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Autism Welfare

An exhilarating meeting with PFDA- Vocational Training Centre

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Muhammad Quamrul Islam :
In the morning of September 8, 2018 we started from our residence at Uttara well ahead in order to reach in time the scheduled meeting at New DOHS, Mohakhali, Dhaka. Luckily there was little traffic jamming which enabled us enjoy the drive stepped in the Center in hilarious mood and had a first eye view before the meeting. I used the time so saved up as Grandpa of autistic divine child go around the first floor, took notes that I would share with dear readers as usual in my column since the beginning of 21st century. While my grandson now adult Fahim Hasan sat around a nice table in cozy atmosphere with his mother Dr Shamima Islam Shumi and Grandma Prof Laila Akhter who exchanged views between them,fixed up the points of discussion, mutually understood quickly in the meeting that turned out very useful between us and this outlet run by dedicated affected persons who deserve thanks.
Parents Forum for Differently Able (PFDA) with fisted hands work on the natural volition of human beings- Love, Nurture and Protection- to autistic divine and stick to the slogan they're Differently Able, not Disabled . In every special child/person there is genius; what are needed love, nurture/ training and protection. PFDA Center is meant for the persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy down Syndromes, Intellectual and Neurological Disabilities.
It is a platform seeks opportunities for special boys and girls in age 15 above to work by providing required training to them and ensure practical based honorable life and living. It imparts individual need based training in structured manner after identifying working abilities and qualities by combined efforts of specially trained Trainers and parents.  The Center staff and volunteers are committed to use the ability of each trainee to the maximum, arrange in special case separate and practical life style.  It has outlets and contacts with shopping mall to sell their products. So an effective marketing system in social spirit is developed which work both ways commercially and continuously monitored for sustainable links and expansion.
The fields of training and output are: Bakery, Prepare breakfast items and bread, Carpet Slipper, Jewelry items- necklace, earring, bracelet, anklet; Block works, Mushroom and gardening, Catering service, Food service- Angel Chef, Tailoring, Sewing, Art and Crafts, Painting, First aid, Make paper bag, Presentation, Photography, T-shirt folding, Computer, Coloring, Cleaning, Therapy, Cricket, Cultural- music, Dance, Acting and Drama, Office assistance, Keeping account of money, Transactions.  Each plan is prepared by Centre, based on individual trainee's preference, monitored tri monthly and adjustments made as needed. There is Bangladesh Skills for Employment and Productivity (B- SEP) Project with International Labour Organization in this regard.
The educational curriculum, Life style Training, Physical training, recreation and sports are designed by Centre thru combined plan. Home visits are undertaken provide assistance to each family considering ADLs IADLs home environment and safety matters.  No doubt all these are challenging tasks, which the Chairman Sajida Rahman Danny and Principal Begum Nur Jahan Dipa along with support staff have taken up determinedly from heart without any eye to publicity and award; outcome  is visible over four years.
The sincere wish of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her qualified daughter Saima Hossain, National Steering Committee Chairman and Shuchana Foundation Chairman, have opened the new horizon, which we acknowledged with thanks and wished all concerned would reciprocate honestly. Government funds and international assistances and tours are increasingly provided to ameliorate the conditions of autism, undertake action researches and implementations of welfare objectives. Links with foreign countries for study tour, view exchanges and trainings have been established. It is time to evaluate all those and fix up the next program target after due evaluation and removal of shortcomings, especially refurbish moral before physical and financial progress. It is expected the enabling environment will create a mindset in each level of hierarchy of bureaucracy for working with passion.
Danny has suggested some steps for taking up on priority in countrywide forward move qualitatively, not quantitatively only, which we endorse. It is to be kept in mind autism is not marketing commodity for making fortunes by some self-seekers.  If qualities standard is not ensured, the affected persons would not get proper benefit and possibility of their damage would be more by mismanagements to which policy makers should remain alert. The felt needs are to develop appropriate curriculum, syllabus, education and centers. Their registration process, monitoring and evaluation; ensuring appropriate classrooms and teaching aid before expansion to different places.
There is no substitute of proper management and trained 'Special Educator' care giver therapist, support of parents to provide service, reduce severity of affected persons and convert their dormant merit into resource. Parents pay individual cost, fees of each trainee charged by the Center for running outlet. There are still good men who do not hesitate to extend helping hands without any material expectations, which are gratefully acknowledged.
Requisite education policy is needed for this. It is necessary to review BS Ed and MS Ed Curriculum and modernize. At present, in special education curriculum under 'mental retardation' there is a topic on autism which is insufficient to acquire knowledge on this subject. It is high time to attach it as separate subject in that curriculum and get it included in the Universities of the country. It should be compulsory for every teacher before taking job to gain experience of working with students. There should also be scope for higher education for students with special needs. All these presupposes serene academic atmosphere in campus and Universities free from partisan teachers' politics and violence that are to be ensured emphasized time and again need no elaboration.
It is seen various voluntary and Government organizations are imparting training and holding related events which are encouraging. Steps were taken on ad hoc basis for autistic child and adult under the pressure of circumstances.  What is needed now to utilize the proper research and experience which will save time and money and keep quality standard; and spread it countrywide. In case of residential rehabilitation/ reasonable accommodation, a properly thought out policy from NDD Trustee Board is expected which would involve public-private partnership. It is not enough to have a good NDD Protection Trust Act for benefit of affected persons and families; its implementation should be accorded highest priority.

(The writer is economist, advocate
and social activist)

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