Our Sarajevo classroom has already had so much success! It officially opened last week, and I received word today that they are expecting 6 students, instead of the original four I had orignially heard about! The teachers reported that day two was sooo much better than day one, and that they have already determined goals for the students and how to rotate through each treatment “station”.
While it primarily functions as an education center for children ages 3-8 yrs old, the Sarajevo classroom also serves as a model and training center for other schools and professionals throughout Bosnia. Already it has proven what progress children can make in a week, and how far professionals in Bosnia are willing to go to help children with special needs. And as a model it has already been so successful that we may have two more classrooms in the near future- one located at Mjedenice in Sarajevo and one in Tuzla!!
While this is so exciting, the joy comes with some trepidation. The staff in the Sarajevo classroom are busy trying to get as much data as possible because they currently have enough funding to pay for only two months before they may have to shut the doors again. In addition to lack of funding, SPG: CSI has also heard that the classroom is currently borrowing space heaters to keep the place warm. The Autism Parents Association “URDAS” is meeting this coming week to determine the next step and how to keep the dream of evidence-based treatment for Autism alive in Sarajevo.
And though this classroom is of paramount importance for the families and students in Sarajevo, it is perhaps exponentially more important for the future of Autism and the professions of Speech-Language Pathology and Special Education for the whole country. This small classroom and these six children have the task of proving to a nation that early diagnosis and evidenced-based treatment really works and is more cost-effective over the long-term. The children in the classroom are demonstrating that they can learn academic skills, that they can successfully communicate their wants and needs (even if they do not yet talk out loud) and that they can do anything typical children can do. The classroom staff in Sarajevo are showing that professional collaboration is indeed the best way to achieve success, and that children with special needs can be educated in schools with their typically developing peers. We expected we would have 12 months to prove these things- now it is a mere two months. Even though the classroom at Dunje Kindergarten may be small, it contains the bravest and largest hearts in all of Sarajevo!!!
SPG: CSI is committed to providing the children, families and professionals in Sarajevo with the support and education they need to make this a success. Our team of volunteers is eagerly waiting on stand-by to assist in creating data sheets, helping to organize schedules, or just providing a sympathetic ear. We are part of a global family, and will continue to stand beside you every step of the way!!!