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Where Autism Speaks in a Whisper

This month EdPowerment’s outreach for the autistic and otherwise intellectually disabled, (ACT/Autism Connects Tanzania) began a new chapter:  support visits to rural villages.

The stigma that plagues the disabled in Tanzania is fiercest in areas untouched by modern science or medicine.  The disabled remain hidden.  They are a social embarrassment or worse.  Any attempt to educate or nurture them is widely considered useless.  To support those who, desperate for knowledge, have travelled from rural villages to ACT’s Workshops in Moshi, we have begun follow-up visits to their own villages.
By meeting guardians and educators in their own environments, Field Coordinator, Grace Lyimo, and special needs professionals can give practical guidance for home and classroom care.  Just as important, we can help local villagers impacted by disabilities to build homegrown support groups.  Last November’s Workshop, held at the Gabriella Children’s Rehabilitation Centre, focused on the need for this kind of network– a concept common in the U.S. but unknown in this part of the world.  In fact, rural villages are where support groups can make the most difference, given the virtual lack of services by any other provider.
Here are some pictures from ACT’s visit on March 14 to Mto wa Mbu in the Ngorongoro District, Manyara region where we coordinated with an NGO special needs school- Pambazuka.  Those who were willing to brave the stigma of disabilities and attend the meeting formed 5 small community groups where they will:

    Ø  Share experiences, ideas and information.
Ø  Learn ways to address their children’s physical and mental challenges and help them become more independent.
Ø  Advocate for special services, health insurance and other government and community support.
Ø  Educate the community about special needs children/young adults and the importance of protecting and including them in schools. 
Ø  Initiate small income-producing projects that can sustain themselves.
Ø  Invite officials, NGO leaders and others to offer seminars on topics that will help them to advance.
Ø  Choose leaders who will act as links to special education centers, the government and other support and community groups.