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Awareness about autism, related disorders stressed

By Our Correspondent
April 09, 2022

LAHORE:Speakers at a webinar on Autism stressed on raising awareness about Autism and related disorders among the people.

The second regional webinar on “Training and Employment of Adults with Autism and I/DD was organised by ASD Welfare Trust here, with speakers from India, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines and Pakistan. The Webinar was live-streamed on Facebook as well, providing access to hundreds of viewers.

Ms Rukhsana Shah, CEO of the ASD Welfare Trust welcomed the speakers and participants, and appreciated the presence of Mr Cason Ong, Chairman of the ASEAN Autism Network, and Ms Mona Veluz, National President of the Autism Society of the Philippines.

The Webinar was opened by Mr Cason Ong, Chairman of the ASEAN Autism Network (AAN), and representative of National Autism Society of Malaysia. Mr Ong gave a brief outline of the work being done by AAN in ASEAN countries, and then spoke about the state of affairs in Malaysia regarding training and employment of adults with Autism and I/DD.

Ms Mona Veluz is the National President of Autism Society of the Philippines. She talked about how the Autism Society had grown in the Philippines from 11 parents to 13,000 strong members 33 years later, with 100 chapters spread all over the country. The Society runs structured Employment Readiness Training Programmes for adults with Autism, as well as training programmes for Employers. Ms Mona’s presentation was appreciated by all the other speakers as it showed the way forward to all countries in the region.

Ms Indrani Basu from Action for Autism, India, gave a Presentation which covered the initial journey of autism awareness in India and the range of sensitisation programmes undertaken by the Action For Autism. She also highlighted the role of the film industry in raising awareness about Autism among the masses.

Addressing the theme of the Webinar, Ms Basu described the different kinds of training and employment opportunities being provided to adults with Autism and I/DD, but added that there was much more that needed to be done in this area.

Dr Sunita Maleku Amatya stressed the challenges that Nepal was facing due to the lack of awareness about autism and related disorders in the country.

The Autism Care Society was created by parents in 2008, which has consistently lobbied for specific legislation on Autism, resulting in the National Disability Rights Act, 2017, which also provides for inclusion of children in educational institutions.

Today, Autism is recognised as a separate category in the Act, but a great deal of work for inclusion and employment needs to be done in the country.

Pakistan was represented by Dr Salma Khalil, COO of ASD Welfare Trust in Karachi. Her presentation was based on the findings of the Annual Conference on Training & Employment of Adults with Autism & I/DD. She spoke about the need to sensitise employers and trainers about potential of adults with these disabilities, as they were now being included in mainstream employment avenues all over the world. She also stressed the role of professional trainers, head hunters and job coaches in building bridges between employers and employees with Autism and I/DD.

The presentations were followed by a lively discussion on the possibilities of regional collaboration for exchange of information and human resources for training and advocacy.

The session was moderated by Rukhsana Shah, founder of Autism Welfare Trust in Lahore. The Trust has carried out extensive awareness raising programmes throughout Pakistan and is currently focusing its attention on employment and residential facilities for adults with Autism and I/DD.