As part of the four-step Bosnia Autism Project, SPG: CSI sent specialized teams of professional volunteers to provide evidence-based assessment and treatment education to professionals, university students and parents in Bosnia-Herzegovina. During the summer of 2009, we sent 14 volunteers to Sarajevo to teach professionals and set up a classroom to work with autistic children. In 2010, we duplicated our success at the University of Tuzla, also in Bosnia. In 2011, we were able to offer hands-on support to these classrooms and others that have sprung up as a result. In 2012 we again sent a team of 15 American professionals to Bosnia for two weeks, where they continued to provide direct and indirect support for the classrooms and programs in existence in Zenica, Sarajevo and Lukavac. SPG: CSI worked with a four-year old who was hidden in his house because his family was ashamed of his disability. We met a 12-year-old who had never been to school and whose parents would lock him in his empty "bedroom" (merely a concrete room and a bucket) because he was nonverbal and had become so aggressive that they did not know how to control his behaviors.
Because of the tireless efforts from professionals in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and SPG: CSI's dedication, together we have achieved amazing results! We are ecstatic to tell you that in October 2012 both our four-year old and the 12-year old started attending school and are doing well. For the first time students with autism and other disabilities are receiving treatment, a home-based intervention program has been established, parents are being educated, and the numbers of treatment centers continue to grow. But our mission is far from complete.
Phase three of the Bosnia Autism Project took place in the summer of 2013. In an effort to maximize our efforts, SPG: CSI invited seven key professionals and medical specialists to train in California for three weeks. These trail-blazing pioneers received advanced training in communication assessment and treatment strategies for children of all ages and stages, and then went back to Bosnia to train their peers, leading them through a professional transformation.
In 2015 and beyond, SPG:CSI will continue with the final maintenance phase of the Bosnian Autism Project by providing support through continued education via web-based training modules. See Our Mission for more information on future goals.
In addition, SPG: CSI has been fortunate to do the following:
Opened the first classroom for 3-5 year olds with autism in Bosnia in 2009.
Co-hosted seminars in Bosnia for parents and professionals, providing them with current diagnosis and treatment techniques for children with ASD in 2009 and 2010.
- Approximately 400 seminar participants (parents, university students, and professionals) were directly trained in evidence-based diagnosis.
Provided support and consultation to teachers and schools currently utilizing the L.E.T.S. Play kits, which were distributed in South Africa in 2008.
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.
In the summer of 2012, a team of 15 American professionals traveled to Zenica, Sarajevo, and Lukavac to provide advanced classroom training to over 60 students and almost 70 professionals.
By 2012, over 60 professionals received hands-on training in Bosnia.
Of those Bosnian professionals trained by SPG: CSI, four went back to their hometowns to provide autism treatment for families where there were no treatment options offered previously:
- Lukavac: "Mali Svijet" (Translate: Small World), a center-based treatment program serves more than 25 children with autism and other communication impairments.
- Zenica: "Svijet u Slikama" (Translate: World in Pictures) organization serves 31 students in home-based programs and a classroom setting in Zenica and four other towns in the surrounding community.
- Doboj: "Mala Kuca" (Translate: Little House) was opened up after a professional started providing treatment in her own home. Unicef also partnered with Mala Kuca to get back on their feet after they lost everything in a flood of 2014.
- Sarajevo: Budocnost (Translate: Society), a center-based program, serves over 65 students, practices full-inclusion, and is also partnered with Unicef to provide trainings for disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
35 American volunteer professionals donated services, and 50% of those returned for second year projects.
Total four-year cost: Approximately $66,000. Cost per participant approximately $112 each.
In 2013, three Bosnian professionals trained in the U.S. for three weeks to receive advanced hands-on experience in a variety of private and university settings. Those three professionals have since then gone on to provide trainings throughout Bosnia and develop policies and procedural guidelines for assessment and treatment of special needs.
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.
Elsewhere around the world, and here at home, SGI:CSI has been committed to serving deserving children in need.