Autism Conference to be held mid-April

POSTED: 03/22/11 12:24 PM

St. Maarten – The Ahead Center for Excellence in Sucker Garden will be hosting a conference on Autism on April 14 and April 15 to raise awareness of the neurological disorder by sharing information and to give parents, caregivers and the community practical tools on how to deal with those infected and affected. The conference, one of several activities for the month of April, is born from the experiences the school gained by having autistic students enroll there, because “they had nowhere else to go.” It will be held at the University of St. Martin. The opening will be at 7:00 p.m. on the 14th and then there will be sessions from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the 15th.

The school enrolled its first autistic student just after they opened and currently have 10 enrolled. This has helped keep families together and at home here on St. Maarten. Others, some of whom are known to the school’s leadership, are not so fortunate and have left the island to seek assistance elsewhere as services are not readily available to help them and the children are deemed too problematic for the general school setting.

The theme for the conference is Through My Eyes, which is focused on bringing people’s personal experiences with Autism to the forefront. It is open to teachers, parents and other family members and policy makers. The latter group is key as the organizer’s, led by Ahead’s Director Aster Allen, also want the government to have real life stories of how Autism affects people.

“Once people understand especially the stories of those who are affected by Autism and their personal perspective we believe it will be easier for them to move past themselves and consider what those affected are dealing with. For example the policy makers need to consider that the law on compulsory education does not cover people who are mentally retarded and those who are deaf or blind. Being a neurological disease some autistic people present as being mentally retarded, but we believe and have seen the majority of them are not and are in fact very intelligent people. It’s just that there’s no provisions made for them,” Allen said.

She added, “While some can never really integrate there are some that will do that and quickly.”

The decision has already been made that the conference will be an annual event because of the wealth of information that has been found on the subject and would need to be shared.

There is currently no statistical data on how many people living in St. Maarten are autistic.


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