The IASSIDD Academy was authorized and set up by the IASSIDD Council at its annual meeting in 2006 in Maastricht, the Netherlands following an intensive discussion process involving many IASSIDD members and different facets of the Association. The Council authorized the establishment of an International Academy that would have its own board which would design course and workshop structures, initiate and work with colleagues and national agencies and then develop, organize, oversee and run courses and workshops for which certificates of attendance or satisfactory performance could be provided. The Academy was requested to aim for being cost neutral, but some initial funds were provided to get the process off the ground. An expanded Board was formed with some representatives being appointed by Council. The Director and Chair is responsible to the Academy Board and reports to the IASSIDD Executive and Council.
The Academy’s first year involved developing and organizing a Faculty Board, developing the aims and mission of the Academy, and producing a range of documents, which could be used in soliciting, examining, recommending and approving courses and allied activities. The Academy recognized the ambitious nature of this task for it was charged with development and delivery of education and training across the world across various disciplinary areas, and to address a variety of issues across the lifespan of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. The development of the Academy provided an opportunity for a central resource of information and knowledge on issues related to intellectual disabilities within an international pool of knowledgeable colleagues as educators and trainers.
Potentially the scope of the Academy is only limited by the interests and expertise of members linked with the Academy and yet the founding members recognized that the potential for growth was great. It is progressively being recognized that as the Academy grows it will increasingly become more involved and responsive to priority groups such as university programs, major NGO’s, governmental entities, and research institutes, among others. This process has already begun (e.g., involvement of representatives from Inclusion International in Mexico, funding from Government supported agencies in Malaysia and Singapore, and the Down Syndrome Associations in Asia).
The establishment of the Academy was intentionally an emergent design, rather than the implementation of any specific set of predetermined strategic goals or objectives. This course of action was intentionally selected so as to maximize the potential for growth in an organic way, influenced by the disparate interests and priorities of IASSIDD’s membership. IASSIDD is primarily a community of scientists and from early on in the development of the Academy two major questions influenced its development: (1) how might we translate the research evidence, generated by the activities of the disparate IASSIDD Special Interest Research Groups (SIRGs), into policy and practice; and (2) how might IASSIDD increase its engagement with and service to communities in developing countries which lack the research infrastructure necessary to develop evidence-based service provision.
A primary aim is to provide Academy workshops of high standard, which meet the needs for education and training in developing and low economic countries, to professional and support staff, many of whom would be unlikely to attend conferences because of the costs involved. A second aim is to provide workshops and seminars in more developed and economically wealthy countries concerned with cutting edge research and the application of that research. A third aim, which has now developed, is to provide advice and support when requested by colleagues attending these meetings who face particular challenging issue in their own countries.
The second stage consisted of trials of various types and formats. For example, we looked at the impact of fees for participants, and the types of arrangements that organizations were interested in having with the Academy. As the Academy was set up to provide educational presentations through courses, workshops, seminars and/or lectures and hands-on consultative assistance, it uses the broad-based research extant in the field of intellectual disabilities. This includes all forms of research, but in most instances, it relates to application. The formats used have been piloted during the trial period. Two clear and possible markets were seen: 1) the application and dissemination of research to application in the field within developing and low-market economy countries with reference in particular to Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asia; and 2) presentations on current and cutting edge research in common assemblages, such as the IASSIDD conferences. It is the first aspect, which has been most solidly developed since this represents areas where organizations and individuals have approached the Academy for workshops, courses, and allied presentations.
As one its first activities, the Academy organized an education program in Mexico, upon invitation from local members of IASSIDD and local disability organizations. The first workshop and attendant seminars took place in Mexico City over a period of five days (8-12) in October 2007. This involved host agencies as co-organizers along with other interested parties in the country involved. Registrations total over 500 persons, covering several events. The final seminar was pod-cast across Mexico and beyond, and from the comments received appears to have reached a wide market of professionals, at the front line and managerial levels, researchers and parents across a wide range of developmental disabilities.
Between October 2007 and April 2010 twenty-nine workshops or courses have been carried out in 10 countries involving some 2000 plus registrants. Several of the workshops have been linked to international and regional conference run by IASSIDD. Others have been stand-alone courses and workshops, most often held by invitation. These events have been documented and include content, proposer, participant interest, participant responses and oral and written information from host organizations involved.
The developments to date appear successful in terms of meeting initial demand and country interests and the activities described should, in the Academy’s view, be continued. . There remains a need to have workshops on research specifically in areas such as ‘assessment and research design and methodology’. The experience of the Academy at the Cape Town IASSIDD quadrennial congress (2008) and the Asia-Pacific IASSIDD congress in Singapore (2009) represented clear examples of this aspect of the Academy’s activities. The Singapore 2009 experience of the Academy is a prime example of how the Academy’s packaging can prove most effective. Academy faculty responded to requests for specialty courses in Malaysia, to involvement in workshops in Singapore associated with the 2nd Asia-Pacific IASSIDD Conference and delivery of post-conference presentations and consultations on aging and intellectual disability in Hong Kong.
The packaging around the Congress in Singapore took optimal advantage of Academy faculty who would be in Asia and whose travel and related expenses were largely covered by non-Academy resources. In terms of impact in these countries, the Academy’s limited resources were exponential as a result of forward planning and ideal administrative organizing (e.g., travel from Singapore and return [or equivalent) was covered by the Malaysian organizing agency). All three locations have subsequently raised the issue of further courses or workshops and participants from all workshops have requested further involvement from the Academy. Further, Mexico, through a preliminary inquiry, is looking to further Academy collaboration, including basic research requirements and needs.
IASSIDD now functions in a different world than when it was first established some fifty years ago. During that time it has accomplished much but changes in technologies, communications, and the world research environment have opened up new opportunities. One of these is the pressing need for dissemination of research and its application to the developing world beyond Australia/New Zealand, North America and Europe in which IASSIDD has traditional played an important role. The emerging work of the Academy has revealed a hunger for education and training and nurturing of young researchers. The workshops that have been held by the Academy and implemented in the last 30 months reflect a need in the developing world, which requests and requires up-to-date information on research, application, and policy, but this is dependent on a co-operative partnership between host countries and the IASSIDD Academy. The workshops provided in Singapore clearly indicated the importance of this for local professionals groups as did the workshops and courses in held Malaysia (Ipoh), Hong Kong, India (Visakhapatnam) and China (Beijing) in 2009 and in Greece (Thessaloniki), the Netherlands (Utrecht), and Macedonia (Skopje) in 2010. This was also exemplified by the informal consultative assistance work done by IASSID members in 2007 in Lima, Peru following the 2nd IASSIDD Sud-America Conference held in Santiago, Chile.
The host countries are capitalizing upon the impact of the Academy’s collective efforts. For example, as a result of the course offered in India, the local parents who attended mobilized and formed an official association, which is now engaged in lobbying the government for more services for their adult children and has developed a support network for its members. In Hong Kong, a collective planning effort is being undertaken to address the needs of the city’s elderly population of adults with intellectual disabilities, In other instances, professionals attending courses have launched new efforts of introducing the scientific method into their agencies or organizations efforts and basing changes in productivity on empirical practices including follow-up consulting requests involving such concerns as de-institutionalization, inclusion and advocacy
We look forward to a growing Academy within IASSIDD involving increasing representation and interest from the SIRGs and individual IASSIDD members, a wish which looks as though it will come to further fruition in Rome.
Director and Chair