Katerina Thorova

Ashoka Fellow
Prague, Czech Republic
Fellow Since 2012

Citation

This profile was prepared when Katerina Thorova was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Katerina is providing comprehensive support to people with autism and their families through a system of interventions that has come to define the field of autism in the Czech Republic. Katerina founded the Association in Aid of Persons with Autism (APLA) as an open and responsive hub that connects fragmented resources and separated stakeholders and builds quality assurance to define standards for care and treatment. Its organizational framework is flexible and entrepreneurial, and it encourages the scaling of innovation. APLA is using its success with autism—including its integration of diagnosis, early intervention and reforming elements of the school system—to build a standard of quality and challenge conventional notions about autism and other personality development disorders. APLA has become a model for handling PDD at the individual, community, and national level.

In a country where knowledge of disorders such as autism is typically outdated or confined to a few lines in a hard-to-find textbook, Katerina has introduced a paradigm that puts up-to-date research about diagnosis and protocols for intervention in the hands of people who can efficiently and effectively communicate them to families and practitioners. APLA is not just about services but is designed to transform beneficiaries into active and empowered citizens. APLA works with difficult aspects of autism and ensures its symptoms, as well as the knowledge about it, are absorbed into society.

Today Katerina’s model is thriving in Czech Republic and is regarded by many in the field as a paradigm of high-quality, integrated, preventive care essential for the future of autism in Central and Eastern Europe. Through changing a pattern relating to autism, she is enabling a bigger shift in society in terms of the way Czech Republic handles the needs of its people. She is bringing people together who are not accustomed to working together and who previously resisted working together. Through this process, she has created a framework for addressing autism that can be useful for tackling the wider spectrum of PDD and intellectual disabilities. Katarina is now seeking to scale APLA beyond Czech Republic through a social franchise model.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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