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Apr 12, 2021

A Walk to Bring Awareness to Autism in Belize

A month of activities to bring awareness about a neurological condition commenced over the weekend with a five-K walk from the B.T.L. Park along Marine Parade to the Belize sign and back. Autism Belize was formed by a group of parents, whose goal is to break the stigma and garner much needed support not only for their children, but those who fall on the spectrum and have special needs. News Five’s reporter Duane Moody and cameraman Kenroy Michael file this report.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The month of April is recognized globally as Autism Month and as early as five-thirty on Saturday morning, two hundred and thirty plus persons from different walks of life came out to help in bringing awareness on this neurological condition known as autism.

 

Jocelle Stephen, Projects Director, Autism Belize

“Autism is not a disability you can see. It affects the neurological so it is social skills, verbal skills and things like that. So you might see a child in public acting out and you think that child’s spoiled, but that child is probably having a massive meltdown.”

 

Jocelle Stephen is among one of several women who make up the organization. She is the mom of seven-year-old son, Eric. They along with many other autistic persons participated in the walk; unfortunately, after a while, the crowd became overwhelming and over-stimulating for Eric. But for most, the walk was a success.

 

Laurel Garbutt

Laurel Garbutt, Participant, Autism Walk 2021

“A co-worker of mine has a child with autism and is a part of the organization. So I work at B.T.B. and this year we decided to lend our support and I decided to bring my daughter out for the walk to show support for her.”

 

Mirna Grinage

Mirna Grinage, Participant, Autism Walk 2021

“We wanted to support this organization. It’s a new organization and I believe they need all the support that they can. We have a lot of cases of autism in Belize and I don’t think we have the resources or the personnel to actually deal with it in the way it should.”

 

Including autism in the discussion at all levels is among the goals of the organization – be that in the classrooms, in homes and even at the policy level.  SJC Teacher Melissa Espat joined the walk.

 

Melissa Espat

Melissa Espat, Participant, Autism Walk 2021

“I think it is a great cause. I know several parents who have children with autism. It hits home for me and it’s still a neurological condition that we still don’t know much about and so the more advocacy we have with autism, the more aware we will be about how we as a community can work with parents with children with autism and how to accept. Like my shirt says: Autism – different, not less. And I think we have to appreciate every one’s differences. I work in an institution where we focus on the rights of all – the vulnerable, the marginalised. And definitely, children and adults with autism, they are considered the vulnerable, they are considered the marginalised and we have to fight for them. And so all of us here, I guess we have the same belief that we have to advocate together – it’s not one person’s job.”

 

There is a long list of professionals with whom you can connect to better understand and be able to work with autistic persons. While the organization is relatively young, Projects Director Jocelle Stephens says that strengthening partnerships with stakeholders is key.

 

Jocelle Stephen

“We have now, after one year, officially become an N.G.O. so we realise that we need to be in a position where we can advocate for policy change, where we can advocate for funding and support so that’s the step that we are heading in. and even though we are young and small, we are a passionate group of parents who understand that we have to make the changes. It’s about that education and awareness and that’s what we want to do. Our website, www.autismbelize.org, has all the information on how we want to educate, how we want to promote, how we want to advocate as well as to develop that support from the community as well. “NaRCIE, BAPDA, Inspiration Center are organizations that we work closely together with. We can’t do this alone; this has to be a community effort and that’s why we are here making the best of this event, amplified.”

 

Jocelle Stephen

Sensitization trainings, yoga and dance classes are part of a calendar of events by Autism Belize for the month of April.

 

Jocelle Stephen

“April second is where the world lights up blue so we thought of the light it up blue campaign and how we can make it relevant to Belize and that’s why you can see our t-shirts got the light it up blue as well. So we encourage people to light up their homes, light up their houses, light up their buildings blue. Wear blue as often as you can; so organizations, we’ve asked them to wear blue every Friday.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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