Highlights of Zenica

We finished our work in Zenica, and a few of us want to share some of the highlights.

Elaine: I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be on this trip and gain more experience! I worked with twins, an 11 year old boy, and spent one day with a 4 year old girl. I love them all! My favorite moment with the twins was just sitting on the couch tickling, laughing and hugging them! They by far exceeded our expectations in only the three days we saw them. My favorite moment with my 11 year old boy was when his mom wanted to help in our therapy sessions, and the father came home early from work to videotape our therapy session. It was amazing to see the parents involved in their child’s treatment! I only got to see the little girl for one session due to neighbor disputes, but the time I spent with her was a joy! She immediately attached to me, so I lead most of the therapy session. She was so sweet and loved all of the attention. Good job to Bojan and his team, and I will miss them and my kids!!

Larisa: I am so impressed with how beautiful Zenica was and am so grateful to be part of this adventure. I was absolutely in love with my team members and was so excited to get up early every morning to work with the kids- even with little sleep. My team members demonstrated so much enthusiasm and excitement to work with us- I was truly inspired by their motivation. We worked with a child with Microcephaly, a child with Down Syndrome, and a child with Autism. My favorite moment was when one of the kids started using English to communicate with me. I had been so worried that the language barrier would be an issue during therapy- but it was amazing how well Bosnian, English and even some non verbal communicators worked together. I had a hard time saying goodbye to my team members but am excited to meet my kid in Sarajevo.

Kristin: There have been so many great moments on this trip – both directly related to the children and families, along with things I am learning both about myself and about therapies and treatment. Of course, there have been some down moments, but as usual, these just lend themselves to such amazing moments later. My best moment so far was in direct relation to a rough start with a family. This family initially had their doubts about a variety of things related to our presence, especially after a rough first day with the child – lots of crying and screaming, but of course lots of persistence from us. However, the following day could not have been better. By the end of our session our child used two words to request bubbles – independently to two different people. It was just such an amazing success that showed both us and the family that the hard work from the first day was really worth it.

Raquel: I am so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful project! Working with our colleagues in Bosnia, the children and the families has been such an amazing experience. However there is one child in particular that has changed me forever. We worked with an adorable 4 1/2 year old boy who had left his house only twice in his life! The smile on his face as he left his apartment building and ran through the grass, chased birds, and watched other children play was absolutely contagious! He continued to run around for a few more minutes before he suddenly stopped, closed his eyes and looked up towards the sky. It took our team a few seconds to realize that there was a gentle breeze and that our child had stopped to feel the wind and to listen to the leaves. A few seconds later he looked at all of us with a big smile and said “more.” I’m now more appreciative of the simple things in life like a cool breeze, walking on grass, and the other freedoms I have.

Cierra: This trip has already been so amazing and Zenica is beautiful. The people there have impressed me with their positive attitudes,enthusiasm, energy and incredible work ethic. The children have been adorable, bright and sweet as well as receptive to our therapy techniques. It has been truly amazing to see how quickly the kids were able to understand and make progress towards functional communication. We gave them the tools and guidance and they ran with it. One of my most memorable moments was when working on PECS with our first child with Autism. His current system consisted of four pictures and was solely used in the classroom. Mom seemed really uncomfortable and hesitant to participate. However, by the end of day three she was really excited and engaged with her son and his communication. Our third student was nonverbal and a particularly challenging student for the professionals working with her. Again, a communication system has not yet been established and creating a system for her became our goal. We were able to get her started working on the early phases of PECS as well as train her mother how to work with her using the communication system. I feel hopeful for these students and their families and happy to know that we left them with a communication system they could now utilize in the home and at school.


Team 2012 in Zenica, Bosnia

Team 2012 in Zenica, Bosnia

Last night our 2012 Bosnia Autism team arrived in Zenica, and were able to enjoy our first team dinner. It is hot and humid here, and we are without much sleep, but everyone is in great spirits and looking forward to meeting the children, families, and professionals we will train.
One of our volunteers, Elaine Tierney, is studying speech language pathology in PA and has graciously agreed to write our blog during this year’s project. She will be updating our familes, friends and suporters on the highs and lows of our trip for the next two weeks.
Thank you for following our progress, praying for us, and for believing in us!

6/18 Today was our first day of home visits in Zenica. All of the teams set out with inspiring excitement ready to help! We were all impressed with the children and their willingness to accept and learn from new clinicians. Overall, the groups had very successful, rewarding therapy sessions! We concluded our evening at a cozy lounge enjoying drinks and each other’s company.

6/19 Today was our second day of home visits. For some of us, it was a hard morning to wake up since we were out late the night before. We discovered that most families were more comfortable with our group entering their homes, and some parents even participated in our therapy activities. It was so amazing to see them show interest in their child’s success. We had a fun group dinner in downtown Zenica. Anna was presented with lovely gifts from Bojan and this team. Thank you, everyone!

6/20 We finished all of our home visits in Zenica. It was such an amazing, rewarding experience! We hope our insight and advice will help continue the fantastic work done by Bojan and his team. We are all pleased to see our impact on the children and their parents, especially since some of these children would not have had the opportunity to receive therapy services. We will miss them all!



ASHA 2011

ASHA 2011

Raising Awareness of the international need for treatment for communication disorders at the San Diego ASHA 2011 Convention in November.


Access the Powerpoint Presentation from ASHA 2011

Access the Powerpoint Presentation from ASHA 2011

If you were not able to attend the ASHA 2011 Conference, click on the above link to see the actual Powerpoint shown.



Anna Taggart, M.S. CCC-SLP and Amanda Adams, Ph.D., BCBA


Access the Powerpoint Presentation from ASHA 2011

Access the Powerpoint Presentation from ASHA 2011

If you were not able to attend the ASHA 2011 Conference, click on the attached link to see the actual Powerpoint shown.



Anna Taggart, M.S. CCC-SLP and Amanda Adams, Ph.D., BCBA

Bringing Evidence-Based Autism Education to Bosnia: A Model of Success

This was the Proposal Summary given at the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention in San Diego, CA in November 2011.

“In the summers of 2009 and 2010, volunteer teams of SLPs, medical practitioners, and special needs teachers from the San Francisco Bay Area, along with Behavior Analysts from California State University-Fresno, went to Bosnia to train parents, professionals, and university students about autism diagnosis and treatment. The two-week practical training seminars, held in Sarajevo in 2009 and repeated in Tuzla in 2010, incorporated theoretical training and hands-on work with community children who had been identified as having autism.

Using the National Standards Project, published by the National Autism Center, as a guide in choosing which evidence-based strategies to train in Bosnia, the teams developed five days of lectures comprised of the basics in autism diagnosis and treatments.  The lectures were open for families of children with autism, the medical community, teachers, psychologists and speech-language pathologists to attend. Each year there were over 300 people from Bosnia and neighboring countries in attendance.

For the second phase of training, a small group of professionals were chosen to take part in a classroom-based, real-life training experience in which they could learn to apply some of the treatments discussed as part of the theoretical training. The Bosnians were ultimately identified because they had: 1) attended the previous five-days of lectures, and 2) either had already been serving the autism population in their local communities or were hoping to serve autism in the future. In the two years the seminar was held, 34 professionals were trained.

The classroom spaces themselves were donated by the local governments of Bosnia, and all materials, educational items and furniture were either donated through a non-profit organization in the U.S. and brought to Bosnia by the American professionals in suitcases, or purchased while in Bosnia. The classrooms where training occurred were designed using the TEACCH model, and were the first of their kind in the country.

Children between the ages of 2-6 years old were identified by local autism parent associations, and invited to participate in the classroom experience. In 2009 there were 8 children identified who met the age criteria and participated in the classroom training, and in 2010 there were 9 children who participated. It was believed that hundreds more children with autism may exist in those large communities, but because of cultural and socio-economic factors, many children with autism were reported to be either hidden in the homes or abandoned in institutions. The majority of the children who participated in the classroom training had no previous school or classroom experience.

For educational consistency, each child was paired with two Bosnian professionals for duration of the 5 days of classroom experience. However, using a center-based, rotating classroom schedule, each child and pair of Bosnian “teachers” was able to work with all of the American professionals in their varied areas of expertise. As the practical training experience progressed across the five days, the American trainers faded their assistance until the final day, when ultimately the Bosnian professionals were running the classroom independently.

In just five days, the Bosnian professionals, with the American trainer’s assistance, had the classrooms running smoothly and children were making progress on a number of goals.

Progress for children was measured by a simple system of data collection in areas such as inappropriate behaviors, language/ communication, and social interaction. To monitor the progress and learning of the Bosnian professionals, a self-reporting interview system was used.

In summary, a two-week training offered in Sarajevo, and then in Tuzla the following year to different children and professionals, resulted in a total of 34 professionals, university students and professors being trained in the basics of autism intervention. Additionally, seventeen children and families from those two citied participated in the experience. Inappropriate behaviors decreased to near zero levels, preliminary communication and language goals had been established and behavioral intervention goals were developed. Incredibly, each of the 8 children who participated in 2009, and the 9 children who participated in the 2010 week-long program made measurable, albeit preliminary progress across a number of areas. 

In as little as three years since the first seminar was conducted in Sarajevo, Bosnia has undertaken sweeping changes for autism education and treatment across the country.  There are now two official “schools” established in Bosnia’s larger cities to treat autism, with some satellite centers developing in smaller towns and villages. The professionals who were trained continue to report their successes in their current places of employment, as well as with individual children. Families are organizing into support networks and providing resources to the general population to educate and increase awareness of autism.

This presentation will discuss in detail how a collaborative model for treatment can be implemented with highly structured yet minimal staff training. Participants will understand the content of the two-week trainings and the model for the classroom which relied heavily on applied behavior analysis and speech-language interventions.”

Tuzla Classroom Summary

Hello again! We apologize for neglecting this blog for so long. In reviewing the information, it even came to our attention that a summary of the 2010 classroom was never posted, yet one was written. See below for the perspective of Marty Smith, a SPG: CSI 2010 Volunteer.


Hello! I’m Marty Smith.  I just finished my undergraduate degree in speech-language pathology/audiology at the University of North Texas.  Lacking the extensive clinical and educational experience of my fellow team members, I was privileged to learn from them and especially from the local professionals in this field.  These teaching interactions speak to the complexity of a project like this one: within our limited timeframe, we worked at teaching the local professionals and not as directly at working with the children.  This made the open social, academic, and work-related conversations with local professionals expotentially more rewarding.

There are so many stories that we could relate about this classroom week, so I can only try briefly to tell a few that stuck out for me.  One young child, after being prompted repeatedly to use PECS to indicate his needs, told his therapist: “I know speak.”  Another came to us in such a shy and reserved manner that only imitating us, smiling, and laughing was a cause for teary-eyed celebration.  An older student smiled continuously, seeming to keep a secret from us, even as he reveled in the sensory room, delighting especially in the ball pool.

This experience was beyond what words can explain, and I have no doubt it will make a lasting impact on my life and so many others. See the SPG: CSI website for pictures of our experiences. spgcsi.org