Hi! This is Ginny Preston, an SLP from Berkeley, who works with the Speech Pathology Group. We are here in Tuzla, Bosnia training educators to work with autistic children. All last week, a seminar was held under the direction of Anna Taggert. Several members of our team presented evidence-based practices used in working with this population. Other team members made home visits to the families of autistic children.
Today, we opened a classroom that serves nine autistic children. All the 11 team members, plus 18 Bosnian professionals were there to greet the students. After the expected tears from students who were entering a strange environment, the real work began of teaching new tasks, shaping behaviors, and providing support. Parents were given a much-deserved three hours to themselves.
At the classroom area, students put objects into containers, sorted by color, worked puzzles, and built towers of blocks. In the sensory area, students could choose to crawl through a tunnel, throw a ball through a basketball hoop, place velcro-backed animals on a large farm scene, or squeeze soft, spiky balls that lit up. After snack and outside play, the students rotated through four stations: Discreet Trial Therapy where they were taught to focus attention on discriminating pictures; Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) where they worked on using icons to request items; Floortime where the children showed interest in play and teachers followed their leads in order to build relationships; and Language where students traced their names and used play-doh to form letters in their names.
Activities will vary each day, but the purpose always will be to provide experience to Bosnian educators who will then use these principles in their own teaching. One group of Bosnian professionals will take over the classroom after the SPG-CSI team leaves. More on the successes of the classroom later
For additional information on the work of SPG-CSI in Bosnia, please go to the website, http://www.SPGCSI.org.