The following is a transcript of remarks delivered by Mrs. Marta Linares de Martinelli, First Lady of Panama, at the 6th Annual World Focus on Autism held Sept. 26, 2013 in New York. Watch video of the event here.
Good morning distinguished guests. After my last visit here in New York following the invitation of Autism Speaks organization to participate together with other world leaders to promote a public health issue such as Autism on the agenda of the United Nations, I have lived through many positive experiences related to the progress made in our country on everything related to the timely care in the case of children and young people with autism. The Ann Sullivan Center Panama, CASPAN, was created a-year-and-four-month ago, and I am pleased and optimistic with the results. As of its founding on May 31st, 2012 and has been changing the life of Panamanian families with limited financial resources.
Autism Month in Panama
By executive decree, Panama commemorates the month of Autism in April, when we emphasize awareness on the consequences of the disorder for the sufferers of autism. We specially highlight our solidarity with these children and youth. An increasing number of private and governmental institutions are joining in the month’s activities, with blue illuminations on their buildings, internal awareness activities within their organization.
The Philosophy of Ann Sullivan Center Panama
In this center, we are convinced that every person has different skills that they can contribute as members of households and of their community. The functional natural curriculum method is designed so students can learn their behaviors they will need to be able to work in regular work places in the future and to become independent in their daily life. The staff at the Ann Sullivan Panama are continuously being trained by experts from CASPeru in their technical, educational and administrative areas. The Ann Sullivan Center Panama started with 35 cases, the most severe. In this current school year, 2013 by the end of the second school quarter it will be serving 123 students. I would also like to mention that we take care of children with Down syndrome.
Intensive courses for family into the interior of the Republic
As the beginning of the school of the second school quarter we started providing family services in the provinces of Chiriquí, Herrera and Los Santos. These resources and support services are provided to children and youth with Autism and severe cognitive disabilities through dedicated air force of 33 employees of the center. The service we provided in the interior unions of the country is focused on training and guiding families in strategies and skills to facilitate the development of the appropriate behaviors and basic social skills.
Education and technological innovations
We are currently in the first phase of research in the area of lego robotics, together with the Technology University of Panama. Lego robotics is a program that aims to achieve the development of social and communication skills in persons with autism. We are in the experimental implantation phase, and for this we are working with 10 students in Panama. I would also like to mention that the Ann Sullivan Center in Panama has a virtual classroom. In this classroom, programs are developed favoring cross-communication, teamwork and social behavior with adaptive technology, interactive board and table with technology for perceptive sensory stimulation among others. As we are aware that the world is permanently connected to technology, our center has its social networking accounts, Facebook and Twitter, and we are also connected 24/7 to the Internet service.
The CASPAN board/ the Ann Sullivan Center board in Panama.
One of the element s we consider necessary to ensure the operability of the center in the long run was the creation of the board whose members meet regularly to access progress. Challenges especially appreciate the quality-standards of the location we provide to the population with autism.
First national survey on Autism.
The educational communities and scientific and civil societies are joining forces to create concrete facts and figures for people with autism in Panama. We are currently processing the data of the survey carried out on a sample of more than 500 people. The first survey on Autism in Panama will help us guide our decisions on public policy and improve delivery of services to this population. To conclude, I would like to share with you that after participating as a speaker of the opening of the First International Summit I Care For Autism in Israel in July, 2012, I was invited by the First lady of Honduras and just two weeks ago by the First lady of Dominican Republic to share with them what Panama has achieved in the field of Autism. These invitations give me great satisfaction.
Together we can make possible the impossible. Thank you.