Saturday, November 25, 2017

Parents of differently abled children count on Bhutan autism conference

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2017-04-17 21:09:40 BdST

This Dec 14 2015 photo shows Saima Wazed Hossain enjoying with the children with autism at a cultural programme at Shilpakala Academy in Dhaka.

The year 2011 when regional leaders convened in Dhaka for an autism meet has been a “turning point” for the parents of differently-abled children.

The conference was followed by the formation of four taskforces comprised of parents and experts in the field. Parents came out of their homes with their children and united under a forum.

The government has passed the Neurodevelopmental Disability Protection Trust Act in 2013, and due to Bangladesh’s efforts the United Nations adopted several resolutions.

As Bangladesh is set to co-host a three-day conference from Apr 19 with Bhutan in Thimphu, the parents said they are “counting on the conference again”.

“The 2011 conference showed us the way. We came forward with our children and now this conference will guide us what we can do with our children when they become adolescents and adults,” Sajida Rahman Danny, president of Parents Forum for Differently Abled, told on Monday.

US-licensed school psychologist Saima Wazed Hossain, daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who brought the regional leaders together in 2O11 is again leading this conference with her non-profit Shuchona Foundation.

The Ministry of Health of Bhutan, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare of Bangladesh, and the WHO South-East Asia Regional Office are supporting her effort to bring together representatives and experts from over 3O countries for the conference.

Hasina will inaugurate the conference on Apr 19 with the theme “developing effective and sustainable multi-sectorial programmes for individuals, families and communities living with autism and neurodevelopmental disorders”.

Discussions will be guided in “Davos style” where five to seven experts on stated subjects will be invited on stage to participate in planned, pre-shared questions delivered by moderators.

After introductions, the experts will be given about two minutes to talk about the work they do. A third of the session will be allocated for written questions from the audience.

Saima, who is also the chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism in Bangladesh and a member of WHO’s Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health, said earlier in an article that the conference would pave the way for implementation of international resolutions on autism.

A developmental disorder, autism robs one's communication and behavioural skills. No-one can say why it develops, but it appears within three years of age.

Experts say those children cannot pick up self-care tasks – dressing, self-feeding and using toilet – just by watching and imitating.

They do not make eye-to-eye contact and have single-track thought process, but they have hidden talents like paintings and music.

Danny, the president of Parents Forum, said their children faced different challenges when they grow up as they do not want to stay in school after a certain age.

“But then they have nothing to do. Most of the parents keep them at home. But we can train them and employ in the fields where they take interest,” she said.

“We hope that the Bhutan conference will give all a guideline how to utilise the talents of our children”.