The Naked Heart Foundation has summarised the results of its school project in 2017/18. The aim of the project is to give children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and severe communication-related, cognitive and behavioural disorders the opportunity to study in school.
Where do we run the project?
We run the project in Nizhny Novgorod, Saint Petersburg and Tver. We believe that every child should go to school, make friends and be a part of society. Children with autism may find it more difficult to sit in a classroom, concentrate, complete school tasks and communicate with their classmates. Therefore, since 2013 we have been educating teachers about special methods of working with such children. We want specialists to be aware of modern, evidence-based methods of work, to share their knowledge with colleagues and to have access to training and seminars with international experts. Find out more about the project here.
The teachers develop an Individual Education Plan for each and every child. In addition to classes, children receive support from psychologists and speech therapists. A team of supervisors monitor their achievements and development while the project coordinators analyse their results during special supervision sessions.
Since 2013, project coordinators from the Naked Heart Family Support Centre have been supervising the schools involved in the project. The impressive results that have been achieved are in many ways the product of the continuity of the educational process. Today, staff at the Family Support Centre are the project’s primary supervisors and conduct seminars for teachers and other school staff. During the 2017/18 school year they held four seminars for 70 teachers.
How do we train teachers?
Teachers who participate in our project regularly attend events organised by the Naked Heart Foundation. This helps them stay up to date with the latest methods of supporting children with ASD.
From 2 to 5 October 2017 the annual International “Every Child Deserves a Family” Forum took place in Moscow. The Forum is an annual event aimed at the world’s leading child development experts, specialists from NGOs, families raising children with special needs and foster parents. In 2017, teachers from special schools No. 95 and No. 56 in Nizhny Novgorod and special school No. 46 in St Petersburg took part in the event.
From 12 to 16 February 2018, the Naked Heart Foundation organised a visit to Russia for Nathan Call, the world’s leading expert in ASD and Clinical Director of the Marcus Autism Center (a subsidiary of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta). He held a seminar on support programmes for children with severe behavioural disorders at school No. 46 in Saint Petersburg, which was attended by teachers from various special schools in Nizhny Novgorod.
From 5 to 7 March 2018 in Moscow, the Foundation organised a seminar on communication for children with ASD and other special needs, which was attended by teachers from School No. 46 in Saint Petersburg.
From 2 to 4 April 2018, the 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. All the teachers taking part in our School Project also took part in the conference.
Larisa Bryleva, teacher, special school No. 46, Saint Petersburg:
“I’ve been working for several years to help develop communication in children with ASD. I found the master-class “Do cards, gestures and tablets really help children with ASD to start talking?” by Rachel Harkawik very useful. I teach several non-verbal children whose only way to express their needs or describe their mood is through a picture, a communication map. This is a massive breakthrough in our work with such children, as it gives them a non-verbal form of communication.
This knowledge helped me to explain to parents that nonverbal communication produces results. Often they just want their children to start talking and don’t accept the idea of communication boards before they see the initial results.
This year I conducted four open lessons for my colleagues from Tver, Chelyabinsk and Nizhny Novgorod. In addition, I gave a lesson to students at the Academy for Postgraduate Pedagogy Studies.
The focus of these lessons was the development of communication in kids with ASD. It’s crucial to provide each child with the best possible method of communication and to teach them to interact with others. Communication is the basis for socialisation. My colleagues saw me using alternative methods of communication and could appreciate the results we’ve achieved.
Huge thanks to the Naked Heart Foundation and to Natalia Vodianova for organising these conferences and giving us the chance to share our experience, gain new knowledge and reassure ourselves of the effectiveness of the methods we’ve chosen.”
In total, 532 schoolchildren are taking part in the project. Some of them have been going to special schools for several years, while others started at the beginning of the school year. This is an opportunity for students with ASD to integrate in the school system. Parents shared with us how their children have transformed over the school year:
Tatiana Tarakanova, mother of a sixth-grade student at special school No. 56 in Nizhny Novgorod:
“Thanks to the project, Arkasha takes great pleasure in going to school. When he gets home he tells me what he’s done during the day. I can see positive changes in my son. He is more open to other people. He can not only ask questions, but also offer things, share and invite others to play with him. He is more organised; he can cook a simple meal like a sandwich and a cup of coffee, he can find a shop he needs to go to by reading the sign, and he can easily use a tablet and find his favourite cartoon online. He can now control his behaviour when he’s in public places. Huge thanks to all the teachers at school No. 56, and to the experts and supervisors from the Naked Heart Family Support Centre. These achievements have only been possible thanks to their joint efforts.”
Irina Zaburdayeva, mother of a first-grade student at special school No. 56 in Nizhny Novgorod:
“My daughter Sofia has been attending a class for children with ASD at school No. 56 for three years. As parents, we are happy that she has an opportunity to study like all the other kids. We go to all the school parties and events, the puppet theatre, the zoo and the cinema. It all helps Sofia to socialise!”
Mother of Denis L., student at special school No. 86 in Nizhny Novgorod:
“My son’s teachers apply an individual approach. All their tasks are clear and interesting. He uses visual schedules and choses rewards for completing his assignments. When it’s difficult for him to concentrate, the teachers give him smaller tasks and let him have more frequent breaks.
The teachers have created social stories especially for my son. They have helped him behave appropriately while having lunch in the school canteen, and taught him what to do when he feels sick and how to approach other people and get their attention. This project has helped my son study at school with other children, and go to parties and other social events.”
Elena Aleksandrovna K., mother of Nikita, student at special school No. 86, Nizhny Novgorod:
“We are delighted with the school’s achievements. I can see the results; my son is more independent and more social. Together with other kids, Nikita goes to theatres, the park, sports grounds and school parties. The teachers have developed special sequences that help him dress or do household tasks. He loves doing exercises following the videos filmed at school. His psychologist and teachers update me on his development and tell me about special methods of teaching and bringing up children with autism. Nikita goes to school happily, where he receives education tailored to his abilities.”
The Naked Heart Foundation will continue to run its School Project. Stay tuned for more updates.
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