Otizm Güçlü Aile Derneği (OGAD) – Autism Strong Families Association was established in 2013, in order to empower individuals with autism spectrum disorder, support families coping with autism and to increase awareness about autism in the society.
Our President Demet Uyar is at the same time the founder of Navitas Consultancy Coaching and training. Demet’s son Kuzey was prematurely born in 2004, weighing only 750 grams. Kuzey, while struggling to survive, was diagnosed with autism when he was 1.5 years old. Kuzey continues his journey of development with the intense education he gets. The reality of Turkey is far from these means of intense education, which the children with the same diagnosis ought to receive. Moreover, the families are unconscious of what they should do. Sadly most of the children with autism diagnosis in our country cannot get sufficient education or even any education at all.
According to the recent studies performed in the United States, (CDC-The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) one of every 68 children is diagnosed with autism. These ratios display an escalating trend lately. The only proven treatment to autism is intense education. The most effective way is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). According to a research conducted by Ivar Lovaas in 1987, who found this approach; it was observed that the children, who received 40 hours per week (160 hours per month) of education in ABA approach, reached a level to complete the first grade together with their peers who display natural development. None of the children who didn’t get the mentioned education reached this level. In Turkey, education provided by the Special Education and Rehabilitation Centers with governmental support is only 8 hours per month. The hope to deal with autism lies in intense education.
The biggest dream of OGAD is to establish a school for children with autism, where there can receive their education with other children who display natural development; and later to transform this school into a community village. In Turkey although there are 352 thousand children with autism under 18 years of age, only 21 thousand are able to receive education. In order to fill some portion of this gap, OGAD has decided to establish a Family Consultancy and Education Center. In this center, families will receive advice and lectures about their children’s development. Moreover, by the help of social integration approach, the children with autism wil participate in various workshops together with their brothers/sisters and peers, who display natural development; hence a developmental environment will be created.
In 2015, OGAD has initiated a unique free coaching project alongside its seminars, which aims to teach families how to cope with autism, as a part of parents’ development programs. The project initiated in İstanbul shall expand throughout Turkey. Volunteer coaches will support parents on their way to reach their objectives on what kind of a mother/father they wish to become. The coaches will approach families in a solution-oriented way and allow parents to find their own ways to contribute the development of their children and make plans accordingly.
What else have we done till now?:
We completed our first project, in order to make families conscious of autism together with Prof. Dr. Yankı Yazgan, free of charge, with the sponsorship of Divan Hotels. In order to brief families and experts, we organized a sharing-meeting on “Q & A about Autism Diagnosis and Treatment” with more than a hundred participants.
We need resources in order to execute larger projects. To generate revenue, we organized two concerts in 2014. We held the first one in Akatlar Cultural Center with the support of Beşiktaş Municipality and Melis Sökmen. Our second concert was held in Kent Cultural Center as a Latin Night, with the support of Şişli Municipality and Onelia Trio.
United Nations has announced April as the Autism Awareness Month and April 2nd as the Autism Awareness Day, worldwide. As OGAD, we have organized various events in 2015, in order to increase the social consciousness about autism in Turkey. Our first event was the improvisational theatrical performance “Karnaval (The Carnival)” by AZOT – Akla Ziyan Oyuncular Topluluğu (Astonishing Players Company) in Akatlar Cultural Center, with the support of Beşiktaş Municipality. Then we organized a couple of other events in Kent Cultural Center, with the support of Şişli Municipality. The participants found the opportunity to listen to opinion leaders in “the Autism Collective Consciousness Conference” where daily participation was free of charge. Within the day, we conducted our exhibition and donation fair, with the help of famous designers and artists. Especially the ‘telkari’ (filigree) artwork created by one of our teenagers with autism was widely appreciated. In the evening, after the FMV Işık University Autism Orchestra, the legendary rock group “Moğollar” took stage.
We have conducted two group exhibitions in 2015, with the support of more than thirty artists. We participated in the New Year Donation Fair on December 10th 2015, organized by VKV Koç Private High School with the support of Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). In order to generate revenue, we opened a virtual shop with the promotional support of the widely recognized website ‘Gittigidiyor.com’ and started to sell our accessories specially designed by AG d’sign & Ece Şirin. Rabia Aytek, the first and one and only student with autism in Istanbul University State Conservatory, performed a guitar concert during the breakfast event organized in 2016. We continued to promote OGAD in our desk, provided by EMCC in the ongoing Positive Psychology Summits. Moreover, our founder Demet Uyar was one of the keynote speakers in the first summit with the theme “Hope and Resilience”. We conducted painting workshops for the children with autism in Children Biennial and Karbon Gallery in 2016 and we performed two exhibitions, one in Karbon Gallery and the other in Le Meridien Etiler. In April 2017 we organized a seminar about “How to Understand the Children’s Emotional Needs”. Furthermore, we executed 6 free art workshops and performed one exhibition with the collaboration of Joint Idea Kanyon.
We would like to be involved in joint corporate social responsibility projects various oganizations. We intend to sustain and improve our works, which will contribute to the society, together with conscious institutions and individuals.
OGAD Chairman of the Board