September 4, 2014
Autism is a disorder of neural-biological development characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and by restricted and repetitive behavior. Unfortunately, because of absence of enough amounts of child psychiatrists, and insufficient information awareness of population, podiatrists, pedagogues of this disease, autism in Kyrgyzstan is rarely diagnosed, and disorder itself is cloaked in myths.
According to world statistic data, for 100 healthy children 1 child is born with autism symptoms and varying degree of intensity. In Kyrgyzstan, a problem of children with autism is urgent as never before. Despite that, according to official statistics, only 115 children are registered with this disorder, in fact there are much more kids with this around Kyrgystan.
Students of Psychology Department at AUCA do have unique opportunity to learn and to apply in practice one of the most effective method of correction of behavior – applied behavior analysis – ABA-therapy. Methods and principles of this direction are applied to modification of behavior of children with traits in development, for work with problematic behavior of ordinary children, but special popularity came to ABA-therapy exactly in teaching for children with autism.
In 2013, with the support of Open Society Institute, AUCA Psychology Department, “Hand in hand” public association and William Edwards from Clemson University designed a joint project on developing a program of course “Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis”. Olga Yarova, faculty of the AUCA Psychology Department will become first certified behavior analyst next year in Kyrgyzstan.
But first and main achievement of this project is teaching to 25 students-psychologists the basics of ABA-therapy. At the moment, 12 of them successfully work with kids in the “Behavior Innovations” Center in Bishkek. We are very proud of their success and wish to help children with autism to adapt to the society.
Olga Yarova told about the project: “It is great that psychologist-students will have one more chance to apply their knowledge in practice and train their skills of working with children, one more chance to understand, whether did they choose correctly their life profession or not. In the center for children with autism, students show themselves not only as interns, but also as full-fledged psychologists. They design individual programs of teaching, value skills of children, work on development of speech, understanding, imitation, communication. It makes us happy that parents notice changes in behavior and mood of children”.
This year advanced course on ABA-therapy is offered to students of the Psychology Department, which will be taught by behavior analyst from Canada Zukhra Qamar together with Olga Yarova. Unlike first course, ABA II offers more advanced study of methods of research and evaluation of behavior, analysis and definition of functions of problematic behavior, teaching new behavior etc.
Studies indicate that 50% of children taken 40 hours in a week ABA-therapy in preschool age, in 6 years old are going together with ordinary children to ordinary school and they can be there quite successful. Kyrgyzstan makes first steps towards achieving this goal. Thus, this year at September 1st on the basis of #34 school, “Hand in hand” public association with the support of Soros-Kyrgyzstan Foundation have launched pilot project – school for children with autism. At that day the dream of family and friends of 6 children with autism came true – their children went to school.
“We design individual programs for children; they work together with tutors, who escort each child during the classes. Before opening this group and preparing 6 children, we worked with them during several months so that they could work in groups. This is pilot project, however, the fact of its opening and existence tells about great strides, about progress of our medicine and society in total” – said one of the mothers.
Executive Director of the Soros Kyrgyzstan Foundation says that this project is built together with the enthusiasm of parents and teachers: “This is not just a work of simple project manager, who took the grant, made a report and closed all documents. Everything here is based on real hard work and help to children. Parents together with psychologists made invaluable contribution to development of their children and future of other children with this diagnosis. And above all we have to hand over this model of class to government in order the education can be continued further”.
By training of teachers, instructors, and parents to basics of applied behavior analysis and carrying out seminars about features of perception and learning of children with autism, faculty of the Psychology Department also took part in realization of this project.
At the moment the Psychology Department of the American University of Central Asia works on opening of the MA program on Psychology and creating of Diagnostic and Research Center under the Psychology Department of the AUCA.
“We have plans to purchase and adapt instruments for diagnosing of autism, evaluation of intellect of adults and children, evaluation of professional preferences, personal features, since in our country these methods either don’t exist or are out of date and not valid. The Center will also offer specialists trainings on ABA-therapy, courses on psychology basics, working of psychologist in crisis situations, career development and organizational psychology for parents. On the base of this center workbook materials adapted for parents and local specialists will be designed in future” – concluded Olga Yarova.