Autism is a developmental disability increasingly identified in the developed world where researchers seek to understand the condition, and many resources exist for parents and families. In Tanzania, however, there is little recognition or understanding of the condition and little help is given to those who need it. In 2010 Autism Connects Tanzania was created to build a basis of support for families of children with autism and co-occurring conditions by providing education, resources, and advocacy.
As of summer 2015, ACT transitioned into a Tanzanian NGO under the name, Connects Autism Tanzania (CA Tanzania). Under a local Board of Directors, this move better enables the organization to accomplish its goals through the following:
Since 2010 under its former name, ACT, CA Tanzania has hosted up to four workshops and seminars a year for a variety of participants including parents, teachers, organizations, service providers and government officials in order to convey both a basic understanding of this condition and more targeted information. Topics have ranged from behavior management to communication strategies for caregivers to use at home and in the classroom. Forums have also served as a vehicle for participants to share and solve their challenges, while learning about broader topics including the rights of the disabled. As a locally registered NGO, the organization has begun to reach out to government officials, educational officers and professionals for more concrete ways to implement formal programs for the autistic and those with special needs. Most recently, CA Tanzania hosted a meeting of over 50 stakeholders in Arusha to focus on transition and vocational programs for the post-education autistic young adult.
Since 2010 EdPowerment, through ACT, has supported local centres that struggle to serve a population that still remains outcast in much of Tanzanian society. These centers counter prevailing stigmas and social taboos, seeking to help the autistic and otherwise intellectually disabled reach their potential. The first Centre assisted by CATanzania (formerly ACT) was the Gabriella Children’s Rehabilitation Centre outside of Moshi, a learning oasis that now serves over 60 clients.
CATanzania has since provided educational support for a growing number of centres, schools, special needs units and even businesses in Moshi, Arusha, Siha and more rural areas (such as the Pambazuka Special Needs Center in Mtu wa Mbu). This expanded advocacy is part of our reason for registering as a Tanzanian NGO. Support includes guidance about differentiated teaching strategies, staff development, advice on activities such as how to build parent support groups, and bringing international practitioners to share diagnostic and strategic expertise.
To further its mission of education and networking, CATanzania assembles and distributes a wide array of informative materials for families, educators, social workers and other interested parties and hosts a website about intellectual disabilities in both Swahili and English. In addition, CATanzania establishes partnerships with interested groups in the U.S., U.K. and other European countries to bolster instruction in Tanzania. Our U.S. and Tanzanian Directors also provide one-on-one mentoring for caregivers.
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Empowerment Through Education