In a brightly lit centre just on the outskirts of Road Town, Special Education educator at the BVI Autism Center -Sara Husein along with the rest of the team perform a very important task, dealing with over 40 individuals who are on the autism spectrum.
Autism, as defined by Google is “a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.” The territory along with the rest of the international community designated April as Autism Month. Under the theme “Different but not Less” the Ministry of Health & Social Development in collaboration with the Autism Centre aimed to continue to spread awareness of Autism.
The month’s activities included an Easter camp, a walk and fun day at Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park, and Light it Up Blue morning walk sponsored by Sol Petroleum. Persons attending the various events were encouraged to wear the color blue -the color for the disorder.
Husein told VI Life and Style Magazine that the general public is beginning to pay attention to the disorder.
“More and more people are paying attention and talking about autism and how it has impacted the territory. We are getting there, our work is not finished. We want to be able to reach the whole BVI community so that they can be more tolerant in accepting not only children on the autism spectrum but all children and families with disabilities,” she noted.
On a monthly basis, the center receives referrals from daycares, preschools, schools and parents, she explained.
“Autism is increasing. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting that 1 in 68 children are on the spectrum.”
Currently, there is a speech therapy programme, developmental and behavior therapy to assist the affected, however, she is advocating for more related services for children on the autism range and most importantly support for families that are affected by this disorder.
“We keep mentioning resources available to the children, but parent’s services are somewhat scarce and we should invest in our parents so they too can feel appreciated and important,” she said.
Husein also feels that there needs to be a collaborative effort with both the private and public sector so they can play major roles in spreading the word; providing resources that are critical in helping children learn to their highest potential; and more teacher training on effective practices that cater to children with special needs.