THE LEARN PLAY THRIVE
APPROACH TO AUTISM
Meet Our Past Scholarship Recipients
Lungile Mathabela is a practicing occupational therapists the kingdom of Eswatini formerly known as Swaziland. She studied at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and has 14 years of experience both in the public sector and private sector working with children with developmental disabilities. As autism diagnoses increase in ESwatini, Lunglie has been developing a specialty in working with these children.
Shailja Sharma is one of the eight occupational therapists that work in the entire country of Nepal. She studied occupational therapy in India and has been working as a licensed therapist since 2014. Recently she began working exclusively with kids on the spectrum. Through the LPT Approach, she hopes to enrich and enhance her knowledge to better serve her clients and their families.
Archana Raman is an occupational therapist in Tamilnadu India. She has worked as an OT since 2000 and has taught in university hospitals and supervised fieldwork students. Archana works with kids with auitsm at a private clinic. Archana is excited to learn the Learn Play Thrive Approach to Autism to expand her methodology beyond sensory integration.
Karen Powell is an occupational therapist in Pretoria, South Africa, where she works in early intervention with children from a wide variety of backgrounds and socio-economic groups, many of whom are autistic or suspected to be on the spectrum. Karen hopes that the training will help become more effective at setting goals and working through interventions with her young clients.
Elize Janse van Rensburg is an Occupational Therapist from Bloemfontein, South Africa. Elize is a former lecturer in occupational therapy at the University of the Free State. She recently returned to full-time practice after experiencing a large need for autism-specific occupational therapy services in her part-time practice. Her vision in serving children with autism is to help children and their families live fulfilling, happy, abundant lives. She is thrilled to learn more about the Learn Play Thrive approach, hoping that it will contribute to being able to really make a tangible, positive difference in the lives of autistic children and to work in a way that truly values neurodiversity in all domains of life.
Adrina Simengwa studied rehabilitation in Malawi, and works on a multi-disciplinary team with OTs, speech therapist, and special needs teachers. She has had a strong interest in helping individuals with disabilities develop independence in their daily living skills and increase their participation in community activities since she was very young. Adrina is always looking to improve her clinical skills, she reports, “as there are only 10 Occupational Therapists functioning in Malawi, servicing a population of approximately 14 million people.”
“I will be driven to share my knowledge with my fellow health workers and caregivers through capacity development, community partnership and training and education and to support and empower people living and caring for those with autism in Malawi.” - Adrina Simengwa
Deidre Karfor is an occupational therapist in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She works at a community health centre in Motherwell which is in one of the largest poverty stricken areas in Port Elizabeth. Deidre provides support groups for parents with children with autism as well as general awareness and education about autism. Diedre writes, "The training that I have received is very theoretically based which is often difficult to carry over in actual treatment. I am hoping that this Training could assist me In carrying over more practical strategies in order to assist both parents and children. I am hoping that this training can enable me to gain more knowledge and strategies so I can empower the parents to start and establish their own stimulation centre's and even maybe schools."
Tasneem Tinwala has been an Occupational Therapist for 20 years in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India - working with children who have developmental disabilities. Tasneem works for a charitable organization as part of a team of medical and rehab professionals working together for the holistic development of the child. Many of these children come from small villages where these services are otherwise not available. Tasneem is eager to add to her knowledge and skill through the Learn Play Thrive Approach to Autism and share what she learns with others on her team. As a team, their goal is to provide children with the best therapies and guidance to maximize their potential.
Farah Hanif is an Occupational Therapist by background, currently working as a Special Education teacher in the United Arab Emirates. Farah is excited to further develop her role by receiving additional training through the Learn Play Thrive Approach to Autism and plans to train the teaching staff at her school to further her impact.
Daniela Korletey is a Community Occupational Therapist from Ghana, West Africa providing services in an economically challenged community. OT is a new practice in Ghana; Daniela is looking forward to the Learn Play Thrive Approach to Autism to help her deliver a unique evidence-based practice to the children and families that she works with.
“Occupational Therapy is new in Ghana and we are doing our best to create awareness in the area of helping children with special needs to have some level of Independence as well as a good quality of life.” - Daniela Korletey
Aliya Drakes is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, and Director of her own private practice in the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago. Aliyah operates out of 3 locations around the country in order to serve a wider population. Aliya’s goal is to empower her clients’ families as much as possible, so that they can learn how to support their children at home. Working closely with the families, she helps them prepare their child for the outside world, and give them the tools to succeed outside of therapy as well. Aliya tries to keep her therapy as "homemade" as possible - both to keep costs down, and so parents can learn that they may already have resources at home that can be used to provide enriching therapy.
“A study done in 2016 estimated that we would need 250 Occupational Therapists to serve our country; at present there are approximately 20 registered OTs, and not all of those work with children or are currently practising.” - Aliya Drakes
Naseeha Sujee is an Occupational Therapist in the rural area of Sebokeng, South Africa. Naseeha works at a school for children with autism and severe intellectual disability. Learners at the school range from those with low support needs, to those requiring a high level of intervention. The school also provides support groups for parents of learners with autism. Currently, the availability of courses related to the treatment of children with autism is very limited in South Africa. Naseeha is looking forward to learning more, through the Learn Play Thrive Approach to Autism that she can pass on to both teachers and parents as they work together to support those children attending the school.
“We provide therapy and classroom support to children with autism. The school began with 1 class of autistic learners in 2017. In 2020, we will have 5 classes along with a growing waiting list.” - Naseeha Sujee
John Robert Canivel is an Occupational Therapist from the Philippines. Although he has only been working with students diagnosed with autism for 2 years, his experience dates back to when he was around 10-12 years old. Robert grew up with a brother with ADHD and a cousin with ASD. Robert is eager to learn how to help clients improve their social-emotional skills, play skills, and independence in self-care. Additionally, he wants to learn how to effectively coach their parents and family members to help facilitate learning at home. It is Robert’s desire to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to help these kids, their families and other teachers/therapists in the crucial early years of the child's life and as they transition to different stages of their lives.
“Because I was around 10-12 years old during that time, I had no idea about ADHD, autism or OT but I wanted to know how they can get "cured" from the behaviors that limited them and that attracted negative attention from other people. And this started my journey to knowing more about differently-abled children, the conditions that cause these limitations and becoming an Occupational Therapist.“
- John Robert Canivel
Donna Mann is an Occupational Therapist from Manila, Philippines. She has 20 years of experience working in schools, therapy centers, and as a clinical instructor at a private university. Donna currently provides community based rehab , working with autistic children and their families. Her clients range in age from 2-9 years old. Donna strives to empower parents by teaching them as well, so that kids make gains more quickly than with therapy alone.
Corissa Singh is an Occupational Therapist in Sebokeng, Gauteng, South Africa. She began practicing at a government institution called Sebokeng Hospital in 2016. Corissa helps with the diagnostic and parent education process. In this community most parents have challenges with getting children into school, due to financial issues, long waiting lists, and also the lack of schools within the area that would admit these children. Receiving this scholarship, Corissa will be better equipped to provide parents and caregivers with appropriate strategies in order to assist their children with growth and development within the home and community while awaiting school placement.
Jazzy Anderson is an Occupational Therapist in Durban, Amanzimtoti, South Africa. Her passion for helping children with differing abilities began at a young age observing her mom, who worked at a home for intellectual impairment. Jazzy currently does home visits for children with autism, where she works on functional skills. She is excited to learn through the Learn Play Thrive Approach to Autism and add new strategies to her skill-set.
Kelly-Anne Roberts has been an Early Childhood educator for 12 years, and recently graduated as an Occupational Therapist.Kelly is located in Tobago, a small Caribbean island, working with kids on the autism spectrum. She intends to use the knowledge gained through the Learn Play Thrive Approach to Autism to help children and their families to cope and live a life that will be a bit stress free.
“One day I hope to establish a school for children with Autism and other disabilities in my country introducing a wide variety of programs and resources I intend to create.” - Kelly-Anne Roberts
Emily Finn is an occupational therapist from Quito, Ecuador. She currently has a small outpatient pediatric clinic where she works mainly with autistic students aged 3 to 14years. She is also panelist in a support group for families of children with extra needs. These are low-income families who have minimal resources and are unable to afford private therapies. Much of Emily’s prior training was focused on clinic based sensory-motor skills. She hopes that the Learn Play Thrive pathway will provide her with more effective ideas and strategies when working with parents, so they can implement these ideas at home.
Donnella Rodriguez, MS, CCC-SLP-APP is a Speech-Language Pathologist working in Trinidad & Tobago, where she was born and raised. She graduated from Nova Southeastern University, FL in 2005, and has been practicing ever since. She founded and is a Director of Right Start Early Intervention Program for Autism, a non-profit organization which supports autistic children in Early Intervention, from ages 18 months to 6 years of age. She cites ‘the kids being turned away from Preschools and parents having nowhere to turn’ as reasons for its inception. She was able to see the immediate effects of using ideas gained from Learn Play Thrive’s content and wants to continue to be empowered to empower her ASD clients through further learning.
Yunfei Tan is an Occupational Therapist currently located in Penang, Malaysia. She graduated with a BSc in Occupational Therapy from the University of East Anglia, UK in 2019. Her passion in helping and working with children began when she was very young, and currently she works with children in Malaysia. The OT field in Malaysia is still relatively new, and their are low numbers of OTs in Penang, most of whom work in hospital or clinic settings. She is keen to make therapy more accessible to children and families and teachers. She feels the Learn Play Thrive training will enable her to gain more knowledge and practical strategies to work effectively with autistic children, and to support and empower parents and teachers.