Zdravo (Hello)! My name is Sarah Lobegeiger. I am an Australian who is completing a graduate program in Speech and Language Pathology in Melbourne, Victoria.
Reflecting on yesterday, even now after some hours of sleep, I am enthused to think of what today will bring. Such gains have been made in the classroom. Given that I am not assigned to a specific station or child I have the privilege of moving from time to time through the stations. Thus my mind is full of snippets of success: Glimpses of a child smiling and laughing in floor time while the local professional kneels beside them and engages them with a toy, the joy on a clinician’s face when a child learns how to request using a PECS card, the mural on the wall in the language area that features cut out flowers with a picture of each child’s face at the centre that each child has pasted, some independently others with the help of the clinicians.
Yesterday at the end of class time, the international and local professionals gathered together in a large circle and gave feedback. We were asked to share with the group what our highs and lows have been. This time provided an incredible chance to reflect on the progress the children have made since it gave us all the opportunity to see the collective gains of the group at large. Local professionals shared their growing faith in the ability to effect change through behavioural intervention. Some mentioned that at the beginning of the week addressing problem behaviours and approaching a child with ASD seemed out of their scope. They expressed an increased confidence now in their own ability after developing vital problem solving skills and a fresh approach.
Unprecedented improvements were reported for many of the children on day 3. Parent reports from the local staff were also mentioned. One child is now removing his shoes at home and putting them away, another can hardly wait to come to school. One clinician stated how her goal for the day had been to have her child look at her just once. She spoke with passion, “I just wanted him to look at me and I would not give up. I tried everything.” We all listened with bated breath as she talked about her goal. She told us how her child had minimal interaction with her and she had been eager and determined to see this gain. In the sensory area while rolling on the carpet and playing with balls no progress was noted. At class time, once more nothing. Snack time and no eye contact or significant interaction still. By the time it was outside play, despite her whole-hearted attempts, the goal was not achieved. But then a breakthrough was made. The clinician knelt on the floor at floor time and tried everything to engage the child. She lead him to the felt board and summoned for him to come to. As she played with the coloured animals and wriggled them in front of his face, he looked her straight in the eye and offered a fleeting smile, then a giggle. I was there at the time and saw this occur. I had not realised the context or that this had been her goal for the day, but I do remember that at that moment I had been given a co-worker’s camera to take photos. I had been trying to capture this clinician’s face and her interaction with the child. I recall making a mental note at the time that I should really take more photos of the mentioned clinician since she had such a wonderful smile when working with the kids. Yet to know what brought that smile on, to understand the struggle and problem solving she had used to elicit interaction, made the smile even deeper.
Its early in the morning and the buzz of traffic is already beginning under my hotel window. The sun has not yet seeped through the fog and cloud that has been collecting over the hills most mornings in Tuzla. The mornings never give away what weather is in store. But I am pretty convinced that the memory of yesterday conceals nothing. Today we will have new successes and challenges in that classroom. New gains are waiting to be made. I better get out of my pajamas and get ready for it!