Kerri Elliott, an Illinois State alumna and founder of Autism Connects Tanzania (ACT), will give a presentation on autism awareness at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, in Stevenson Hall, Room 101.
Elliott, who earned her bachelor’s degree in special education in 2002, volunteered at an alternative high school program in Moshi, Tanzania in Africa in 2008. While there, she met Grace Anna Lyimo, a parent of a son with autism, who was looking for help with her son. While significant resources exist for children with autism and their caregivers in the developed world, in Tanzania those with autism and other intellectual disabilities are outcasts, often kept hidden in homes, ignored, and even deserted. In 2010, Elliott worked with other teachers to form the U.S. non-profit, EdPowerment, to fund educational programming in Tanzania. Elliott then took a sabbatical and moved to Tanzania for a year from 2011-2012 to work on developing Autism Connects Tanzania, a program to educate parents and caregivers about autism and intellectual disabilities.
Since then, Elliott has established permanent residency in Tanzania and has hosted various workshops and seminars educating communities, parents, and professionals about intellectual disabilities and autism. ACT has successfully educated over 800 people in over 25 different communities, and it has helped start a national discussion in Tanzania about autism and intellectual disabilities by connecting with Autism Speaks. ACT also offers ongoing educational support by assembling and distributing a wide array of informative materials for teachers, organizations, and families.
Elliott’s work has been highly recognized, both within the state of Illinois and within the United States. In 2010, Elliott was awarded the Illinois Educators Association’s Human and Civil Rights Award. In 2011 she was awarded the National Education Association’s Applegate-Dorros International Peace and Understanding Award.