By Elizabeth Castillo, a member of the SkillCorps India October 2017 team
When traveling through Indonesia years ago, I came across some amazing people. While getting to know them and taking part in their lives, I learned how, in certain communities in the country, there are still so many misconceptions and stigmas around autism, physical disabilities, people with learning disabilities and mental illnesses. As a RBT I have a responsibility for doing what is in my scope to disseminate ABA, advocate for the people I work with and help teach them the skills they need to advocate for themselves as well.
Fast forward and I’m in India on my second SkillCorps trip and was reminded as to why I joined Global Autism Project and their mission to promote acceptance and integration of individuals with autism.
In many countries there is still little understanding of what autism is, little exposure and little access to services if any at all. Global Autism Project helps bridge the gap between these countries and ABA. As a SkillCorps team we travel to the following countries India, Kenya, Nicaragua, China, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Nigeria and Czech Republic and use our knowledge to teach the staff at each of these partner sites how to implement effective teaching strategies, and then we leave. There are follow up calls and meeting with partners, but they are the best teachers for their countries, not us. So we leave and guide them through and then in six months another team flies out to help build on what was learned the last trip with the ultimate goal being that we no longer need to fly out, that they become fully independent.
These schools/centers become a local hub in their communities. Through these centers kids are able to learn and reach their full potential, families are given hope that their kids can be a part of their communities and the people of the community can become educated and help support the integration of these special individuals.
For every person being kept in their homes, kept away from people due to fear of shame from others or lack of understanding on how to handle certain behaviors, I will continue to work in my country to help my clients become their own advocates and the best advocates for other autistic people around the world. I will continue to fly wherever Global Autism Project sends me and support the teachers in their countries working hard to advocate for their students and their families.