The HEAD Foundation is supporting Universiti Sains Malaysia, Souphanouvong University (Laos) and University of Nottingham, Malaysia, to develop an online training module for teachers in Laos to facilitate social communication of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
In Laos, there is little to no support for persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); children with ASD are usually misunderstood and go about their lives undiagnosed and excluded from mainstream society. There is a lack of specialised medical personnel and experts to diagnose, and help those with ASD cope with life in school and beyond, according to Association for Autism in Laos.
The situation is less than ideal especially in low-resource schools. As such, Dr Low Hui Min from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Ms Somchay Makesavanh from Souphanouvong University, Prof Dr Lee Lay Wah from USM, Assoc Prof Dr Aznan Che Ahmad from USM and Dr Wong Tze Peng from University of Nottinham, Malaysia, have come together to develop an online training module, The Story of Khamdy™, for teachers in Laos to facilitate social communication of students with ASD. This project aims to enhance Laotian teachers’ skills and knowledge to provide quality inclusive education to students with ASD. Dr Low has previously completed a similar research project in Penang, Malaysia.
On 9 and 10 September 2019, 112 pre-school and primary school teachers from Luang Prabang, Laos, attended the launch and training workshop of The Story of Khamdy™.
The Story of Khamdy™ is a free and open-access resource on effective social communication and inclusion for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The team used the results from a needs assessment survey conducted earlier to tailor this module to the abilities and needs of the target teachers, ensuring that this training addresses the gaps Laotian teachers face while teaching children with autism.
This 20-unit module follows the life of Khamdy, a Laotian boy with autism, from his birth to his teenage years. The teachers learnt about the early signs of autism, tips and techniques to nurture good behaviour, develop communication skills, regulate emotions, and the important roles of parents, teachers, and friends, to help children like Khamdy thrive and lead a fulfilling life.
The team also conducted a train-the-trainer workshop for representatives from the Luang Prabang Department of Education, Laos Friends Hospital for Children and Laos Association for Autism. Dr Low coached the participants on goals identification and strategy planning to disseminate and promote The Story of Khamdy™ locally. These future trainers presented their plans to promote the training module across the country.
The HEAD Foundation is honoured to work with the Luang Prabang Department of Education, Laos Friends Hospital for Children and Laos Association for Autism who will continue to spread the message and raise awareness of autism in Laos. This is just the beginning of our journey and we hope that with the support of local organisations, more Laotians will be accepting of autism and teachers and caretakers can help children with autism lead a fulfilling life.