Local therapist to train autism teachers in India
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In July, Lennae Jenkins will travel with a team of six volunteers to India to train teachers in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, a science based technique used to help people on the autism spectrum.
Jenkins, who was born and raised in Steamboat Springs, works as a behavior therapist in Routt and Moffat counties and is a program coordinator for Yampa Valley Autism Program.
The trip is part of the Global Autism Project, a non-profit that trains staff at autism centers around the world.
“It’s not about hand-outs. It’s about hands-on training,” their website states. The focus is on empowering teachers to create sustainable change.
It is also a culturally sensitive approach, Jenkins said. “We are not there to push an agenda, or try to change how people think. We are there to give teachers the necessary skills to support their students.”
There are 70 million people in the world with autism, according to the organization, and 85 percent live in the developing world.
The school Jenkins will be going to in India is unique, she said, in that it is well-established and one of the first in the country to embrace people with special needs and work toward integrating them into the community.
Autism awareness and acceptance is increasing globally, Jenkins said, but there are still a lot of people who end up institutionalized.
The goal of ABA therapy, according to Autism Speaks, “is to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning.” It also has the objective of improving communication skills.
Jenkins, who is a Registered Behavior Technician, said because ABA is a scientific approach, it is based on what is observable and measurable and has shown to significantly improve the lives of people with autism.
They will arrive in northern India already having studied the data on the school’s teachers and 130 students, she said. “We will hit the ground running to provide teachers with the support they need.”
This isn’t Jenkins first effort in global philanthropy. Ten years ago, she helped to build a school in Africa. In 2008, a group of Steamboat Springs High School students raised money and travelled with Jenkins to teach at the school in northern Zambia. Jenkins said the school, which started with one classroom, now has four buildings and sight teachers. It is also certified to teach up to the eighth grade, unlike many other schools that only reach fourth grade.
Jenkins was able to raise about half of the $5,000 required to participate in the training at a fundraiser in February co-hosted by Yampa Valley Brewing Co. and Grit Girls Eatery.
Visit crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/skillcorps-india-july-2019/lennae-anderson for more information about Jenkins’ trip. Contributions also can be sent to Jenkins at P.O. Box 334, Hayden, CO 81639.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @KariHarden.
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