Connects Autism Tanzania
Educational avenues for special needs youth and those with developmental disabilities existed nominally in Tanzania only a few years ago. While “advanced societies” address autism and other developmental disabilities in their social and educational systems, the stigma associated with these conditions continues to prevent these individuals from taking their rightful place in Tanzanian society.
In 2010 Autism Connects Tanzania (ACT) was created as an EdPowerment program to build a basis of support for families of children with autism and co-occurring conditions by providing education, resources, and advocacy. Kerri Gilbert, a U.S. special needs educator and EdPowerment Board Member, worked closely with (Mama) Grace Lyimo to develop the organization, while sharing her expertise with Mama Grace and all stakeholders in the area of intellectual disabilities and special needs.
In 2015, ACT became an independent Tanzanian NGO, under a new name, Connects Autism Tanzania. With EdPowerment continuing as its primary funder, CA Tanzania charted its own course, advocating across educational, business and social service sectors for recognition of and services for those with special needs, particularly young adults.
Today, Connects Autism Tanzania and its Director, Grace Lyimo, are recognized leaders for special needs advocacy in Northern Tanzania. They deliver critical information in forums, seminars and other meetings and develop channels to serve the autistic - always reinforcing the message that the developmentally disabled have a rightful claim to education and a place in society. They use events, media coverage and networking among all stakeholders to achieve real change.
In 2018, CAT introduced and guided the use of IEPs (Individualized Educational Programs) in classrooms in the Arusha, and especially the SIHA districts. Since 2019, the organization has promoted inclusive classrooms in the Tanzanian system while developing a CAT Youth Training Center that it operates with support from Building For Generations, a U.S. based NGO.
As of 2021, Connects Autism Tanzania operates independently of EdPowerment funding. However, Focus For Health, which had supported CA Tanzania through EdPowerment since October 2016, has committed to working directly in 2021 with CAT. We are grateful to Focus For Health for its renewed support and we look forward to CAT's continued inroads in achieving full status for special needs populations in Tanzanian society and education.