Power of Sharing! A Pace Setter' Sherene Powell-Okafor
Susuana Olatunji Komolafe mingles with pace setter's Sherene Powell-Okafor as she receive an "Adcenter Recongnition Award for her Role as an African Woman Changing the face of Education for Special Need Children & Woman Business Enterprise.
Their first daughter Sinead is 9 years old and she is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when she was 2 years of age.
Her husband knew since she was 12 months and even knowing from then still didn't prepare them as parent for when they received the actual diagnosis on paper.
After trying to get her into various school and her not coping and being asked nicely to find another setting for her, they eventually got her a home tutor who then accompany her to Montessori. When Sherene get a diagnosis like this the future she imagine for her child disappears. Being a Primary School teacher her husband was adamant that she should use that to help their daughter. Sherene found she didn’t know how to help her daughter and had to research means of supporting her.
She decided to get as much information as she could get but soon realized there was not that many resources out there.
Seeing the lack of schools available for children with ASD she then decided to open an "Early Intervention Preschool" with a friend which was opened in July 2011 called HOPE Autism Care Centre.
What was especially important to her was that children with this diagnosis were not limited in any way and with the right intervention can fulfill their full potential. Helping them at an early age was essential.
Sherene opened the doors of HOPE with 1 child September 2011 and by the end of September they were up to 6 by the end of that year they had 12 children.
Four years on they now have 36 children with autism and 13 mainstream Montessori children in their centre.
Sherene have now have 2 locations. It has not been an easy road for her in opening the school and trying to keep up their high standard and growing more every year. In January 2013 they were approved by the Department of Education as one of the "Recognized Early Intervention Preschool" sanctioned to carry out teaching in a group setting. Although the fees they are paid are dropped yearly by the Department they are still growing every day.
She continued her education in special needs by getting her degree in Psychology and she is now pursuing her Masters in ABA with the aim of becoming a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst.
It is hugely satisfying to see and be a part of the progress the children make at Hope, and to be able to work directly with other parents who are in a similar situation to hers. Sherene feel her own experiences with autism are a huge benefit when helping other families.