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Society needs to be more friendly towards children with autism

  • Published at 11:17 pm April 1st, 2019
Dhaka Tribune

World Autism Awareness Day is being observed in Bangladesh as elsewhere round the globe, on Tuesday

It was a regular day at her school for Adiba Ibnat Poshla who was given the honour of ‘successful person with autism’ in 2017 by the Government of Bangladesh. But her mother Nazneen Akhtar was shocked by the school authority’s decision when they informed her that Poshla cannot continue her schooling there anymore.

“It was in the middle of the year, in July 2007, when I was told to take away my daughter from school. I was very shocked when they said they cannot keep her there. Then I took her to the Autism Welfare Foundation (AWF), and I started to learn about the good qualities of my daughter,” shared Nazneen Akhtar with The Dhaka Tribune, adding: “If the school was not there, I wouldn’t have found a way for my daughter’s education... And most importantly, I never lost hope.”

Twenty years old Poshla achieved honours for her outstanding performance in painting and fashion designing.

This year, Radif Ahsan Chowdhury Ariyan, another student of  AWF, will also receive the award from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for his outstanding performance in painting.

The organization will also be honoured for its activities in developing  children with autism and it will observe its 15th founding anniversary on campus in Shamlapur of Moddher Char in Keraniganj on April 5.

Dr Rownak Hafiz, Chairperson of the Autism Welfare Foundation who was given the honour in 2017 as a successful person working for persons with  autism, shared her experience with this correspondent, saying: “The problem with autism is that the person finds difficulties being social. For example, a person with autism may acquire high computer skills but become restless with sound or noise. In such cases, an office can create a special working environment for them.”

Emphasising creating new employment opportunities for persons with autism, Dr Rownak said society needs to be more accomodating and friendlier towards children with autism.

Remembering her journey over the past two decades, she said: “I feel happy as the mother of a special child that gave me this noble opportunity to work for a better society. Back in 1994, I got a chance to do my daughter Miti’s diagnosis in the USA where I learnt details about treatment, schooling, and life management of a child with autism. When I came back home, I was confused about how to educate my daughter… And I have started a special arrangement at her elementary school with the help of her teacher.”

But, she had to shift from there when other teachers raised objections regarding the special arrangement, she said.

Later, she formed a society, ‘Welfare of Autistic Children’ (SWAC), in association with other parents in 2000 and established the AWF in April 4, 2004, to train and educate autistic children.

“We have to create employment opportunities for them. All of these children have some skills. If we recognise their qualities and create work opportunities with an autism friendly approach, they can contribute to our economy as well. Their skill can play a role in habilitating them, and ensuring a better future with equal rights to work,” said Dr Rownak.

World Autism Awareness Day Tuesday

World Autism Awareness Day will be observed in Bangladesh as elsewhere round the globe on Tuesday, with a pledge to bring people with autism and other physical disabilities into the mainstream of development. The theme of this year's Autism Awareness Day is: ‘Assistive Technologies, Active Participation.’

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to inaugurate the program, organized by the Ministry of Social Welfare at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, at around 10:30 am.

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