On 17 August, 2015, Centre for Research and Information (CRI) participated in a dissemination seminar on “Research for Autism: Assessment of mental health status among caregivers of children with autism and feasibility of creating a community based support system in Bangladesh”, organized by ICDDR,B, with funding from Directorate General Health Services (DGHS) of Bangladesh government.
The Chief Guest of the event was Ms. Saima Wazed Hossain, Chairperson of National Advisory Committee on Autism and NDDs and Member, WHO’s Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health. The seminar was chaired by Professor Dr. Deen Mohd. Noorul Huq, Director General of DGHS.
The seminar was based on research by ICDDR,B to assess depression and quality of life of parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, as well as to assess feasibility of adopting a simple training tool for its application in the family of special children as a lifetime approach.
Speaking as the Chief Guest, Ms. Saima Wazed Hossain stated that the current government is working strategically towards building a comprehensive outlook towards ASDs and all forms of disabilities. She said that she is working with Ministry of Health to train doctors and medical professionals in sensitizing them not only towards autism but towards all forms of disabilities. As regards Ministry of Education, the government is working to train teachers to deal appropriately with any disability and not just one.
Ms. Hossain said that since 2011, she has been working with the government to develop policies and guidelines. It has been a priority for her to help incorporate disability support as part of the broader development and economic agendas of the government. As for the implementation of these policies and guidelines, the role of parents become crucial. They are the experts who can advise on the task of identifying the challenges and how to go about solving them.
Commenting on the importance of the research carried out by ICDDR, B, Ms. Hossain pointed out the importance of taking in depth and diverse research into various aspects of ASDs and commented that Bangladesh needs to stand out from the rest of world in translating research findings into action. She said that this research was a start only and that these will help the policy makers and stakeholders to design and frame solutions keeping in mind issues like needs of rural parents.
She was of the opinion that the struggles of parents in raising children with ASDs, for instance depression of mothers, need to be tackled with importance. She emphasized the role of parents and other caregivers in this regard by saying that since no two child with ASDs are same, it is up to the parents and other caregivers to identify and address the specific symptoms of each such child and act accordingly.
Ms. Hossain added that parents have to act as co-therapists. Despite specialists, therapists and other interventionists, caregivers like parents, siblings or other relatives need to learn most in this regard. Hence, the pilot carried out by ICDDR,B was a very good first step in moving towards a holistic approach of providing them with the best training and knowledge possible. She mentioned that such training responsibilities was one of the priority areas of the government.
Mr. Shah Ali Farhad (Policy Analyst) and Mr. Nazmul Arefin (Assistant Coordinator for Research) of CRI took part in the conference on behalf of the organization.