Awareness has been raised regarding Autism by involving the highest policy making level of the state, said Saima Wazed Hossain, a member of the World Health Organization's 25-member Expert Advisory Panel on mental health.
She made the observation during a 90-minute online discussion event, titled 'Pracheer Periye: Saima Wazed's Conversation with Stephen Shore on his Autobiography and Autism' on Sunday organized by Shuchona Foundation in collaboration with the Centre for Research & Information (CRI).
During the virtual meeting, 'Pracheer Periye' Bengali edition of acclaimed autism writer and US Professor Dr. Stephan Mark Shore’s book 'Beyond the Wall' was unveiled. He reflected on his experiences with autism during the event.
The book was translated under the initiative of the Suchona Foundation.
Also read: 'Pracheer Periye': Saima Wazed's conversation with Stephen Shore
Saima Wazed, also the daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, remarked that the biggest achievement Bangladesh had made in handling the autism issue is that the country's highest policy making level, especially the PM and other ministers getting involved in raising awareness about autism.
“There is also much progress in transitioning out of the stigma that people, in general, had about autism in the past”, she said.
“We have many limitations and those limitations have emerged as a kind of strength, which is also a big achievement in the autism awareness movement,” she added.
Expressing her optimism about the change in people's attitude towards autism, she said, "In Bangladesh, one of the core things we have achieved is national awareness and awakening to the fact that those on the autism spectrum are supposed to be part and parcel of society. There is the belief system that there should be more acceptance, there should be more assistance and there should be more opportunities."
Referring to the initiatives undertaken by the government, she said, "We have a strategic plan that's not just limited to one sector, not just the education sector or health sector, but across 20 different ministries and divisions. The government has adopted the multi-sectoral approach."
Having accomplished her higher education in psychology and mental health in the US, Saima Wazed set off on raising awareness about children with autism in Bangladesh by establishing the voluntary organization Suchona Foundation. She is also the president of the National Advisory Committee on Autism in Bangladesh.
Also read: Autism: Saima shares Bangladesh's good practices with global community
Dr. Stephen Shore was diagnosed with “atypical development with strong autistic tendencies” and nonverbal at the age of four. He completed his doctorate in special education at Boston University. Stephen now works as a clinical assistant professor at the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education at Adelphi University, teaching courses in special education and autism as part of his work on empowering people on the autism spectrum to develop their capacities to the fullest.
Owing to his experience of cross-country tours, he shared his observation during the event, talking about striking similarities in the behaviors of children with autism across the world. He, however, also referred to the uniqueness of every such child, stressing the need for assistance to help them thrive through skills.
Honorable Speaker of the National Parliament of Bangladesh, Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, also spoke at the meeting, saying that a workshop on Neurodevelopment Disorder in 2015 at the national parliament. Saima Wazed presented the keynote at the workshop.
She appreciated an array of initiatives undertaken by the Suchona Foundation under the leadership of Saima for people with special needs. She also showered her praise on Saima for pioneering the awareness-raising campaign on ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder in Bangladesh.