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The world's first Pan African Congress on Autism - 2019 Highlights

ABA Senegal was at PACA 2019 this year in Nairobi, Kenya! We cannot describe how proud we are of this community, as well as its organizers, who worked tirelessly for many months to make this event a reality. Over 20 African countries were represented (Senegal by 3 individuals, plus a smattering of others from francophone countries), and we already have confirmation of an even larger group next year. Bravo to all organizers, speakers, and attendees!

We had a large attendance of ABA and intervention professionals as well, from all over the globe. Below is a quick, 5-minute run-down of the event in the eyes of an ABA professional, created by The Daily BA (with some personal take-homes and reviews by creator Ryan O'Donnell).

Some highlights of our own:

(Below) - Joyce Ogogo presented on a study piloting a peer buddy system and PRT techniques in Migori, Kenya. This was carried out across several sub-counties. The intervention was considered a success, with both quantitative and qualitative data supporting the effectiveness of the program - In sum, they saw great improvements in the social skills of young Kenyan children with autism in the school setting. Interviews and focus groups included both teachers and parents. The next step: Get the government involved! Curricula for special needs students should be flexible (i.e. less focused on standardized exams) and inclusion-oriented.

Below left: Christine Atieko, special educator in Kenyan international schools, spoke on the needs of the Kenyan education system in terms of inclusion for children with disabilities. Reflecting Ms. Ogogo's sentiments, she proposed a separate evaluation process for children with special needs, and curricula that are open enough to allow for the recognition and support of children's natural talents.

Below right: Eziafakaku Nwokolo, BCBA, from Nigeria: Powerhouse Nwokolo shared insight into the barriers to treatment in Nigeria. As across much of Africa, the core barriers include a lack of quality education and training for professionals (though there is quite a bit of variety across Nigeria), as well as a lack of funds and other resources on both the families' part and health providers'. ABA in Nigeria is often unrealistically marketed as a "cure" for autism, and can be generally be of low quality. Related to this, many families in Nigeria often travel outside the country to seek help for their children if they can afford it (thus taking them off the map, data-wise). For most families, the first form of help-seeking seems to be self-medication such as visiting the corner pharmacy. This habit transcends income, with families all over the economic spectrum participating in self-medication. This means that children in wealthier families may, in fact, be just as underserved as children from poorer ones... A change in awareness, including acceptance, will be needed in order to get children diagnosed and into regular care at an early age.

Below: Dr. Kwang-Sun Blair and team presented on PTR: Prevent, Teach, Reinforce - A system and manual for managing challenging behaviors. Questions to the audience included advice on how to measure the cultural validity of this model, and possible changes that may need to happen to maximize its effectiveness in the African setting. (picture: Ruth Tenai)

Below: Dr. Kristin Sohl presented on ECHO Telehealth. This tool has the potential to be an amazing opportunity for Africa and other low-resource settings if used to to its fullest potential. ECHO is an online telehealth system that can be used to create a telehealth network for any community that has access to the internet. Though it can be used for any field, Dr. Sohl gave us an "autism center" model as an example, which focused on training individuals in low-resource settings. On one end are 6 "experts" across various fields such as medicine, psychology, speech-language pathology, and intervention, and on the other end are about 15 "learners," which can be made up of teachers, parents, health care workers, special education/interventionists, and anyone else interested in the topic within a community or across communities. They all meet online twice per month for about 1.5 hours and talk about a specific case, focusing on learning opportunities for the 15 logged-in "learners." Dr. Sohl's team carried out a pilot of this system in Nairobi, to much success, and are now thinking of splitting the model into more specialized groups for parents and professionals.

Last but not least: Molly Ola Pinney presented on the Global Autism Project, with partner presenters from Kaizora autism center in Nairobi, Kenya. The Global Autism Project can help provide long-term, in-depth, distance training to center staff in the form of a partnership.


Below: Founder Adair with speaker Christine Atieno

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