Working together, SPG:CSI and the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina combined their efforts to establish and implement a ground-breaking program - The Bosnia Autism Project. It was designed to "teach the teachers" and provide sustainable aid to the children of this devastated country. This program is at the heart of SPG:CSI's mission. Click here to read testimonials about SPG:CSI's impact in the lives of many.
In December 2012, The Speech Pathology Group: Children's Services International (SPG: CSI) was invited to the Himalayan country of Bhutan to provide training to medical and educational professionals.
Partnering with Bhutan's Ministry of Health, and The Ability Bhutan Society, and other San Francisco-based professionals, including a developmental pediatrician and neuropsychologist, SPG: CSI helped to accomplish the following:
Provided three days of seminars to introduce the field of pediatric speech-language therapy. Consistent with an ethic of sustainability and efforts to "teach the teachers," the trainings were videotaped and made available to interested Bhutanese professionals in both medical and educational settings.
Provided multidisciplinary consultation to pediatric clients at the country's primary hospital, located in the capital city of Thimphu. Local professionals observed and provided co-treatment when possible in order to provide ongoing treatment after the SPG:CSI departs.
In order to determine the possibility of long-term involvement, SPG: CSI assessed the needs of the region, as they relate to pediatric speech-language assessment and treatment, by meeting with and interviewing a Bhutanese child psychiatrist, special education ministers from Dept. of Education, the Bhutanese Minister of Health, pediatricians at the main hospital in Thimphu, the Head of Public Health, and Bhutan's only speech therapist who has training only in the area of adult rehabilitation. Stay tuned for more updates as they develop!
Working with the University of Tuzla in the summer of 2012, SPG: CSI provided continued training to parents and professionals of three existing programs throughout Bosnia which currently treat communication impaired children with autism.
In 2009, SPG: CSI opened the first classroom for 3-5 year olds with autism in the country. Three years later, there are two classes, operating from the same location in Sarajevo, with more students signing up every month.
The classroom continues to serve as a training center for professionals and as a model for future autism classrooms throughout Bosnia. SPG: CSI provided hands-on teaching to Special Education Teachers, Speech-Language Pathologists, and university students at this location during the summer of 2012.
In 2010, SPG: CSI co-hosted a ten-day seminar for parents and professionals, providing them with current diagnosis and treatment techniques for children with ASD. The seminar was held in Tuzla, which is located in Northern Bosnia. After that training, several professionals decided to open a center in a neighboring town that would allow them to serve children with autism. In 2012, SPG: CSI brought a team of U.S. experts to this center to demonstrate and implement evidence-based treatment techniques with children ages 2-years to 7-years old.
After graduating from the University of Tuzla as a Speech-Language Pathologist, one student went back to his hometown of Zenica, Bosnia. There he discovered many children with autism who were not receiving any treatment, or who had been hidden in their homes. He decided to serve these children using the skills he had learned in the SPG: CSI summer seminars in 2009-2010. What began with one professional who wanted to help, has now expanded to seven specialists who have come together to form a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) called "Svijet u Slikama", whose mission is to help all children with communication impairments in central Bosnia. In the last three years, the Zenica program has expanded to serve more than 25 children in the community and surrounding rural areas as part of a home-based intervention and family treatment program. In the summer of 2012, SPG: CSI provided materials and advanced diagnostic and treatment training to the staff and families of this newly organized NGO. Only three months after SPG:CSI departed Zenica, the local NGO opened a treatment center that provides pre-academic, academic, social and language training to students of all ages and disabilities using the materials donated during the summer of 2012.
SPG: CSI provided ongoing support and consultation to teachers, speech-language pathologists, and schools currently treating children with autism.
SPG: CSI raised awareness of the international need for treatment of communication impairments at the 2011 American Speech-Language
Hearing Association (ASHA) Conference in San Diego, CA.
SPG: CSI conducted a thorough evaluation of the 2009-2010 Bosnia Autism projects in order to determine the effectiveness of the training and treatment models. It was determined that over two-years, there were several direct and indirect results:
Approximately 400 seminar participants (parents, university students, and professionals) were directly trained in evidence-based diagnosis and treatment strategies in Sarajevo and Tuzla.
34 Professionals received hands-on training during classroom training and home visits.
Of those 34 professionals trained by SPG: CSI, two went back to their hometowns to provide autism treatment for families where there were no treatment options offered previously:
- Lukavac: Center-based treatment serving more than 20 children.
- Zenica: Home visits serving between 15-20 children with expansion planned.
29 children and families received treatment during the two weeks of formal training in Sarajevo and two weeks in Tuzla.
20 American volunteer professionals donated services, and 50% of those returned for second year project.
Total two-year cost: Approximately $38,000.
Cost per participant approximately $82 each.
Working with the University of Tuzla in the summer of 2010, SPG: CSI:
Co-hosted a 10 day Autism seminar detailing evidence-based treatment techniques for parents and professionals from throughout Northern Bosnia. In addition to lectures, hands-on training was provided to Special Education Teachers, Speech-Language Pathologists, and university students. Seventeen communication impaired children from the community participated in classroom and home-based treatment.
This year we opened the first classroom for 3-5 year olds with Autism, which serve as a training center for professionals and as a model for future Autism classrooms throughout Bosnia.
In addition, we co-hosted a five-day seminar for parents and professionals, providing them with current diagnosis and treatment techniques for children with ASD.
SPG:CSI also created a training video that allows the Bosnian University system to teach future educators and medical professionals about Autism.
We provided ongoing support and consultation to teachers and schools currently utilizing the L.E.T.S. Play kits, which were distributed in 2008.
Closer to home, we provided charitable assistance for speech and language therapy services to low-income families.
Elsewhere around the world, and here at home, SGI:CSI has been committed to serving deserving children in need.