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Autism Speaks introduces Parents Skills Training to Southeast Asia

Representatives from more than ten nations interested in making parent and teacher training part of their special education programs


By Andy Shih, Autism Speaks senior vice president for public health and inclusion. Dr. Shih heads Autism Speaks’ Global Autism Public Health initiative.

I’m pleased to report on my recent trip to Bandung, Indonesia, where I gave an invited presentation on the World Health Organization Parent Skills Training program before the governing board of the Regional Centre for Special Education of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO SEN), in Bandung, Indonesia.

It was a tremendous opportunity to introduce this groundbreaking program to ministers of special education from more than ten nations across a densely populated region of the world. Southeast Asia is home to tens of millions of children and adults with autism – most of whom receive no autism services.

As you may know, Autism Speaks played an instrumental role in developing the Parent Skills Training program to address the needs of children in areas with few if any professional therapists. In national and regional workshops, we help train Master Trainers who return to their countries and provinces to train and supervise community facilitators. The facilitators, in turn, work directly with parents and other caregivers, teaching them on how to help their children who have autism.

Also see
Autism Speaks and WHO train Master Trainers
Bringing WHO Parent Skills Training to the United States

Over the last year, we have worked with our partner advocacy organizations in China, South Korea, the Philippines and South America to engage their government health ministries and make Parent Skills Training part of their public health programs.

With SEAMEO, we have the opportunity to open a new front in delivering this life-changing training: through government education ministries.  

This also enables us to support inclusive education in world regions where it’s a relatively new concept. Southeast Asia has some wonderful schools that embrace children with disabilities. We visited one in Bandung before the SEAMEO board meeting. (See slideshow above.) But these schools remain the exception rather than the rule.

Parent Skills Training can foster inclusive education by directly addressing the disruptive behaviors that are the No. 1 reason that children with autism are excluded from public education across much of the world. The training provides teachers and parents with a shared set of skills for reducing challenging behaviors at home and school while fostering autism awareness and inclusion across the community.

I’m excited to report that, after listening to our presentation, the SEAMEO board recommended a Parent Skills Training pilot project in Cambodia. Cambodia is still rebuilding an educational system decimated by the Khmer Rouge, which murdered most of the nation’s educated class and razed the nation’s schools. We now have an unprecedented opportunity to make inclusion and the WHO Parent Skills Training a foundational part of a new educational system.

What’s more, if we can show success in Cambodia, we believe we can be successful across the region.

I want to give special thanks to our wonderful partner SEAMEO SEN Director Yasmin Hussain for laying the groundwork for our presentation in Bandung. Dr. Hussain was with us at WHO Headquarters in Geneva in 2015, when we first introduced the Parent Skills Training program to our global stakeholders and they helped us refine its materials. She was an integral part of the program’s development and immediately saw how it could support students with developmental disabilities in Southeast Asia.

Thanks to the autism community – at home and abroad – for supporting this transformative work. 

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.