Autism in Malawi: can using technology be a temporary solution?
A few weeks ago I received a heart breaking email from the mother of a little girl who live in Blantyre which is Malawi’s commercial city. The mother was reaching out to me to help her with her daughter with ASD. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are found in every country and region of the world. This mother had lived in the UK as a graduate student but once her visa ran out she had to move back to Malawi. She was reaching out to me to see if I could help her in any way. My suggestion and band aid solution was that if she had access to internet I could help through skype and guide her to things she could do with her daughter. She is in Malawi and I am in NYC. There’s a time difference, slow internet and of course in parts of Africa regular electricity is not always available. Yes, we can utilize technology and we should be providing online courses, webinars, chats etc. However, we still need the face to face instruction. We still need to train teachers, doctors and clinicians to work with young ASD children in their countries. This has to be a priority. It can not be a one size fits all. What works for one child will not always work for another. Therefore what works for one culture may also not work for another.
Due to the high level of specialist skills required, a teacher or clinician trained to work with ASD children will also be able to effectively work with children with other related developmental disorders. It is easy to build a school however what is not so easy is finding the trained staff who can run the school and teach the children.
1. A certification in Early Childhood Special Edcuation.
2. Ongoing training to teams of parents, teachers, doctors and therapists to screen, assess and intervene.
3. Developing culturally and linguistically appropriate educational resources, curriculum, materials and interventions.
3. Increase Awareness through published literature, media and public service announcements