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“Hi! My name is Antonia,
and I’m really happy to tell you about myself and all
the things that make me special.
I have autism.”

With these words begins the children’s story Antonia, a girl with autism  written by Colombian author Paula I. Mejía and beautifully illustrated by María Paula Dufour of Argentina. The book received the ALAS-IDB Award for Best Publication in 2012. Using language accessible to young children, this story explains how an autistic person perceives the world. It is a valuable resource to build bridges and create empathy for people living with this condition. 

A few days ago, a new call for proposals was announced for this important competition. This initiative of the IDB and the ALAS Foundation seeks to identify the best centers, educators, publications, and innovations in the area of early childhood development in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is the second year of the competition. Last year, more than 700 nominations were received in the different categories.

Among the winners in 2012 was Martha Ivette Rivera Alanis, a Mexican teacher who received the award for Best Educator. Many of us became familiar with her through a video that went viral through social media in 2011, in which she sang and managed—with an astounding calmness and ability to connect with the children under the circumstances—a class of preschoolers during a shooting that took place outside the school. In addition, last year, Fundación Dar Amor of Cali, Colombia was awarded in the category of Best Center for its work with children with HIV, while the Brazilian NGO Saúde Criança received recognition for its innovative, comprehensive approach to family health.

The ALAS-IDB Awards offer a tremendous opportunity to make known the daily work of the many Latin Americans committed to early childhood issues. Besides being a fitting recognition for outstanding initiatives, they allow us to get the word out about practices that have proven successful. We invite you, our readers, to participate in the competition and to share with the rest of us the most notable experiences in your countries.

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