Ahead of ASK’s Annual Information Day we talked to Mrs Hilary Wood de Wilde who will be presenting at the event.
What led you into special needs and to your specialisation in autism (ASD)?
In 1994, as a 16-year old teenager, I worked at a summer camp where my main role was to help integrate several children with autism into an inclusive camp. This fostered my interest in autism and led to my studies in Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia where I was lucky to be able to take undergraduate courses specializing in autism. A professor I worked with encouraged me to pursue my studies in ASD at the University of California, San Diego, which enabled me to take part in autism research and gain experience of a range of therapy approaches. In my graduate studies at Columbia University, New York, I was able to focus on diagnostic assessment and clinical evaluation of autism.
What are your goals, ambitions in the field of autism?
I am very interested in the early detection and treatment of autism. My main goals are to increase access to early diagnosis and intervention, expanding the number of families who receive appropriate support in the Geneva area. I also work to help older children with ASD have successful inclusive experiences at school.
What are you most proud of in your career to date?
I am proud that, through the hard work of my team and the leadership of Professor Eliez, we have managed to have our intervention centre recognized and funded by the State and the Swiss federal public medical insurance.
What has been your biggest frustration?
The lack of inclusive education for children with special educational needs in the canton of Geneva. We can intervene early, but if we cannot follow through with inclusive education for all, our job is only partly done.
What advice would you give to parents of children with ASD?
I would encourage parents to follow their instincts – from pushing for a diagnosis to getting the right school placement – they are the expert of their child. I would also urge parents to become members of a parent organisation such as ASK-All Special Kids or Autisme Genève, which will provide them with support and friendship along their autism journey.
What would you change or improve in terms of the current provision?
I would like to continue to increase the availability of early appropriate assessment and intervention in Geneva. I would also like to widen the scope of effective inclusive education for school-age children.
What progress has been made in the treatment/handling of autism?
The research showing that very early intensive intervention creates better outcomes. Fortunately, early diagnosis and intervention is now more common.
You’re speaking at Annual Information Day; what will be the topic of your presentation?
I will be presenting the network of autism services provided by the OMP (State of Geneva) and talking about some of the projects underway of our new Foundation (Fondation Pole Autisme).