"There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child CAN do, not what they cannot do."
- Dr. Temple Grandin
I am Ashley. I am a Bengali-American young professional, daughter, dreamer, inspired by the world around me and hungry to make a change.
My parents immigrated to the United States in the early 1980's and became successful in their careers and provided me with a childhood and life that was far beyond their wildest adolescent dreams. As a product of two innovative, compassionate and dedicated dreamers, I find it inherently necessary to do good in this world.
A little background on my experience with and ties to special needs; My half-sister on my mother's side, Monika, has severe autism. My family and I are so incredibly grateful, though, that she has some verbal skills and is physically fit. Monika is a lot more than autistic. Monika is an artist, a musician, a student, an employee, a sister, and a huge Disney fan. She listens to the raddest 80's tunes and loves Celine Dion. To have the honor of growing up in the same household as Monika is one of the all-time highlights of my life and forever will be. Those who have experienced it before can attest to the fact that there is no better way to learn and practice patience, compassion, and understanding than living with a person with a disability. I am 100% percent sure that I am the person that I am today because of Monika, and I cannot imagine a life without her or the lessons that she doesn't even know that she taught me.
This is what breaks my heart; In Bangladesh, along with a handful of other countries in South Asia, children with special needs are considered "cursed" and the mothers of these children are considered "bad parents" for giving birth to a child with a disorder. Children with special needs in the Bengali society are considered burdens. When I put it in my perspective, I could not imagine that my own sister is "cursed", or that my mother is anywhere near a "bad parent".
This inspired me to start a change in the dialogue. Those with special needs, in my eyes, are unique creations of God who are brought into our lives to teach us more than we teach them. The parents of special needs children were deemed strong, loving individuals, and thus God gave them the challenge of a special needs child because He knew that they could handle it.
Imagine a whole society that thinks different.
My family was so blessed to have had the chance to raise Monika in the United States, where she went to public school, had the chance to join work-programs, and has caretakers that are able to assist our family tremendously. It should be that way for all families, all over the world.
In Bangladesh, the first private schooling institution (there are thousands in the United States and Europe), was opened in late 2010. While the government is paying attention and tending to most of the needs of autistic children in Bangladesh, there needs to be more of a conversation internationally to get Bangladesh and other South Asian countries the educational help that they need to kickstart more socio-economically friendly inclusive education programs.
Autism does not discriminate, and many of the families that have children with autism cannot afford to send their children to private schools.
My goal with BNGLDSH is to get a conversation started, and once that conversation is started, my goal is to change the inclusive education system in Bangladesh and other small countries. The money, while generous and helpful, does not mean more than simply starting a dialogue with friends, family, peers and co-workers. If we start talking, we can start changing.
Thank you so much for visiting and I hope that you will start your own conversation in the near future.