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New York to Seoul: Autism Speaks’ Korean community spans the globe

A partnership born in Flushing, Queens, has expanded to support autism education and services across South Korea


We’re pleased to report from a successful trip to Seoul, South Korea, and the latest Master Trainer workshop in the World Health Organization’s Parent Skills Training program, developed in collaboration with Autism Speaks.

For more on this groundbreaking program, also see
Autism Speaks and WHO Train 'Master Trainers' from 18 Countries

Five master trainers, ten facilitators and several members of the Autism Society of Korea participated in the five-day workshop. Returning to their home cities and regions, the master trainers will continue to coach and supervise their facilitators, who will lead local Parent Skills Training workshops.

The strategies we taught distilled the key “active ingredients” of a successful behavioral treatment program. Topics included understanding and promoting communication, learning through play, addressing challenging behaviors and ensuring caregiver well-being. By empowering caregivers with these essential teaching and support skills, we have an unprecedented opportunity to enhance outcomes for children and families living with autism and other developmental disabilities around the world.

Yet our Master Trainer workshop in South Korea represented so much more than this. It was the culmination of a relationship that began with a very special mom - Sunghee Byun – in Flushing, Queens in 2012 and the launch of the New York City Korean Community Autism Project the same year. Through Ms. Byun, we developed our active collaboration with the Autism Society of Korea. And most recently, thanks to the personal advocacy of Autism Society of Korea Founder and President Yongjik Kim, the South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare adopted the WHO Parent Skills Training program as a centerpiece for 17 newly funded community centers charged with easing access to autism services for families in need.

In between, we worked with our Korean-American and South Korean partners to:

* Support the launch of a Korean Autism Hotline, in New York City;

* Translate and culturally adapt the Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit (download the Korean version here) as well as other Autism Speaks materials; 

* Share these materials globally through the Autism Society of Korea;

* Launch the South Korea chapter of the Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health initiative (GAPH) in 2013 and co-sponsor South Korea’s first national autism conference for families and professionals the same year;

* Meet with the South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare to provide technical support to enhance autism services nationwide;

* Work with the Autism Society of Korea to translate and culturally adapt the WHO Parent Skills Training manual.

We’re not so naïve as to say, “We’re done.” However, we’re gratified to have played a supportive role in such remarkable progress in a nation where autism services still strain under the tremendous need and the autism community has faced great stigma and lack of understanding.

Through the Parent Skills Training program, we now have a powerful strategy for collaborating with our Korean partners to improve the lives of millions. It’s a great experience to see Korea’s autism community taking this tool and making it their own with the support of their government.

It’s a relationship that has blossomed from the advocacy of a remarkable mom in Flushing, Queens, who introduced us to new partners across the sea.

To learn more about the WHO Parent Skills Training program and Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health initiative, also see:

WHO Parents Skills Training Program


Autism Speaks and WHO take Parent Skills Training to China

Parent Skills Training in the wake of Hurricane Haiyan


Delivering autism services through Pakistan’s ‘Family Networks for Kids


The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.