Inclusive education sought for persons with autism

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Primary and Mass Education Minister Advocate Mostafizur Rahman addressing the seminar as chief guest. Photo - Bayazid Akter

Speakers at a seminar in Dhaka on April 20 underscored the need for inclusive education to include persons with autism, especially women and girls, in the mainstream of education system.

Society for the Welfare of Autistic Children (SWAC) organised the seminar titled ‘Empowerment of women and female children even if they are with autism’ at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy auditorium in the city, marking the 11th World Autism Awareness Day and Month.

News agency United News of Bangladesh (UNB) was the media partner of the event.

Addressing the programme as the chief guest, Primary and Mass Education Minister Advocate Mostafizur Rahman said inclusive education is needed to bring individuals with autism under the mainstream education system. “At least one residential school at the thana level can play an important role to this end,” he said.

Mentioning that there is a need for special teachers for children with special needs, the minister said the government is sensitive towards the children with autism and it has taken many initiatives for their welfare.

Security Services Division Secretary Farid Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury said it is a constitutional right of these individuals to get recognised as citizens.

He also said the affluent section of society must come forward alongside the government’s efforts to work for autism.

Noting that the number of children with autism is on the rise, Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed urged the Primary and Mass Education Minister to establish specialised schools at the district level to ensure education for them.

Chairperson of Neuro-Development Disability Protection Trustee Board Prof Dr Mohammod Golam Rabbani said children with autism are all unique and differently abled. “Though male children have four times more prone to autism, their female counterparts are more vulnerable to different challenges,” he said.

Mentioning that autism is nothing unnatural, member of Board of Trustee of Chittagong Independent University and director of Bangla TV Amin Helaly said, “The United Nations has taken steps to create awareness about it and although Bangladesh is not a developed country, it keeps special allocation in the national budget for the development of persons with autism.”

Additional Secretary to the Social Welfare Ministry Sushant Kumar Pramanik called for working hard for the development of these children.

Describing autism as a barrier to brain development, SWAC Secretary Sabina Hossain in her welcome speech said persons with autism can have a better life and enter the mainstream if they are properly taken care of.

SWAC Chairperson Subarna Chakma presided over the programme.

The discussion session was followed by a musical and cultural event where the students of SWAC performed different performances including musical performance, rhymes recitation, drama and many others.

SWAC has been working heart and soul for the last 18 years to develop quality education, training and variety of services and facilities for individuals with autism.

It has a plan to build a SWAC Village and its own campus with residential facility to ensure a safe, caring enjoyable environment where kids with autism can thrive and grow towards independence.

The main vision of SWAC is to build up an autism-friendly world where all individuals with autism will have equal rights, participation and opportunities in every aspect of life, integrate into all mainstream activities and lead meaningful lives with dignity and respect that they deserve.

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