Teaching Children with Autism How to Cope Autism Specialist Omar Rasul in Erbil, Iraq

Thanks to the impactful CD4D, I have been fortunate to be able to contribute to strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Health (MoH) of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq in the context of children with autism.

I am working in social-educational care in the Netherlands and am specialized in autism cases. Personally, I am passionate about improving the lives of children with autism by making people in their direct environment aware of how they can support them. I also incorporate art in aiding children with autism, as I am a painter as well.

The purpose of this project was to pass on knowledge to relevant staff members of the MoH how to fully understand children with autism, with the aim to support and guide them towards developing themselves and reaching a certain base level of autonomy and independence.

To achieve this, I applied a three-step method in the project I offered:

  • 1. Creating the ideal circumstances to make the direct environment understand the way a child with autism experiences his/her environment.
  • 2. Creating the ideal circumstances to guide and stimulate the child’s personal development through activities focused on learning to live in their body, soul and to cope with the environment around them.
  • 3. Guiding children into gaining more control over their thinking, their feelings and general behaviour.

This spring I was in Iraq, initially at the centre for autism of the MoH in Erbil. After having discussed the right approach with the MoH contact person, the Ministry of Social Affairs, which had merged with the MoH, requested me to also teach at their centre for autism in Sulaymaniyah. As such, I spent my time between the two cities.

I taught my project to all the staff members of the centres over the course of the period.

Sometimes in small groups, but also to all staff members at the same time.

My training enabled them to apply the three-step method which allowed me to advise them when needed.

I could tell that the staff members were keen to learn as they were very interested and involved and asked many questions.

It is good to see that the government takes helping children with autism seriously and is willing to spend their resources on it. I truly hope that my knowledge and expertise contribute to the reconstruction and development of my country of origin, even if it is just in a small way.

Finally, I would like to remark that the communication and overall cooperation with the Ministry of Health as host organization and with IOM was a pleasure and I am looking forward to any potential continuation of our cooperation in the future.