Have you ever heard of Autism? Maybe you've seen it in passing in headlines from North American news outlets or a character has it in a TV show you watch. Maybe you know that people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder usually have problems with communication and forming relationships. Maybe you know that its cause is still partially unknown, there is no cure, but can be managed with a combination of therapy and a specialized education structure. You might even know that with the right combination of support, a child on the Autism Spectrum can grow up to be a functioning and average member of society.
What you might not know is that Autism is a worldwide neurological disorder. The amount of Autism diagnoses throughout the world has steadily increased over the years. In developing countries, it may be harder to diagnose and even harder to treat due to lack of various resources, but that does not mean that it doesn't exist. In Guyana, there is a surprising number of children with this disorder, even though we are a population of less than one million people. Children with Autism are generally unable to thrive in a standard education system and for many years, there was no outlet to help children with this disorder in the country.
In 2011 however, the Step by Step School was opened in Bagotstown, East Bank Demerara to provide an education program that catered to children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The goal of the School is to provide a highly specialized and individualized approach to meet each child’s individual and autism-specific needs. The School focuses on the internationally recognized teaching method of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which is a research based approach to improve the communication, social and behavioural skills or children with Autism. This method has been scientifically proven to help children achieve their fullest potential.
The school initially opened with 5 students and has steadily expanded over the years. The school now provides specialized education for 19 children, and there is currently a waiting list of an additional 40 children. The Step by Step Foundation has a strong and ongoing public awareness and outreach campaign. The Foundation most recently led an Autism Awareness Walk, and continues public education by bringing light to this disorder in Guyana.
To accommodate the children on the school's waiting list, a bigger and better school is needed. Last year the Step by Step Foundation was given land by the Ministry of Education. Active fundraising is underway to construct the new school. Full details of the new school and how you can help are provided on the website: www.stepbystepguyana.org. The website also provides information on other ways you can support the valuable work of the Foundation and School.