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In Georgia as well as globally the number of persons suffering from ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is increasing. Despite the fact, that there have not been epidemiological researches conducted in Georgia on Autism, based on the credible international studies we can assume that statistical data for Georgia are similar to those for other countries. In particular, out of every 64 new born children, one has ASD diagnosis and the above number is growing. Every year the number of applications to the centers providing services is increasing. In terms of provision of services required for persons suffering from ASD, the resources of our country, as yet mainly concentrated in Tbilisi, is very scarce and does not meet the existing demand. The low awareness of population on autism often becomes a reason for late application, reducing the percentage of positive outcomes and does not support successful social inclusion of persons suffering from ASD.

In this regard, the situation was even heavier in 2009 year. There were no institutions providing services to children with autistic spectrum disorders.

Our history has started from this very time.

In September 2009, the Autism Association of Georgia was founded by parents, psychologists and doctors with the objective to facilitate resolution of autism and autism related problems. One of the founders of the Association, Ms. Sophio Kereselidze visited central California in 2008-2009 years. During the above visit one of her sons was first time diagnosed with autism in the town Fresno. Her son became the beneficiary of Autism center under the Fresno State University. Here, Ms. Sophio and her spouse had chance to get familiar with the behavior analysis based therapy and witness the effectiveness of the above method in treatment of Autism.

In 2010 year Autism Association of Georgia concluded memorandum with Ilia State University. Based on the above-mentioned memorandum, the first Autism Center based on behavioral therapy was established at the premises of Ilia State University. The newly established center created opportunity for children to undertake trainings under the ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) method. At the initial stage center was functioning in 2 former auditoriums, allocated by the University. Professor Amanda Nicolson Adams, head of Autism center at the Central California, Fresno State University and professor of the above-mentioned Autism Center, Marianne Jackson provided the newly established center with the huge support in terms of development and planning the curriculum. Soon after, center has become the practical training base for the University and since its establishment up to date over 300 students, bachelors and masters of psychological field have participated in theoretical and practical courses devoted to the Applied Behavior Analysis method. 40 of them are currently employed at the same center. Many of them successfully work in various service provider organizations.

Initially only 10 children were undergoing therapy; therapy was financed via the assistance provided by the enthusiast specialists and small payments made by the parents. Moreover, parents were carrying out some basic of activities necessary for the functioning of the center.

Due to the effectiveness of the work and increase in number of applications, center leadership and children’s parents came across the need for the expansion of the center and today St. George Autism Center is already the integral part of Child Development Institute (Clinic), with the area of about 1000 sq. m. and over 40 employees, providing services to about 86 children.

As mentioned above, the initiative on the establishment of Child Development Institute at the Ilia State University belonged to the parents, such initiative was preceded with the charity concerts organized by the parents. This idea was supported and endorsed by the University. Part of the funds collected from the organized concerts was invested in the infrastructural development of the clinic and its equipping. Above discussed actions played major role in the improving of public awareness on the autism. The tradition has been maintained via the organization of annual concerts on 02 April of every year, devoted to the World Autism Awareness Day; the concerts created high interest in the wide public.

From 01 June 2015 year, the first Autism Rehabilitation State Sub-Program financed by the municipality of city Tbilisi started functioning. Georgian Autism Association and Child Development Institute have largely contributed to the initiation and development of the program. Autism Rehabilitation Sub-Program, financed by Tbilisi Mayor’s Office covered financing of services for children between the age of 2 to 15 years. Presently, under the program 4 centers provide services to the children with ASD. Soon other service provider centers will join the list.

Despite the above discussed efforts, development of professional skills and capabilities of adolescent and juvenile individuals suffering from ASD still remains fully unutilized potential in the country. Establishment of service provider institution in this field will significantly improve the living conditions of persons with ASD at the adult age. At present teenage and adolescent persons with ASD are lacking opportunities to self-realize and fully depend on the care provided by the family and state assistance. Moreover, there is still law public awareness in this field, often resulting in the intolerant attitude towards the individuals with ASD.

Due to these very reasons, the Autism Research and Support Foundation was established on 08 January 2015. The founder of the above institution is Ms. Sophio Kereselidze and majority of the Foundation Management is represented by the parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (80% DPO). Similar to the global experience, all initiatives are taken by the parents. The priority of the Foundation is to develop services oriented towards the best results for the individuals with ASD during their lifetime and solution of practically all problems related to the autism.

In February, 2016 the foundation was granted the status of charity organization. During its short history, foundation has already implemented several charity events, such as charity concerts organized on 02 April of 2014, 2015 and 2016 years devoted to the World Autism Awareness Day; In 2015-2016 years – charity exhibitions of sculptor, Ketevan Melkadze; On 02 April 2015 year – exhibition of the artist Rusudan Petviashvili; charity presentation of book “Darchira” by journalist, Nino Bajelidze. With the participation of the foundation the first international conference was organized, devoted to the Autism issues in Georgia.

Foundation has plans for number of important projects in Georgia for ASD persons, with the purpose to train them in skills required for the independent life, as well as for their integration in the society.