This morning, I attended a seminar given my an Autism specialist from the U.S.A. here in Astana. For professionalism in my field to a degree, I won't mention his name. I was very excited to hear about how special ed is coming along, how we (U.S.A.) can help, etc. This individual made some valid points that I'll list below:
1. Kazakhstan needs to move towards inclusion within the schools. There are, as I found out, schools for special needs. But, they are self-contained schools for only those with special needs.
2. There seems to be a great energy among the younger generations to want to see change happen.
3. There is no "cure" for Autism, or any other disability - but education is the answer! A lot of locals will ask what can be done if they move to the U.S.A. to "cure" their child. :(
4. Special education in Kazakhstan is currently a medical model and needs to become an educational model.
5. The most proven effective method for working with kids with Autism is ABA.
Now, for the points I found myself shaking my head no to, either due to disagreement or disappointment. And, let me preface this list with the fact that I thought this person made the U.S.A out to be better than we are. Yes, we are far ahead in terms of education for special needs, but as you'll see, some white lies were told...
1. Someone asked about vocational training schools or programs for special needs. They were told that these skills are addressed in schools (which they are), but didn't even bother to mention the multitude of agencies that provide job training for adults with disabilities, such as Goodwill Industries.
2. When asked how classes differ back home, locals were told that a child with Autism would be in a class with maybe 6 others, and at most 12, but there would be at least 4 adults in the room. I guess his school district has money ours didn't?
3. He said the average class size in America is 20. Really? Again, is Virginia just out on their own and trying to make teachers miserable?
4. When asked between the differences in terms of education, teaching, etc., the response was this: "Teachers in America are well respected. They receive good pay, have vacations, have an excellent health package..." and.....".....upon graduation, get a job." He went on to say teaching is great from coast to coast in terms of employment.
Yeah, I about fell out of my seat on this one. Does this person read the NEA and various organizational polls from teachers? Does he know teachers do not feel respected? Does he know the number of teachers being laid off across the U.S.A.? And what about the number of teachers, who have graduated, but find it so hard to obtain a job in the profession? Why on Earth did he lie to these people?
So, very frustrated in feeling like I am part of the lie, since I didn't speak up, I still decide to stay and talk to him. I asked him, as well as the education coordinator at the embassy, what I could do to help. I want to start a parent support group if nothing else. I feel that some knowledge on what these disabilities are and how it truly impacts the kids and family is a good start. But, guess what I was told. "It should really be a grass-roots movement here, not an American trying to do it." Tomorrow, this man will be going to talk with teachers in Almaty (old capital) and I said I would love to get in touch with them and maybe work together. Again, I was referred back to American websites for information, and for support. I DO NOT NEED SUPPORT! I WANT TO GIVE IT!! So, they want a local to start a group, fine. I'll work on finding locals then. I also plant yo find these special ed schools and ask to visit. So, as I finish, I am boiling again. I had taken about an hour to calm myself, but...... Children being neglected or separated from society is NOT acceptable and being told it basically isn't my job, is not acceptable either. I guess I have to pull some local strings. Wish me luck!