I first became aware of the International Association of Special Education when I presented at a conference in Ghana, for the Autism Society of West Africa, in 2011. Since then, I have learned more about the incredible work they do around the world. The vision of the International Association of Special Education (IASE) is to improve the quality of life and service delivery for all individuals with special needs. Founded in 1985, IASE members reside in 48 countries.
This year the 14th biennial conference was hosted at the Univeristy of Lower Silesia in Wroclaw, Poland. Educators, administrators and related service providers from over 35 countries attended. Some of the sessions I attended were Special Education in Sweden; Disrupting the Prison Pipeline for Youth with Disabilities; Bridges to Work: A Multi-Agency National Project in Singapore; and a panel discussion on Effective Sex Education, presented by individuals from Tanzania, Hong Kong, Malwai, Vietnam and India.
Among the incredible amount of information shared and connections made, my greatest take-away was the value of being with colleagues whom despite challenges and obstacles, continue to pursue education and quality of life for all. I met a remarkable man from Pakistan who has been running a school for children with special needs, in Karachi, for over 25 years. When the commute between home and the school became too voilent, he moved his family to live on top of the school. Then he adopted four girls with special needs. These are the individuals who see past all the politics and resistance, and continue to do what is needed for their citizens.
I am so proud to be a member of IASE, and encourage all educators to see beyond the current systems you are in, and find strength and motivation from our colleagues around the world.