Autism is educable! “They do not force children to talk, they teach them how to talk”

My name is Zhanat Akhmetova and I live and work in Almaty in one the centers for pre-school-age children. One of the directions that I am actively developing is work with autistic children.

 When children come to our center for the first time, and if their parents don’t know the diagnosis, they might assume that their kids are brought up badly because they don’t greet others, don’t answer to their name, touch everything in the room, and scatter toys and not put them in place. Usually if they don’t have what they want they start crying, falling on the floor, or beating their heads against floor or wall. In most case their diagnosis is mental retardation. Unfortunately, in Kazakhstan there are no instruments to diagnose autism.

On the internet there is a lot of information about autism: articles, researches, methods, specialists and real life experience. Moreover, there is information about emotional and physic abuse like a method of correction of the behavior. I started looking for method of teaching kids in early stage of autism which had scientific rationale and gave successful results. 

From all of methods, I chose ABA therapy (Applied Behavior Analysis) and started learning it. My mentor is Yulia Erz, a Member of the Israeli Association of certified behavior analysts (IACBA) and an affiliate member of International Applied Behavior Analysis (ABAI). In her lectures she teaches ethical ways of communication with children, how to work and educate them, and how to behave with children with early infantile autism. 

The ABA program accepts children the way they are for today and now, no matter whether they behave properly in public or not. Even if they shake their hands and head nonstop without trying to make eye contact with other people, ABA does not punish bad behavior. Specialists watch after them, they evaluate them, and after that they make individual plans of education and learning. ABA specialists try to build good communication skills between children and the world. They do not force children to talk, they teach them how to talk. Therapists do the educational process through different games or PECS cards.  

For example, if the kid constantly shakes his hands in front of him, ABA therapist will give him a steering wheel and will teach him to be a driver. That’s where they transform an undesirable behavior into a useful one. 

The educational process has levels of complication: they start from the simplest one and step by step move into more difficult levels. 

The ABA specialist can make an individual program for every kid and watch after them to see the results on the way of learning. From personal experience, results can be shown after the first few lessons. But it usually takes 30-40 per week for the trainings to bring desired results.

On one hand work of an ABA specialist with a child for most parents is expensive, but on the other hand parents can watch the educational process, then practice the same lessons with a child in other places like home or playgrounds and to strengthen received skills.

Zhanat Akhmetova, ABA therapist