In commemoration of World Autism Awareness Day and in recognition of people living with autism spectrum disorder in Trinidad and Tobago, Support Autism T&T opened nominations for the its Autism Superhero Awards 2023.
The awards ceremony was initiated in 2021 and held every two years. It is geared specifically towards people with autism spectrum disorder and those who support them in TT. It was inspired by The Autism Hero Awards created by the Anna Kennedy Online Charity, advocates for disability inclusion in the UK.
Dr Radica Mahase, founder and director of Support Autism T&T said, "Over the past six years we have been engaging with both children and adults on the spectrum, with parents and caregivers, autism siblings, educators, therapists and others. We fully understand the challenges that many are faced with on a daily basis, because of shortcomings at various levels here in our country.
"We interact with parents regularly, we hear of their problems with educating their children, of accessing various forms of therapies, of society’s negative attitudes, amongst other things."
And in the midst of it all, she said, they have no choice but to find ways to navigate the challenges and, in many cases, they do so because of the informal support systems which exist, "the teacher who goes the extra mile to help a child; the brother or sister who makes so many sacrifices for their autism sibling; the parents and caregivers who know that they simply cannot give up, they must keep fighting so that their child would have opportunities to live as fulfilling a life as possible."
"We recognised that, in the words of Haley Moss, autism self-advocate, 'It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes an even bigger village to raise a child with a disability.'"
But, she said, the organisation wants to recognise those individuals with autism who have continued to persevere and excel despite their personal challenges or level of development - individuals who continue to achieve milestones and develop at their own pace.
"We want society to understand that achievement comes in many forms and at different pace. Achievement means different things to different persons."
She said the organisation also wants to recognise those special individuals who make sacrifices every day to ensure that those with autism are supported in their intellectual, mental and physical development.
"And in so doing, this award also promotes awareness and acceptance and more importantly, it brings a sense of recognition and inclusion in a country where individuals with autism continue to be marginalised on a daily basis."
The awards are open to nationals of TT and has five categories:
1. Personal achievement: an individual with autism who has excelled despite challenges.
2. Outstanding sibling: a brother/sister who constantly supports their sibling with autism in everyday life.
3. Dedicated youth volunteer: a young person aged ten to 25 whose voluntary work has made a difference in the lives of individuals with autism.
4. Superhero parent/caregiver: a parent or caregiver who has exceeded expectations in their given situation.
5. Committed educator: a teacher/educator who has worked consistently to make a difference in the lives of individuals with autism.
The deadline for nomination is May 31. Short-listed recipients will be contacted for more details and a panel of judges will determine the winners. Nomination forms are available on all Support Autism T&T social media pages and website www.rahulsclubhouse.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org 1868- 791-1320 for more information.