On The Road Blog
Trailblazing autism awareness in Kyrgyzstan
In a country where autism is widely misunderstood, this grassroots organization makes modern, high-quality care a reality for children with autism spectrum disorder.
The United Nations recognizes World Autism Awareness Day on Sunday, April 2, and this year’s theme is “Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination”—in other words, the right to make decisions and shape one’s own future.
Many of us take this right for granted, but that’s often not an option for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In Kyrgyzstan, as in much of the developing world, many doctors misdiagnose children with ASD as schizophrenic. Parents, with nowhere to turn for help, isolate their children at home or even abandon them. As a result, thousands of children with ASD miss out on early medical and educational interventions that could lay the foundation for an independent future.
That’s why we are deeply grateful for the work of our partner Hand in Hand, the first and only centre in Kyrgyzstan devoted entirely to assisting children with ASD.
At Hand in Hand’s centre, each child has an individualised education plan and works with a team of speech pathologists, music therapists, psychologists, and behavioural therapists, who together empower the child to meet his or her personal needs and goals. Last year, Hand in Hand provided crucial interventions to 98 children who would otherwise not have access to education and therapy.
Hand in Hand also educates parents about the condition and trains healthcare professionals to identify ASD and refer children for proper care. These are critical steps in making sure children with ASD get the support they need to reach their full potential.
A pioneer in its field, Hand in Hand got its start thanks to everyday citizens like Jyldyz Sadykova, one of the founders. A local entrepreneur who has a grandchild with ASD, Jyldyz donated space above her shop for the centre’s initial operations. Now outgrowing its current location, Hand in Hand will be breaking ground on a new facility soon.
This is exactly the kind of homegrown work we support here at GFC—thank you for making it possible!