It began with people showing up at my door looking for the lady who knew what autism was. What I heard from one mother inspired me to take action immediately.
“When I learned it was autism, I would have preferred the diagnosis was that of a terminal illness. It’s taken me years to get to the point of even talking about it without breaking down,” she told me. Many others in the community expressed similar fears and explained that in Ghana (and many other countries around the world) the locally accepted belief is that these children were possessed, taken by ‘bad spirits’ and autism, tore families apart due to fear and lack of information more than anything else.
Though each parent felt alone and isolated, they were not. A variation of the same story was shared over and over again. The details of these stories (and the mosquitoes) kept me up at night. After many conversations with families of kids with autism in Ghana, I realized that something had to be done. Someone had to help. As I attempted to find an organization dedicated to providing training services that would be able to work in Ghana, I was faced with the harsh reality that it simply did not exist. In 2003, no organization existed that was able to come to Ghana to provide services for an affordable price or with any plan for sustainability or ‘lasting change’ in place. That is until mid-November of 2003 when the Global Autism Project was born!
At that time, I met ‘Auntie Serwah’– a parent of a child with autism who had started the Autism Awareness Care & Training center in Ghana. The Autism Awareness Care & Training center was a beacon of hope for families, a safe space where families could share their deepest struggles and a place providing education for these kids, with very few educational resources and in many cases limited training. It is where I began work.
And by began work, I mean I began volunteering in the Autism Awareness Care & Training Centre in Accra, Ghana and with local families whose children were learning and making progress for the first time in their lives. I also realized that, I knew that as much as I loved Ghana, I wasn’t going to be there forever. From the outset, my involvement was in training the staff and families who were going to be working with these kids long after I was gone.
My dream, even then, was to bring hope to every mother in every country who ever felt like an autism diagnosis was a death sentence. My mission was to provide training to every community where people were working to help these children live better lives and be accepted by their communities.
The Global Autism Project is a now a global movement of passionate, dedicated individuals coming together to provide lasting, meaningful change for communities around the world. It’s an international network of people who not only care for but are equipped to teach people with autism. We’re empowering a generation to understand and accept autism and it’s exciting!
There are 70 million people in the world with autism. 85% of them live in developing countries. We have a ways to go!
Let’s do this.