The Jenin Autism Project – The End is Only the Beginning

Partial group photo at the project’s celebration.

Melissa Diamond, who has been staying in the West Bank of the Palestinian territory for the past few months working on “The Jenin Autism Project,” part of “A Global Voice for Autism,” has finished up the project. They were there to help parents learn about autism and Applied Behavior Analysis and help connect them to other autism resources as well as building their own supportive network. They blogged their experiences here to share their efforts in figuring out how to best help children with autism in a part of the world where so little help is available.  See the end of this post for links to prior posts on “The Jenin Autism Project.”

Editor’s Note: I’ve read and followed along with Melissa and Kitti South (when she was there) for several months now, and I am in awe of their work. We are on the cusp yet again of another Autism Awareness Month (April), something I believe should be changed to Autism Action Month. Awareness was yesterday. We must be all about action, and Melissa, Kitti and their team embodied this. Action. In an area of the world where help was needed, where parents struggled with teaching their autistic children or finding good learning programs and information to them — “The Jenin Autism Project” took their expertise straight to them and really, truly helped them. Not just made people aware, but put action into play. I am honored to have featured their work on this blog.

By Melissa Diamond

It is hard to believe, but today we wrapped up our program in Jenin.  The past three months have been life-changing for both our team and the families involved in the program. In spite of the challenges we faced, I cannot imagine a more successful program. We came here to help families and their children, and during the parents’ final reflections today, it was clear that we accomplished this.

The mothers and their children joined us today for a review session and a final celebration. After the review, I spoke with the mothers about their progress in the program and they eagerly shared their accomplishments in a video for this week’s UN presentation. A common theme was present in a number of the mothers’ reflections. In the words of Abed’s mother:

“I always thought that I was to blame for [Abed's] autism because I allowed him to watch television when he was a child. I learned that it is not my fault. I advise other mothers not to be ashamed of their sons. On the contrary, they should seek out programs for their children. The more they talk about their child, the more chances they will have to be helped. If I had not told anyone about my son, no one would have helped me.”

The empowered approach of the mothers was inspiring and I know that the relationships between our team and the families will extend beyond our time in Jenin.

After the review and reflection, we gathered for a celebration. We brought lunch to the center, and celebrated with the mothers, children and translators. The mothers brought traditional sweets and a cake. I am going to miss everyone in Jenin and I hope to return to Jenin in the near future.

This evening, my friends from Nablus came for a final visit and we walked around the city and relaxed in a public park in Jenin. Now, we are spending the rest of the night packing for our trip back to the U.S. Monday morning. Our flight is not until early Monday morning, but we will travel to the airport tomorrow afternoon.

While our daily blogging ends today, we will continue to update the blog periodically. Stay tuned for updates about the UN, the families in Jenin and future A Global Voice for Autism ventures!

Thank you for your support,

Melissa Diamond

For more information, please check  their blog and the website for A Global Voice for Autism

About Dilshad Ali

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