Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 20th 2015 Contents September 20, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
WOW MAGAZINE| 9
By Nickisha Alexander
PARENTS AND TEACHERS who have been feeling alone
while overcoming the challenges of supporting children on
the autism spectrum will be happy to know that the
Autism Parents Association of Trinidad & Tobago
(APATT) was founded in July.
WOW spoke with President and Founder Maria Borde,
who is the mother of three children, all of whom are at dif-
ferent points of the spectrum.
WOW: What ignited the spark in you to start APATT?
It started with the present struggle of parents trying to
find an affordable school with qualified educators to teach
children with autism. There are no public schools that can
cater solely for them. The private, expensive ones cost be-
tween $10,000 TT and $22,000 TT per term, and not all
the teachers are qualified in teaching children on the spec-
trum. Also, a lot of our parents cannot afford therapy. It
costs between $300 and $400 TT for 30--50 minutes, and
our children ideally need between 25 to 40 hours a week of
WOW: How do you find people to bring into your organ-
ization that truly care about autism the way you do?
I started an online blog last year called "Mountain of Sand"
at MountainOfSand.com, where I shared my experiences
of what it is like to raise 3 boys on the spectrum. I received
a lot of positive feedback. Many parents didn't feel their
voices were being heard with regards to lack of resources
locally, and there was no organization actively and eagerly
advocating for this. APATT is maintained without any
monetary support whatsoever. Everything thus far has
come out of pocket or by APATT's friends donating their
WOW: What three pieces of advice would you give to
parents whose children have been diagnosed with
1. Never give up on your child: No matter what everyone
else says, ALL children with autism can learn. Start by
joining APATT to get tips, help, and a possible way for-
2. Do not hide your child. It IS very challenging, but they
need to go out and be exposed to everyday activities;
they can progress and succeed.
3. Make sure to take good care of yourself, you will be able
to look after your child better.
WOW: What have been some of your failures/disap-
pointments, and what have you learned from them?
I learned not to expect others to understand what it is like
to raise a child or adult with autism. No one truly under-
WOW: How has being starting APATT affected your
It hasn't affected my family life, really. Autism is a daily
topic, so it integrates with what we already experience and
do every day.
WOW: What motivates you?
Parents like warriors, who do an incredible job. Also, the
fact that I know it IS possible for children and adults with
autism to receive the kind of help and resources APATT is
seeking and advocating. It is not a wild dream; it can be-
come a reality if the government takes serious action to
help individuals on the spectrum in T&T.
WOW: What is your greatest fear, and how do you
My greatest fear is: What will happen to my children when
fight for what our children need right now, so when the
right resources arrive, our children can be trained to live in-
dependent lives, and this fear hopefully will subdue a little
WOW: How would you define success?
Success is in the eye of the beholder. In terms of the per-
son living their lives while being on the spectrum, their
success is being able to live independently. However, keep
in mind that some on the spectrum may be low-function-
ing and need lifetime care and supervision.
WOW: What has been your most satisfying moment
Seeing my children's progress after hard work. My oldest
having deep conversations about history and astronomy.
My middle son operating a computer better than I do, de-
spite his serious challenges with communication, and my
youngest trying new foods after years of only eating
peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.
WOW: Where do you see yourself and your organisa-
tion in ten years? 20 years?
I see myself continuing to work as an advocate and ac-
tivist for families on the spectrum, and APATT expanding
greatly, having its own centre, and becoming a model or-
ganization for other associations in the Caribbean. One
key aspect to APATT is that if someone wants to donate,
we make sure that the donation goes directly to the par-
ents and their children. Some in the private sector have al-
ready donated their time and services to helping
members of APATT one on one. This is what makes
APATT truly special; what is needed goes to those who
need it rather than disappearing into organizational struc-
WOW: If you could talk to one person from history,
who would it be and why?
Dr Leo Kenner, who was the first scientist to define
Autism in 1943.
What Is Autism? What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized mainly by social impairment and communication difficulties. It is a spectrum condition,
which means that while all people with autism share similar difficulties, their condition will affect them differently. Autism now affects 1 in 68 children worldwide: 1 in 42 boys, 4.5 times as
many as girls (1 in 189). No official statistics are known in Trinidad and Tobago.
Some people with high-functioning autism are able to live relatively independent lives, while others with moderate or low-functioning autism may need a lifetime of family and specialist
support. People on the autism spectrum may also experience over or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, as well as anxiety as they try to make sense of the
world around them.
Sourced from ttautism.com/autism.php
| COMMUNITY |
Maria Borde, President and Founder
of Autism Parents Association of
Trinidad & Tobago (APATT)
To join the Autism Parents Association of Trinidad &
Tobago, go to TTAutism.com and register for FREE.
All our services, including representation, will always
remain FREE. If you are a doctor, educator, therapist
or professional, you can also register with us as a
Friend. APATT is a family; I know there are many par-
ents of children on the spectrum reading this. You are
not alone; come and join us. Let your voice be heard!
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