The problems of autism among children in Georgia and changing the attitude of society towards this issue are the main themes that representatives of the Georgian Patriarchate and charitable foundation “We Are Others” will consider at an upcoming conference in Tbilisi, foundation founder Andrei Maximov told Sputnik Georgia.
The conference will bring together rural clergy, Church school teachers and directors, teachers of the “We Are Others” foundation, and also parents of children with autism. Participants will talk about how to treat children with autism and how it’s possible to help them.
The purpose of the “We Are Others” foundation is to train specialists, and introduce and disseminate a new model for working with children with autism.
“This is not a medical meeting or conference. We will try to explain that these are special children and we must help them. We’re making a brochure with a section called ‘In the First Person.’ I have collected materials from books and interviews with adults talking about their feelings when they were non-verbal autistics. We will try to show by these stories what these children are feeling,” Maximov said.
The purpose of the meeting is to provide priests with detailed information about the problem of autism in the country, so they can share it with the parents in their flocks. The organizers of the event believe it is important to raise public awareness so every parent in every corner of the country would know what to do with their special child, where to go and whom to address.
According to Maximov, the issue is especially acute in rural areas where autistic children are often treated as mentally ill and concealed away.
“If we isolate these children, then they will definitely become socially disabled. This needs to be explained to people. This process took place 50 years ago in the U.S. … I don’t want Georgian society to have to go through this evolution for 50 years—we have to speed up the process. The Georgian Church can play an important role—it has a great impact on the population,” Maximov stated.