Fellow Since 2001
This profile was prepared when Nevin Eracar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
Nevin has spent over a decade looking at the world through the eyes of her 20-year-old autistic daughter. As the mother of an autistic child, she has seen that few services exist to help disabled children, doctors are not clear on many of the diagnoses, classroom teachers do not know how to accommodate such children, and the public knows little about disability generally, compounding the shame that families are made to feel in having a disabled child. As head of one of Istanbul's main psychological hospitals for 15 years, Nevin also sees the problem through the lens of a doctor. She realized that by visibly rescuing one group–and autism made the most sense, for obvious reasons–she could provide a template for addressing other disabilities as well. To pursue this aim, she founded the Turkish Autism Association, the first of its kind in Turkey, to conduct training, raise public awareness, provide help and support to families with autistic children, advocate for laws that guarantee rights for people with autism and other disabilities, and establish camps that help with integration. Through these efforts, she achieves tangible gains–improved services for her daughter and others with disabilities–and one less tangible: she hopes to make Turkish society a little more open to difference, a gain she hopes will have far-reaching effects not only for health and services to those who suffer from illness or disability, but also in other closed areas in society.