Most children with autism and other developmental disabilities live in low- and middle-income countries; however, disability-related services for these children and their families are often lacking. To address this need, the World Health Organisation developed a Caregiver Skills Training programme (WHO CST) for caregivers of young children with developmental disabilities. This programme is specifically designed with low-resource settings in mind and aims to train non-specialist facilitators from the community to deliver the intervention. During the 12-week programme, facilitators meet weekly with a group of caregivers to talk about everyday strategies that will help caregivers to promote their child’s development. The programme also focuses on caregiver wellbeing and aims to reduce stigma, which is often associated with having a child with a disability.
The WHO CST programme is currently being field tested in more than 33 countries, including South Africa. The South African pilot project is a collaborative venture between the National Department of Social Development, the Centre for Autism Research in Africa (University of Cape Town), and Autism South Africa. Last week, two international CST Trainers – Dr Laura Pacione (WHO, Canada) and Dr Pamela Dixon (Autism Speaks, USA) – visited the Ipelegeng Child and Family Centre in Mahikeng. They trained a selected group of professionals to become the first WHO CST Master Trainers in South Africa. The South African CST Master Trainers includes representatives from the North West University, University of the Free State, North West Department of Health and Free State Department of Health. This committed group of stakeholders will jointly work together to train facilitators and pilot test the WHO CST programme in different contexts. This exciting initiative is part of the global commitment to creating a world in which every child can develop their full potential, and no child is left behind.