Connects Autism Tanzania
Educational avenues for special needs students and those with developmental disabilities existed nominally in Tanzania only a few years ago. While “advanced societies” are targeting autism and other developmental disabilities in their social and educational systems, the stigma associated with these conditions continues to impede these individuals to take their rightful place in society.
In 2010 Autism Connects Tanzania (ACT) was created to build a basis of support for families of children with autism and co-occurring conditions by providing education, resources, and advocacy. Since then, this organization now operating under the name, Connects Autism Tanzania (CAT), has hosted numerous workshops, seminars and other events for a variety of stakeholders including parents, teachers, other NGOs, service providers and government and educational officers in order to convey a basic understanding of this condition and deliver more targeted information.
CAT’s educational focuses have ranged from behavior management to communication strategies for caregivers to use at home, to specific classroom protocols. Most recently in 2018, CAT has been instrumental in introducing and coaching the use of IEPs (Individualized Educational Programs) in classrooms in the Arusha, and especially the SIHA districts. Forums always serve as a vehicle for participants to share and solve their challenges.
Today, as a locally registered NGO, Connects Autism Tanzania and its Director, Grace Lyimo, are recognized trailblazers for special needs advocacy in Northern Tanzania. They take leading roles in forums, seminars and other meetings that develop channels to serve the autistic and reinforce the message that the developmentally disabled have a rightful claim to education and a place in society. Their use of events, media coverage and networking among all stakeholders has elevated the conversation – both in terms of the level and number of participants.
EdPowerment remains the primary funder of CAT, acting additionally as a fiscal sponsor for Focus For Health grants. This support has enabled CAT to continue its advocacy in increasingly high-level meetings with government educational officers, while bringing specific strategies and protocols to teachers in special needs units in Northern Tanzania. CAT continues to develop a management structure that will enable it to meet the demand from all stakeholders for guidance and seek alternative sources of funding.