The Second International Conference on Autism ‘IPAC-2020’ was held on November 21-22 and 28-29. Due to the difficult epidemiological situation all over the world, this year the event was organized online by the ‘Child with Future’ Foundation.
International and Ukrainian experts shared with the audience their best practices and experience of working with mental and speech developmental disorders, autism, alalia, and others.
The key topic of the event was ‘Inclusion and Family Support’. And on one of the four days of the conference, exclusively autistic adults spoke to the audience, talking about their world perception, way of thinking, and lifestyle.
“At this difficult time, when there are so many restrictions, we must not forget about supporting our children. Ukraine has begun to confidently move towards global standards of inclusive education, and we cannot afford to stop. After all, this is a difficult period both for families raising special children and for specialists in kindergartens and schools. Compared to the previous year, this year 90% of the event participants are specialists. This fact is very gratifying because it means that specialists are ready to study and work with special children, and not send them to isolation for individual training,” said the founder of the ‘Child with Future’ Foundation and Consul of ‘Autism-Europe’ in Ukraine Inna Sergienko…
During the event, the founder and head of the Mifne Center (Israel) Dr. Hannah Alonim named the first signs of autism that can appear in newborns. Among them, for example, the lack of eye contact.
“The gaze and affective behavior of children from three to five months show increased sensitivity to minor deviations in the facial expressions of parents. Such a reaction can characterize those developmental processes that can subsequently lead to autism,” said Hanna Alonim.
She added: the first signs of the disorder may be excessive inactivity of the baby, lack of response to the voice or the presence of parents, delayed motor development. Therefore, the sooner these signs are noticed by experts, the easier it will be to work with the child.
The early intervention effectiveness was illustrated by the director of the ‘Child with Future’ kindergarten Natalia Struchek. According to her, the child’s development with whom specialists began to work in a year and 9 months of age, after 6 months has improved by most indicators by almost 4 times. A child at 3 years and 11 months of age – 2 times. A child at 5 years and 2 months – 40% on average.
Within the conference, we talked about preparing for school and organizing effective inclusion.
In particular, the director of development of the ‘Child with Future’ Foundation Irina Sergienko, and Bill Peters, an adult autistic from the US, advised on teaching special children not only to parents but also to teachers. They said: the teacher should explain to the students why their classmate is another. For example, if a child wears headphones, it is worth saying: “Headphones, because hearing is sensitive”. But in no case should the student’s diagnosis be named if his parents did not approve it. If an autistic person can’t master a subject, you can find a classmate who will help him with this. But you shouldn’t think that they will become friends. And one more piece of advice from Irina Sergienko and Bill Peters: if a child tells you that he has problems with classmates, most likely it is.
Dariya Orlova, an autologist and specialist in organizing inclusion, emphasized that inclusion becomes most effective if comfortable conditions are created for all participants of the process. According to her, the process of organizing such a form of education should begin with the child’s acceptance by parents and teachers. Accepting a child means understanding his special needs and deficiencies, realizing the advantages and, strengths, and most importantly, not wanting to change him, but a desire to help.
The professor of education for people with disabilities at Adelphi University Dr. Stephen Shore said that autistic children are more likely to suffer from bullying than normal children. However, children do not always talk about bullying. Only 40% of students admit that they are offended at school. Likely signs of bullying, Stephen Shore added, are more bruising and scratching, avoiding school, and personality changes. All this can even lead to a suicide attempt.
In addition to the experts mentioned, the head of the section of child and adolescent psychiatry of the Association of Psychiatrists of Ukraine Igor Martsinkovsky, head of the Lviv branch of ‘Help Kolping in Ukraine’ Yekaterina Ostrovskaya, social educator Maryana Horoshaya, children’s neurologist Alexander Miroshnikov, speech therapist of a developing kindergarten for children with disabilities Igor Telyuk and psychologist Yana Yurchenko, as well as a specialist in sensory integration Tatiana Kostritskaya also shared their experience.
After the end of the conference, the representative of Peru, Liliana Mayo Ortega, emphasized: such events are very valuable for both parents and teachers because they are based on the exchange of experience.
“I talked about the opportunities for autistic people in Peru. After all, many special people go to work with us. And many organizations are glad to meet them, even our Congress. This is because autistic people are dedicated to their work, are very meticulous, and work flawlessly with details. It is also possible thanks to the support experienced by both autistic people and their employers. And I really want this practice to become commonplace in Ukraine. Because autistic people are integral members of society, and we must not forget about this,” added Liliana Mayo Ortega.
The Second International Practical Conference ‘IPAC-2020’ was positively assessed by its listeners.
“Although we live on different continents and in different countries, we have so much in common: common problems, hopes, and a common desire for independence and fulfillment for our children,” this is how the Ukrainian responded to the speech of Liliana Mayo Ortega.
“I would like to thank the organizers and speakers for the opportunity to expand their knowledge about children with ASD, especially for their practical experience,” wrote another listener of the conference.
In general, according to the results of the survey after ‘IPAC-2020’, most people were interested in topics related to the comfortable conditions of inclusion and sensory integration. Almost 90% of the listeners answered that they are ready to use the knowledge gained in their work. An interesting fact is that 60% of participants consider the online format for the conference satisfactory and are ready to continue working in it.