By Janelle Davis
Lauren Miter, special education teacher at Elmcrest Elementary, began a journey to Kenya, Africa for the Global Autism Project on Oct. 4.
Her time in Kenya will last two weeks where she will collaborate with team members, local educators, families, and children to build programs for children with autism.
In special education for 12 years, Miter has been familiar with the Global Autism Project for a long time.
Miter was inspired to to apply to take part in the project last November when she met her husband in Brazil after he completed Special Operations Jungle Warfare.
While sightseeing in the city of Manaus, they often passed the local school and this made Miter think about her students at home.
“I was thinking of all of the different needs my students have and how the needs of students in third world countries are not even being close to met,” Miter said. “I realized I had to do something to help.”
When applications opened, Miter applied, interviewed, and was accepted into the program out of thousands of applicants.
From the accepted applicants, various teams are formed to travel to different countries.
Miter was placed with a team in Kenya based on her educational ability and background.
Miter and her team will be partnered with a local school that serves 21 students.
For two weeks, they will be working with the young adults in the school in support of the Global Autism Project’s motto “Do With, Not For.”
They will have access to a local kombucha brewery where students can be trained in a workplace and where the brewery staff can learn how to train them, so children with autism can be integrated into their community.
Miter explained that, in the Kenyan culture, people with autism are seen in a negative light and that something is “wrong” with them.
“It’s important to show the people at the brewery and in the community that children with autism are people,” Miter said. “They have just as many skills and purpose as anyone else.”
To support the organization’s mission, Miter and the team will be teaching the strategies and how to use the resources that they provide the school and the community.
There are specific teaching strategies to implement with a student with autism. They will be working with the school staff so that they are highly trained and know how and when to use best practices.
Originally set to go in July, Miter and the team have been productively planning up to the new departure date in October.
They met weekly to plan what they will be doing and how they will teach different ideas and strategies.
To support Miter consider donating to her Global Autism by visiting the fundraising page at give.globalautismproject.org/fundraiser/4541279.