Estelle Bryne, Elklan tutor, in her final post on delivering modified Elklan training in a voluntary capacity in Kazakhstan:
The little school where I have been volunteering is called Green Pastures. It is a charitable organisation run by a dedicated group of staff who are keen to offer the pupils the best nurturing and educational environment they can. They really do want to learn as much as they can to support the children in their speech language and communication development.
They encourage the parents to come in and watch the sessions, and they have been really encouraged to see some fathers attending too. This is a real breakthrough, because in this part of the world fathers often don’t see child rearing as anything to do with them, as in their culture this is the wife’s role. Worse still is that I’ve been told that in many places if a child is born with any kind of disability the men feel it must be the wife’s fault - she must have sinned in some way, and feel that is sufficient grounds for divorce.
The parents on the modified Let’s Talk course were mostly those of very young children who had only recently been diagnosed with ASD. Many were still in denial. All of them desperately want their children to start speaking. The hardest part for me was explaining to them via interpreter about all the stages the child needs to go through first before speech can develop, and that for some children speech may never come, but that communication through any means is crucial.
I attempted a conversation through Google Translate with one mother who lives in a remote town. She has come to stay with a friend for a month just so her 12 year old son can attend for the Summer programme at Green Pastures. She said there is no support for them where they live. She feels very alone. She would dearly love to live somewhere like the UK where she has heard there are excellent schools and services.
The Green Pastures school offers greatly subsidised rates for the families, and if there are twins they only pay for one child. It relies on donations to keep going. Often this means the staff go without pay for months …
Nevertheless they are passionate about what they do at the Green Pastures. They have also been involved in an extensive outreach project sending senior staff out to regional cities to share their knowledge and skills with other schools. They see the need for this training to roll out further, but of course it is all dependent on funding.
A big problem in this part of the world is the training needs of the staff. Most of them have Psychology degrees but there are no courses available in Special Education. They have been so grateful for this Elklan training. The whole country needs it!
I did meet some colleagues from the local state run School which has a special needs department. They call themselves Speech Therapists or “Pedagogs” but it was obvious in the to me they did not have the same level of background training as those in the UK. They only work to correct speech, and do not address Language or Communication needs at all. Many work privately and are unaffordable for the parents I met.
I tried to make the sessions as practical and interactive as possible. The only resources I brought with me besides my laptop and training manual were the “Polyfitcouplets” and doll sized and miniature cups and brushes! The rest I was able to gather up around the school and the family home where I was staying!
Most of the time I didn’t bother with projecting slides as they are all in English anyway, but they did appreciate watching the videos.
(The staff group all wanted to watch the rest of the Pingu episode at the end!!)
So I am relieved to be shutting down my laptop, but so grateful to have had this opportunity to meet some lovely people from this very different land! Children and their parents have the same needs here as everywhere else in the world, no matter what language they hear!
My husband has flown out to join me now, so we can go exploring!