Young people with autism in Trinidad & Tobago face challenges including limited access to specialised services, including diagnosis, therapy, and education. Many families also face financial difficulties in accessing support for their autistic children.
Growing up, Maya Nanan did not understand why her autistic younger brother, Rahul, could not go to school. She later realised that there weren’t many opportunities available for him and others with special educational needs. Maya founded Siblings and Friends Network to create opportunities for Rahul and others with special educational needs.
“At 6 years, Rahul was turned away from 6 schools. There is a social stigma regarding special needs and disabilities and I want to change that.’’Maya Nanan
Siblings and Friends Network advocates for Trinidad & Tobago to become a place that is inclusive of those with autism and other special educational needs. Through Siblings and Friends Network, those with autism have access to opportunities for intellectual, social, and mental development.
Siblings and Friends Network works in the central and deep south regions of Trinidad & Tobago, which are the areas most lacking in the provision of educational and therapeutic services. It is the only organisation advocating for autistic young people in the central and southern regions of the Trinidadian island.
Siblings and Friends Network is among nineteen other organisations that are currently enrolled on the Youth Ventures Programme (YVP). Through the YVP, QCT provides youth-led organisations with flexible funding, practical tools and technical support, and access to a global network of young leaders for 2+ years.
With QCT’s support since March 2022 Siblings and Friends Network has been able to:
Set up and run Rahul’s Clubhouse, serving 65+ registered autistic persons who access intellectual, social, and mental development programmes at the clubhouse
Train 10 special needs teachers who are now working as tutors at Rahul’s Clubhouse
Provide an online network for peer support and counselling for over 200 autism parents
“Without QCT funding I would not have been able to open Rahul’s Clubhouse. The Youth Ventures Funding gave me the opportunity to make my dream a reality, and today, my autistic brother and many others have access to opportunities for development.’Maya Nanan
Future work supported by QCT in 2023:
SFN’s goal is to support more autistic persons with added developmental programmes at Rahul’s clubhouse.