The Global Autism Project works to build local capacity to provide services to individuals with autism in under-served communities worldwide. To address the lack of resources and extremely limited understanding of autism that plagues many under-served populations, we partner with autism centers established by local individuals in these communities and provide training and support to encourage excellence in autism treatment and organizational independence. Our community empowerment model supports systemic change by providing family and community education through workshops and hands-on training. We believe in embracing the talent and resources of the communities we serve by furnishing them with tools that engender self-reliance, sustainable development, and continued innovation. Through this comprehensive, bottom-up approach, it is our vision to build a world in which all individuals affected by autism have access to effective services. There are an estimated 70 million people in the world affected by autism, the majority of whom live in under-developed countries where services are limited or not available at all. In these countries, children with autism are mistreated, and in many cases injured, abducted, or even killed. Seeking to change the status quo, the Global Autism Project carries out its vision through a systematic, two-pronged approach that provides to our international partners training in both clinical best practices and, importantly, sustainable business practices. For all global partners, provision of best practices in clinical services entails participation in evaluations, data collection, and weekly Skype-based training-all overseen by Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs). At our partner sites, the Global Autism Project employs Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), currently the only evidence-based treatment method for children with autism. Data collection conducted on all children receiving ABA therapy helps identify areas of improvement and concern to best treat each individual child and track their progress, as well as trend-level indicators for areas of concern to target on a center-wide basis. In addition to this ongoing support, the Global Autism Project visits each partner site in person at least twice a year, based on the site's individual needs. These site visits are conducted by a SkillCorps team-a highly-skilled team of four to six volunteer professionals selected through a competitive application process by the partner sites themselves in conjunction with staff at the Global Autism Project. Each team is supervised by a designated team leader and consists of professionals with a variety of skills in clinical best practices and development practices to meet the individual needs of the partner site at that time. These teams are comprised of unique combinations of individuals for each site visit, to encourage collaboration and independence on behalf of the partner site. With regard to best practices in sustainable business development, the Global Autism Project implements the "sustainability model" of NGO involvement. By using approaches based on scaffolding, the partners develop greater levels of independence throughout their partnership. All partnerships are designed to be five to seven years in length, to support sustainable program development and to encourage complete independence as a center of excellence in autism treatment in their community. In order to facilitate this, the same model is used to develop both sustainable business practices and quality clinical services. Simultaneous to receiving clinical supervision and support, each center receives supervision and assistance related to business practices based on their individual needs. This often includes assistance with organizational infrastructure, accounting and money management, facility development, business management, awareness-raising activities and events, and development of a sustainable system in their community for education and training of clinical professionals. Additionally, all local partners work closely with the Global Autism Project to complete a dissemination plan for their communities that includes a systematic review of available resources, government support, and local perceptions of autism in the community. Dissemination plans include collaboration and sharing of resources with local centers which serve children with autism, awareness campaigns, government outreach, and establishing local programming in the community where it is lacking. Ultimately, the objective of the Global Autism Project is to train its partners to develop the creativity and entrepreneurship needed to sustain and expand their own organizations. Throughout the partnership process, the Global Autism Project provides services requested by the partner, based on their individual needs. The level of training and support becomes more complex as the organization masters basic clinical and business principles, and expands to support the unique needs of that community. Other organizations that we are aware of are based on models antithetic to community empowerment and sustainability, and involve either massive in-country training with little follow-up, or the installation of full-time, non-indigenous staff on-site, which fosters dependence on the organization. Of the existing projects and efforts in this field, the Global Autism Project is the only one with an explicit goal of fostering sustainability and community empowerment.
Due to the linguistic, cultural, and geographic barriers in under-resourced communities, outreach in autism services has been limited in the past. In these communities, caregivers are forced to rely on instinct instead of evidence based practices, creating systematic problems like ostracism, seclusion, shame and at times, abuse. Without proper treatment, children with autism are not able to reach their full potential and parents and instructors are left without hope.
Through training of local individuals in evidence based instruction, our program for teacher training will enable parents, teachers, and caregivers to see positive behavioral, functional, and academic gains instilling hope and building momentum towards larger community and systematic gains. By working in a sustainable way, we ensure that the local individuals are able to maintain and build upon the training provided so that individuals with autism are able to meet their full potential.
By beginning in larger communities and encouraging further dissemination, we ensure that the training provided is accessible and culturally appropriate. By training in not only treatment for autism but advocacy and awareness for individuals with autism, we will build a systematic and growing movement towards full inclusion and acceptance - abolishing the instinct-based treatment and ostracism, abuse, and seclusion of individuals with autism.