Last week the officers of SPG: CSI met and we were able to get formal approval for the goals proposed for 2010. The goals are certainly similar to what we had on the roster for last year in Sarajevo.
Last summer there were many professionals from Tuzla begging us to come to their city next. I was told that there was only one school, where a “part of it” had some students with Autism. It made me question where the other children on the Autism Spectrum were… What was described to me was a situation where children with Autism were still hidden in homes, or sent to institutions when the family could no longer care for them. I was told there was no real system to educate children with ASD, and the prognosis was devestating. While the city of Tuzla has many professionals ready to learn and asking to be educated on strategies that work, they need support and a place to get hands-on experience in order to treat the population with Autism in Northern Bosnia. The Vice President of Bosnia, Spomenka Micic, and the professors and dean from the University of Tuzla, have formally invited us to return to Bosnia to address these needs.
After discussing the needs, and the costs, this is what we SPG: CSI has on the roster for Bosnia in 2010:
1) Co-host with the University of Tuzla a five-day seminar regarding evidence-based treatment strategies for children on the Autism Spectrum (Similar to what happened last summer in Sarajevo, but with the hope that we will have more people from Northern Bosnia in attendance, and possibly some people from Banja Luka).
2) Open a classroom in Tuzla for 3-5 yr olds that capitalizes on the visual strengths of children with ASD. This classroom will be run by the University of Tuzla and used as a hands-on training center for university students studying Special Education and Speech-Language Pathology.
3) Provide education to families with children 5+ years old, establishing an in-home treatment program which will focus on teaching academics, self-help skills and communication, in order to improve the quality of life. This team will focus on the “I do it, we do it, you do it” philosophy in order to encourage family independence. Given the extreme lack of services and options that have been available in Northern Bosnia, we are expecting to have a greater need for the services provided by the in-home team.
It is estimated at this time that we can accomplish these objectives in two weeks, and tentative dates are June 21-July 4, 2010. The next step is to begin the interview process in order to establish the volunteer team. While it may seem early, there is so much work to be done between now and June of next year. When the team members are finalized, they will be meeting at least once per month in small groups in order to plan, prepare and organize materials. Creating five days worth of Powerpoints is no small feat. And identifying EVERYTHING that goes into a classroom, knowing we have to purchase the items in the US or make them here because things are not readily available there, is an incredible task. As they try to anticipate what challenges they will face, the in-home team will be scouring books, stores and perhaps even their own cupboards trying to find items that will assist the families in educating their children with common, everyday materials.And I have not even begun to mention all that the University in Bosnia must do to prepare!!!
What is in front of us now is daunting, but so exciting. How great to be given this opportunity to serve and learn with our Bosnian brothers and sisters!!!
I have more great news to share with you re: the classroom in Tuzla, but will wait until I have ALL the information before posting here.