Professor Shane Jimerson of the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at UC Santa Barbara was among featured speakers at a conference in July focusing on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities in Bangladesh and South East Asia.
The conference was organized by Autism Speaks in collaboration with the Bangladeshi government, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Notable contributors included the head of the autism advisory committee of Bangladesh, and daughter of the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Saima Hossain. The conference featured government leaders, professionals, parents, and scientists from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Bhutan, Pakistan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar, Brunei, Bhutan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Maldives, and the United States.
Author of Identifying, Assessing, and Treating Autism at School and Director of the International Institute of School Psychology, Professor Shane Jimerson was invited as a guest speaker to the conference. Professor Jimerson commented, “Considering the incredible participation, I anticipate this conference will serve as an important catalyst to advance both science and practice throughout South East Asia, and make many important contributions to promoting the well-being and education of children with Autism and Developmental Disabilities.”
Among government leaders, India’s Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi was a featured speaker. Gandhi highlighted the need for further research and increased advocacy for developmentally disabled children, and urged greater collaboration in South Asia to provide affordable services to millions of children with Autism. She noted, “It is unfortunate that in South Asian societies generally the disabled do not command the empathy they deserve.”
Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, who was also a featured speaker at the conference, emphasized that early identification of a disability and appropriate interventions early in a child’s life are particularly important in helping children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Prime Minister Hasina stated, “In many countries like Bangladesh, we tend to ignore mental illness and thereby miss the significant benefits we could otherwise gain from early identification and timely interventions.”
In addition to many representatives from education and public welfare agencies throughout South Asia, distinguished guests also included: First Lady of Sri Lanka, Shiranthi Rajapaksa; Maldivian vice-president’s wife Madam Ilham Hussain; as well as health ministers from Indonesia and Bhutan.
[Shane Jimerson is available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789]
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