Meet the team: Sadia Syed

My name is Sadia Syed and I’m the Speech-Language Pathology Consultant for the Mersin 2016 Program.  I am from Manhattan, New York and have been working with children with autism for over a decade.

When I came across A Global Voice for Autism’s program to help the refugee children, I wanted to immediately get involved to spread the message of neurodiversity and inclusion. This ties into my work of understanding the needs of children with autism and helping them communicate with their families, friends and the wider community.

I am excited to visit the school in Turkey and work directly with the children and teachers. It will be a wonderful experience to be able to provide the tools to facilitate communication so the children can learn, interact with others and work towards expressing themselves. I am also excited to work with professionals from all over the world who are coming together to create a global educational platform.

In my free time I love to travel, cook, practice yoga, and spend time with my family.

-Sadia

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Meet the team: Qiess Rasouli

I’m Qiess Rasouli, a 31 year old educator currently residing in Alexandria, VA. I’ve worked with individuals with autism for 8 years in both school and home settings. I have a Masters in Special Education from George Mason University, and I’m currently wrapping up my supervision towards becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

My mother and father both immigrated to the US as refugees from Afghanistan in the early 1980’s. From hearing their stories as well as those of my other family members, I have grown to care deeply about the challenges facing refugee groups. As someone who has chosen to make serving individuals with autism as my life mission, I want to bring my skill set to improve the conditions of the Syrian refugee community.

What most excites me about this opportunity is the growth I expect we will see among not only the teachers and parents of the individuals with autism, but the community as a whole in their understanding of people with special needs.

I am an active person and pursue several passions in my free time. At my school, I coach wrestling and volunteer with a girls soccer team. Aside from this I train capoeira and compete in Brazilian jujitsu, and play in a percussion band.

-Qiess

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Meet the team: Kitti Robinson

Hi! My name is Kitti Robinson.  I live in Virginia and have been practicing as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst for 4 and a half years, and have been working with people on the autism spectrum for close to ten. I serve on the board of A Global Voice for Autism, and participated as the Training Coordinator on our flagship program in Jenin, West Bank/Palestine back in January 2014.

I will be acting as a consultant for the program in Mersin, Turkey, primarily remotely but will be spending a week on the ground in Mersin with our team as well.

In my free time I am currently working on my doctoral dissertation at West Virginia University. I enjoy spending time with my husband, family, friends and dogs, but most of all my biggest passion is traveling the world, seeing other perspectives and cultures, and helping those who do not have access to the same quality of services or training that we have in the US.

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Meet the team: Amal Abuliyah

My name is Amal Abuliyah, a special educator and a BCaBA®. I am Palestinian, but I was born and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I graduated from Dar Al-Hekma University, with a Bachelor’s degree in special education with a focus on autism in 2015. I have been working as an inclusion special education and behavior management teacher in an international school in Jeddah.

I decided to participate in this program to put my expertise into practice for the benefit of those in need. Since the conflict in Syria started, very few opportunities were available to help Syrian families and children directly. I am grateful for the opportunity that A Global Voice for Autism gave me to support and guide Syrian refugees with autism in Turkey.

I am excited to learn from this experience as much as I can, as it is my first time to volunteer internationally. Mainly, I am very excited about working with teachers in the school in Mersin to support children with autism and their families, and I am particularly enthusiastic to work with a diverse team of professionals to achieve this goal.

My interests include reading, handcrafting and music. I also possess a self-taught skill at using Adobe Photoshop. I sometimes like to bake and cook new desserts and dishes.

-Amal

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Meet the team: Sarah Statham

My name is Sarah and I’m the Lead Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) and Training Coordinator for the programme in Turkey. I’m from London, England and have spent a number of years working in schools for children and young people with autism spectrum disorders.

When I heard about the programme in Turkey, it struck me how difficult it must be to leave your home and country under such distressing circumstances, and also to be supporting someone with autism in that situation. I’m already inspired by the work of A Global Voice for Autism and am thrilled to be part of such an important project.

I’m very excited to see the progress that can be made with the children in Turkey and to contribute to really meaningful changes in their lives and the lives of their families. I’m also looking forward to training the teachers in Mersin so that they are empowered to support the children that they work with now and in the future. It will also be great to work with a team from all around the world and hopefully have a lot of fun at the same time.

Outside of work I like to travel, take photos, and explore new places. I do a lot of running and rock climbing, and this has taken me to a number of beautiful places around the world.

-Sarah

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Meet the team: Hana Irshaid

My name is Hana and I am a translator and assistant coordinator for the upcoming program in Mersin. I graduated from Birzeit University in Ramallah with a degree in English Literature in 2013 and have worked with two community projects in Ramallah before joining the A Global Voice for Autism team.

I found out about this amazing and holistic program from my friend and A Global Voice for Autism Palestine Coordinator, Fida Elian, and I am thrilled to participate as a translator for the team. Being able to work with families who survived a deadly conflict in their homeland is invaluable to me.

I am also excited to join an amazing team who volunteered their time and expertise to help autistic Syrian children go to school and to give guidance to their teachers and families on how to help the children communicate and interact with their surroundings.

I am a nature lover and in my free time I enjoy hiking and learning about environmentally-sustainable practices and permaculture. I am also passionate about arts and culture, especially cinema and film studies.

-Hana

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12 Days ’til Launch!

Welcome!

In just 12 days our team will be on the ground in Turkey. Over the next three months, we will be providing training and support to parents, teachers, siblings and children with autism in the Mersin Syrian refugee community so that they can create a community that accepts and supports their loved ones with autism.

Our past programs showed parents, often for the first time, that their children with autism are capable of learning, overcame widespread misconceptions about autism in the communities we served, and gave families a network of support and evidence-based tools for supporting their children with autism.

We’ve watched children use words to communicate for the first time, seen parental stress levels go down, and have watched parents take their children out in public for the first time after years in isolation. We can’t wait to see the impacts of our Mersin program and hope that you will follow us on this journey.

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The most notable aspect of this program is that YOU made it happen. At the end of March, we were confronted with a major challenge. The donor who had pledged to fund this program ran into financial problems and withdrew his support. In less than a month, we had to design and implement a solution that would bring in the minimum $20,000 in funds that we needed to make the program a reality.

We mobilized our volunteers, reached out to friends, supporters and complete strangers, and 28 days later, through online and offline donations, we had the $20,000 we needed to run the program. Donations came in from over 200 people on 6 continents, proving that A Global Voice for Autism’s mission truly is a global effort. From $5-$1,200, every contribution made a difference in making this program possible.

Thank you for your support and for believing in the work we do. Stay tuned as we kick off our newest program site in Mersin, Turkey!

-Melissa Diamond

Founder and Executive of A Global Voice for Autism