. When you arrive, you find yourself in a community where nothing is familiar, and where you are expected to start over with nothing at all.
A Global Voice for Autism is a U.S.-based organization that is helping alleviate some of these challenges for refugee families and families affected by conflict so that they can gain the tools and networks to support their children with autism. We do this through parent and teacher trainings in evidence-based practices, family support, and community education to overcome autism stigma.
We are currently working with a school for Syrian refugees in Mersin, Turkey that has 1,600 students. 160 of their students have autism. For these children school provides a safe haven, social opportunities and a daily routine amidst the chaos of their lives. However, these children with autism risk being kicked out of school next fall if their teachers do not learn skills to support them in their classrooms.
One of these children is a 10-year-old boy named Ali. In addition to being a refugee with autism, Ali is an orphan. Two years ago, Ali’s father was killed when a bomb hit his home in Syria. After the bombing, Ali and his mother tried to escape to Turkey to live safely, but Ali’s mother was shot and killed along the way, leaving Ali an orphan. Another family escorted Ali to Turkey, where they placed him in an orphanage. Although Ali does not speak, Ali’s caregivers at the orphanage, his teachers and school administrators all know that school is his favorite place in his new life. At the orphanage, Ali often cries and hits his peers and caregivers, but at school he is always calm and smiling. Ali’s caregivers worry that if he is not allowed to return to school, Ali will lose the only place in his life where he gets to take a break from the trauma he has experienced.
Fortunately, we have a chance to change this and to give Ali and 159 of his peers the chance to return to school in the fall and to get the support they need to thrive in the classroom, learn independent living skills and communicate. In order to launch this program this summer and give these students a second chance at an education, we need to raise $20,000. We’ve launched a crowd-funding campaign and are over halfway to this goal. You can help us help these children get the support they need from their families, teachers and communities by contributing and by sharing the link to our campaign to help spread the word. Please help us to help children with autism access opportunities that would not otherwise be available to them.
Please help us give Ali and his peers the chance to attend school and get the support they need by contributing today at: https://www.generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/help-160-syrian-refugees-with-autism-go-to-school/x/13658625
To learn more about A Global Voice for Autism, visit: www.aglobalvoiceforautism.org or check out blogs from our past programs at: www.wordpress.com/thejeninautismproject and www.wordpress.com/agvfainramallah
Melissa founded A Global Voice for Autism after traveling to Jerusalem and hearing about the lack of autism services available to families in the West Bank. As the close friend of someone with autism, she was struck by the degree to which a child’s birthplace determines his/her opportunity to go to school and take part in his/her community. She set out to create a holistic program to provide families in conflict-affected communities with the tools to support their children with autism. Melissa has had her work featured by the Clinton Global Initiative University. She is a world-recognized speaker who has presented on five continents, including a presentation at the United Nations headquarters for World Autism Awareness Day 2013.