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Diasporian News of Friday, 17 September 2010


Tina Naami is CPD's 2010 Trainee of the Year

Tina Naami had been working in the disability field for quite some time when she entered the Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities program. But she didn’t know much about autism.

That was about to change—so much that she chose autism as the focus of her leadership project, developing information that she hopes will benefit an entire country. Her growth in the URLEND program led to her award as the CPD’s 2010 Outstanding Trainee.

“I was impressed with her because she really came into the program without much of a background at all in autism,” said Paul Carbone, URLEND’s discipline coordinator for Pediatrics at the University of Utah. “We could see her knowledge grow with every seminar.” He was Naami’s discipline coordinator when she was an URLEND trainee. (Naami is still at the University of Utah, working on a doctorate in social work.)

As she continued through the program, Naami’s knowledge and interest grew until she decided to develop a resource booklet for professionals and parents of children with autism. The finished booklet is tailored to meet the needs of people in Ghana, her home country.

She used her own personal connections in Ghana to find out how best to tailor the information for people there, Carbone said.

In Naami’s home country—as in the United States—there are children and adults with autism. “These issues are there, but the resources are not there,” she said. When she returns, she hopes to teach at one of the universities in Ghana and continue research in the field. She also plans to continue as an advocate.

Her plans are to start by breaking down the information from her booklet into brochures. She will also talk to experts within her country and find the best ways to create awareness for autism.

Ghana has strengths that can be built on, and Naami can build on them, said Judith Holt, URLEND’s co-director. She describes Naami as a leader who is passionate, engaging and likely to make a difference. “She’s a visionary. She sees what could be, or what can be.”

Naami appreciates the experience she gained through the URLEND program. After working in the disability field for quite some time, she learned many new things from the experience. “Professionals from different fields can work together to improve the lives of people with disabilities,” she said. “And that’s important.”