“CSOs Working on Autism Need Support”

April is autism awareness month and it is celebrated by many events and activities. The number of people with autism increases all over the world. Recent studies show that every 1 of 68 children is born with the risk of autism and a child is diagnosed with autism in every 20 minutes. People with autism face a lot of problems in their daily lives from education to employment. They want their right to education and to be a part of employment process.

We interviewed Betül Selcen Özer, General Manager of Tohum Autism Foundation. She shared her concern about insufficient educational hours. “People with autism who are diagnosed early and go under an intense rehabilitation period can find proper jobs and can maintain their lives half-depended or totally independent in their adulthood,” she said.

Özer said they need every kind of contribution to raise awareness about autism; from voluntary support to aid in kind, to financial aid or professional help.

As Tohum Autism Foundation, you issued Turkey’s report card on autism awareness. Did Turkey pass?

We renewed the research we did with GfK Turkey’s support, called “Individuals’ Perception and Knowledge Level about Autism in Turkey”. The first research was conducted in 2015 and the second in 2017. In the first research, 29% of the participants said they heard about autism. In the second research this rate was increased to 58%. However, even though %82 of the participants said they heard about autism, they did not know the symptoms. The results from those researchers showed us that we need to work harder to raise awareness about autism.

In our country, there are some problems for children with special needs to attend formal education. What can you tell us about that? How could these problems be solved?

There are two types of education formats that children with special needs can attend. There are formal schools which apply inclusive education and special schools which apply special education. Today, many of the children with autism are not accepted to schools. The only education a child with autism can get is support trainings. These support trainings are provided in rehabilitation centres of the Ministry of National Education. A child with autism needs at least 30 hours of training a week, so the hours in our country is insufficient.

What kind of support do CSOs working on autism need?

They need every kind of contribution to raise awareness about autism; from voluntary support to aid in kind, to financial aid or professional help.

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