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Autism Training

Thursday, November 1, 2018

For the fourth year in a row, Friends of Barnabas has hosted a medical education conference in San Pedro Sula. Each of these have been a part of our Early Childhood Education Program. The last three years have been in coordination with Hospital de Valle, and attended by members of the San Pedro Sula Pediatric Association.

This year's conference focused on the topic of Autism. We were again blessed to have Dr. Joe Stegman, Medical Director of the Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital in Charlotte, NC and a developmental pediatrician, as well as Ruth Goldeen, Occupational Therapist at the University of Virginia Children Hospital in Charlottesville, VA. Both Joe and Ruth presented at last year's conference. There were 35 medical professionals in attendance.

Topics covered included current definitions of autism, diagnosis and treatment modalities, and managing the challenges of parenting a child with autism. Questions and discussions were thought provoking, and were a true reflection of the challenge in Honduras of supporting these families. We were honored to have Patricia MacKay, Honduran psychologist, as well as Jessenia Salas, Costa Rican psychologist, both autism experts in attendance. Both had presented at the International Autism Congress in Tegucigalpa.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Imagine having to constantly be on your game. Imagine wanting to be your child’s best advocate but not knowing how, where to turn, or really understanding what is happening with your child. I am sure some of you can relate to these feelings of desperation and confusion. Parents who care for an autistic child struggle daily to find a “normal”. They struggle to keep their child safe. They struggle…with everything.

Today was a day of connecting with parent/child pairs and intense consultation sessions. Dr. Joe Stegman and Ruth Goldeen both rose to the occasion. In one room, Ruth held three separate yoga sessions. To say doing yoga with an autistic child is a challenge is an understatement, but Ruth was wonderful at involving all the children and their parents. There were outbursts, but also smiles. There was a period of minimal cooperation with the instructions given, and then periods of full engagement. There was always a look of love on each parent’s face as they interacted with their child.

In the second room, a group of physicians from across Honduras were gathered, very intently watching a big screen TV. Those present included the dean of the San Pedro Sula public university medical school, the coordinator of the pediatric residency program at the university, as well as two of its professors. Also joining us was a pediatrician for the Evangelic Hospital in Siguatepeque. These 20 physicians were fully engaged in observation and learning from 8:30am-5:30pm. Most did not want it to end.

What they observed was Dr. Stegman interviewing and evaluating four children who had either been previously diagnosed with autism or were suspected to be autistic. Dr. Joe spent up to two hours with each family in a room wired with a camera. The 20 physicians could watch the entire interview and evaluation process on the TV. After each evaluation was complete, Dr. Joe would explain his evaluation and take questions from the Honduran physicians. It truly was an amazing process to watch. Each physician expressed how much they had learned and how needed this level of education is in the Honduran medical community.

Huge thanks go out to Nadina Alvarenga for her fabulous translating skills. She and Dr. Joe made a great team. Also thank you to Dra. Ada Contreras and the staff at Hospital de Valle for hosting the conference with Friends of Barnabas. Most of all, thanks go out to the parents for making themselves and their lives vulnerable to us. Our thoughts and prayer go out to them as they strive to provide the best care and security they can to their precious children.

~Patti Wagner

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