Sun | Jul 15, 2018

Couple determined to raise autism awareness

Published:Friday | March 10, 2017 | 12:00 AMKeisha Hill
Martin (left) and Michele Lewis.

Autism is one of the most common developmental problems faced by children worldwide. It is defined as a pervasive developmental disorder that features impaired social skills, limited language development and stereotyped or repetitive behaviour.

Persons with autism often display behaviour that is considered challenging for parents to manage. However, the Green Frog Gray Elephant Foundation is trying to raise autism awareness, especially for teens and young adults who are affected by the disorder, to gain widespread opportunities for independent living.

According to Martin and Michele Lewis, founders of the Green Frog Gray Elephant Foundation, over the years, there has been a significant input of provisions at the early-childhood and primary levels, but there is minimal thought or focus on the older group of autistic students.




The Lewis pair, who are parents to autistic children, became despondent when they began searching locally for support programmes and activities for their young adult children. The realisation hit home that there were no transitional or vocational activities offered locally that could benefit young adults and families affected by autism across Jamaica.

"It can be done in Jamaica because it is not that hard. However, we are trying to raise funds to get this area up and running. Our aim is to develop transitional programmes and to be able to place at least one autistic child in an organisation because, although they have a different set of abilities, they are very efficient at what they do," Martin said.

April is Autism Awareness Month

Jamaica joins the international community in recognising April as World Autism Awareness Month, while April 2 is to be celebrated as World Autism Awareness Day. The Autism Project covers a week of activities, dedicated to raising funds for the Green Frog Grey Elephant Foundation. It is hoped that this will become an annual event during the first week of April.

"Our objective is to also create a learning centre catering to the special needs of the cohort, where parents can bring their children to have them become integrated into the society. This sort of facility does not exist here. We know there is a niche and we want the children to have a place in the community," Martin said.

Instruction and assessment focus will be on functional academics, daily living skills, vocational education, recreation/leisure skills, and career exploration. The programme will be designed to educate students between the ages of 16-24.

The Autism Project week of activities include the organisation's major fundraising activity, the Tru-Juice Tuff Warrior Challenge, set for Sunday, April 2, 2017, at the Tru-Juice Orchards in Bog Walk, St Catherine.

There will also be a documentary screening on autism on April 4 at the Courtleigh Auditorium at 7 p.m. The conversation with key stakeholders will continue with a panel discussion on April 6.

"Autism has a low mortality rate, so autistic children become autistic adults. Jamaica needs to ensure that programmes are in place for these people so that they can contribute to society and do not end up being a burden to the country," Martin said.

For more information and how to get involved visit