From 2 to 4 April 2018, the Naked Heart Foundation held an international conference entitled “Effective technologies for teaching children with autism spectrum disorders” in Nizhny Novgorod. The conference was attended by more than 250 participants, including leading international and Russian specialists working in the field of educating children with ASD, media representatives, teachers and parents of children with autism from 35 Russian towns and cities. The event was organised as part of World Autism Awareness Month.
The conference was opened by Naked Heart founder Natalia Vodianova, the Nizhny Novgorod Minister of Education, Science and Youth Sergei Zlobin and Director of the Nizhny Novgorod Department of Education Irina Tarasova. One of the highlights of the event was a statement by Mr Zlobin about the possibility of creating a Naked Heart resource centre in Nizhny Novgorod to train specialists in working with children with ASD.
“This resource centre would help to transfer the pedagogical and methodological experience built up in Nizhny Novgorod to a larger number of specialists and incorporate evidence-based methods in training programmes. As instructed by Acting Governor of the region Gleb Nikitin, by 2020 we should aim to open a total of 35 resource centres focusing on various different areas”, said Mr Zlobin.
The resource centre project is currently in the development phase. It is being set up jointly by the Nizhny Novgorod Department of Education, the Nizhny Novgorod Institute for Education Development, the Naked Heart Family Support Centre based at Veras parents’ organisation and the local parent community.
In Russia, many children and young people with severe ASD are marginalised and do not attend nursery or school.
As a result, these children are deprived of the opportunity to develop their social skills and socialise with their peers and their parents are forced to give up work to look after them at home. In fact, most children with ASD are perfectly capable of learning in nursery or school, socialising and achieving high grades. In that context, government support is essential to ensure their social integration.
The conference included presentations by consultant at the Nizhny Novgorod Department of Education Rosa Solonitsyna and international child development experts Dr Rachel Harkawik from the Kennedy Krieger Institute and her colleagues from the University of Utah Azure Pellegrino and Lorraine Becerra.
The event was a huge success. The participants particularly appreciated the opportunity to visit the nurseries and schools that are implementing Naked Heart projects. The Foundation plans to run such events on a regular basis in future, as there is a consistently high demand from parents and the professional community for conferences, seminars and training sessions organised in collaboration with the Naked Heart experts.
Since 2013, the Naked Heart Foundation has been introducing modern, effective technologies for working with children with ASD in educational establishments. Currently, these projects are being implemented in 10 schools and 27 preschools in Nizhny Novgorod, St Petersburg, Tver, Tula and Moscow.