A Voice for Autism

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A Voice for Autism

Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

This program will train mothers of children with autism in the West Bank to work in a cooperative-model ABA therapy program to help their children.

About Project

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Although the procedures for Applied Behavioral Analysis can be taught to anyone, it is traditionally taught to professionals who serve as therapists at a high cost. This model excludes families without financial means and also distances the parent for their child’s education. Programs for children with autism have been shown to be more successful when the parents are directly involved. By having parents work cooperatively to teach their children costs for the program will be kept low and parents will be directly involved in the child’s education. Most mothers in the West Bank city of Jenin stay at home and have time to do this program. This model trains mothers of children with autism in ABA therapy, a scientifically proven treatment for autism that teaches communication skills and reduces problematic behaviors. In exchange for the training the mothers will participate in a cooperative program for five hours a week where they will give therapy to each other’s children in exchange for their own child getting therapy. This will keep treatment costs low and allow children to work with a variety of therapists so that they can generalize their knowledge. Mothers will also have the knowledge and background to continue ABA with their child in the home.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Mothers of children with autism in the West Bank often feel isolated due to the stigma surrounding disability. This program will create a community for mothers of children with autism where they can be honest about their experiences. It will also create a community for the children in the program who will have the opportunity to interact with one another to gain social skills and form friendships. Additionally, it will allow children with autism to gain communication skills (verbally, through sign and through Picture Exchange Systems), which will reduce problem behaviors and make it easier for their parents to take them out in public. Both coalition building and the reduction of problematic behaviors will empower these mothers to become more visible in the community and to increase awareness about disability issues. On a broader scale, this project will reduce inequalities in Israeli and Palestinian societies and will be a step toward reducing resentment of inequality in the communities and toward leveling the playing field between the two societies so that they can better negotiate peace. This venture will also benefit my local community by generating media that will allow for education about the true situation in the West Bank, which is often distorted by the media (from my personal experiences there). It will teach the community lessons about tolerance as well as disability education.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

1) Train mothers of children with autism in ABA using a translated version of the Autism Training Solutions curriculum, translated by the director of the Jenin Creative Cultural Center, Yousef Awad. 2) Create a self-led support group for mothers of children with autism in the community by fostering trusting relationships between the parents in the program. We will provide a format for the support group and start by leading sessions with educational programs, then transition the group to one led independently by the mothers. 3) Educate the Jenin community about autism through educational programs at the Governor’s office, schools, mosques and community centers. Yousef Awad, our contact on the ground has connections to all of these organizations. We will promote the programs in the community and encourage mothers who are willing to speak at the educational sessions. We will also teach the mothers how to be advocates for their children.

Founding Story

The success of this program will be measured by the number of mothers who actively participate in our cooperative program and in our support group. In order to evaluate the progress of the children, members of our team will Skype in to the center monthly to observe therapy sessions and to see the children’s progress. We will also measure success by the number of community members who attend our education sessions and by the number of volunteers who sign up to participate as therapists and educators in our program.