By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
AS REACH Bahamas continues to commemorate its 15th year of raising awareness of autism in the country, the organisation has renewed its focus and will take an even more active approach in educating Bahamians about the neuro developmental disorder going forward.
The strides the organisation has made over the last 15 years to increase awareness and treatment options available to Bahamian families affected by autism and other related challenges were celebrated during “A Night Under The Stars” event held last week at Government House.
Speakers at the event included Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin, REACH chairman Dwayne Gibson, REACH founding president Decosta Bethel, and Mario Carey, the organisation’s current president. Mr Carey said as the new year rolls in the organisation intends to keep up with the work it has been doing throughout 2014.
“What we know is that one in every 68 children born today will be diagnosed with autism, and we know that boys are four more times likely to be diagnosed than girls. We know that in the US autism costs the government billions of dollars a year. We do not know what our numbers here in the Bahamas are, but we know that there is an estimate of 10,000 to 15,000 people in the Bahamas living with autism. We know that it is the fastest growing condition among children, combining diabetes, cancer or AIDS. So we have to increase the awareness, get the information out there. We need to have a better understanding; we need to take the shame factor out of it. We need more support groups,” he said. Mr Carey said the organisation is very active and is trying to expand to the Family Islands.
“We finally got the Disability Act passed. The (persons with disabilities) in this country were heavily discriminated against and they had no access to jobs, transportation, housing, and these were some of the things we were fighting for because we know we have to protect the rights of our children, of the future generations to come. The condition of autism is never going away. We have to be ready as a country and we will keep awareness going, keep advocating and keep trying to help those that need it,” he said.
This Saturday, REACH will host an educational workshop at Queen’s College beginning at 10am. Teachers, caregivers and parents will receive information on the disorder and how to deal with autistic children. REACH is the Bahamas’ resource and educational source for autism and other related challenges. It is a non-profit organisation that aims to provide parents with comprehensive knowledge and tools in all areas of this neurobiological disorder. The organisation has a wide variety of social activities throughout the year to make the public more socially aware of autism within the islands.