The Jenin Autism Project – Helping Autism Families in Palestine

Over the years, we’ve been blessed to have a number of great therapists come into our home and work with Lil D. And we’ve been especially lucky the past 3-4 years to have a group of therapists, who are either related or friends with each other, come to our home — when one gets ready to leave, he/she recommends another from their circle of friends/family to work with Lil D. They pour their hard work and love into Lil D, they babysit for us, sometimes they spend weekends with Lil D or travel with us as a family and have done autism 5Ks with us.

These young therapists are, without a doubt, family. They are Lil D’s best friends.

Several months back one of our friends (Kitti Robinson), who’s husband worked with  Lil D, contacted me to discuss an intriguing new project that had come her way. She had been offered the chance to travel to Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank  in the Palestinian territory, and be a part of the Jenin Autism Project. Kitti and I spoke at length about what this would entail, and what are the things parents need to learn initially about autism and Applied Behavior Analysis so they can help their children. We discussed the challenges her team would face and how to best help children with autism in a part of the world where so little help is available.

Kitti and Melissa Diamond, project coordinator for the Jenin Autism Project, have graciously agreed to guest post about their experiences for my blog. Please check back in the coming days for more posts about their work and how autism families are living and coping in Jenin. As always, your prayers, good vibes and good thoughts for families with special needs are appreciated.

Greetings from Jenin!  Our team here is Melissa Diamond (Project Coordinator), Kitti Robinson (Training Coordinator), Katrina Walker (ABA Therapist) and Daniel Johnson (ABA Therapist).  We arrived in Jenin yesterday to begin working with the Jenin Creative Cultural Center, who is hosting the Jenin Autism Project.  The Jenin Autism Project aims to train mothers of children with autism in ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), so that they can participate in a cooperative where they will work on skills with each others’ children in the center and with their own child in the home.

In addition to this training our program will also include a parent support group, a sibling support group and an autism awareness campaign in the Jenin community that will involve lectures at both the Jenin Governorate and in Jenin schools. We have 13 mothers who have signed up for the program  and are ready to get started. We are looking forward to meeting them on Sunday.

The Jenin Autism Project is funded in part by a grant from The Resolution Project that was awarded to founder Melissa Diamond at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in April 2013. The Resolution Project is a global, non-profit organization fostering youth leadership development through collaborative social entrepreneurship (George Tsiatis). In addition to this grant, fundraisers, individual donations and crowdfunding campaigns were used to fund the project.

A Global Voice for Autism chose Jenin as its launch site after learning about the lack of effective and affordable autism services available to families in the West Bank. We elected to start in Jenin due to the high autism rate in the community and the willingness of the Jenin Creative Cultural Center’s director, Yousef Awad, to work with our team. We are excited to work with this community as we begin our project and hope that this approach to ABA will be replicable around the world in the future.

Melissa and Kitti will take turns blogging about their experiences, which will be posted here and on their own blog. For more information, please check  their blog and the website for A Global Voice for Autism.

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