Autism training for teachers and nurses

Nurses and teachers will be taught
how to identify autism and developmental disabilities in children as part of a
new training programme.

The Ministry of Education, Training
and Employment, in partnership with The Wellness Centre, is providing free
training to all preschool teachers and public health nurses, beginning this

Training will focus on improving
overall autism awareness and will give participants the necessary knowledge to
recognise early warning signs, organisers said.

The referral process for children
exhibiting autism-like symptoms will also be outlined.

Noting that his ministry’s focus on
professionals who work with young children is a strategic one, Education
Minister Rolston Anglin said: “These individuals are the first point of contact
for most children and the ministry believes that they can play important roles
in shaping the community’s response to autism. 

“The programme was developed
because it came to my ministry’s attention that we were unable to properly
identify kids with autism spectrum disorders. As such, we do not know the
numbers with which we are dealing and cannot offer appropriate services such as
speech and language, occupational, or behaviour modification services.”

Autism, the abbreviated name for
Autism Spectrum Disorders, is a group of developmental brain disorders that can
cause significant social, behavioural and communication challenges. It affects
each person differently, and can range from very mild to severe.

However, people with autism share
common symptoms such as problems with social interaction, repeat behaviours
such as twirling fingers, flapping arms or wringing hands, and may experience
intense areas of interest.

According to the US-based Centres
for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of autism is estimated at
one in 150. Research has found that early identification and intervention are
key factors in helping to ensure the best possible outcome for children with

This year’s annual budget earmarked
for the first time government funds to help diagnose children with autism. The
Wellness Centre has set up a panel of experts to diagnose children with the disorder.


Red flags

The following early warning signs
may indicate children at risk for autism. Parents, teachers and medical
professionals are advised to act early to ensure a child undergoes a full
developmental assessment if they spot the following signs in children.

A child with autism may:

Not respond to his/her name by 12
months of age;

Not point at objects to show
interest (point at an aeroplane or fan blades) by 14 months;

Not play “pretend” games (pretend
to feed a doll) by 18 months;

Avoid eye contact and want to be

Have trouble understanding other
people’s feelings or talking about their own;

Have delayed speech and language

Repeat words or phrases over and
over (echolalia);

Give unrelated answers to

Get upset at minor changes;

Have obsessive interests;

Flap their hands, rock the body, or
spin in circles; and

Have unusual reactions to the way
things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel.


The first training session for
nurses and teachers will be held on Thursday, 23 September, at the George Town
Library conference room, and will continue on the first and third Thursday of
each month from October 2010 to March 2011, between 9am and noon.

Preschool teachers and public
health nurses are encouraged to call the Wellness Centre on 949-9355 or email
[email protected] for registration information.


The Wellness Centre has also set up
a new support group for families of children with autism, which met earlier
this month for the first time.

The group aims to provide parents
with reassurance that other families are in the same situation and have similar
worries and fears. Future meetings are planned for Monday, 22 November; Monday,
10 January; and Monday, 14 March.

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