The EarlyBird programme for Parents in Moscow: Results
24 November 2019
In Moscow, specialists from the Naked Heart Foundation completed the training for the first group of parents with children with autism spectrum disorder under the EarlyBird programme.
The EarlyBird is a programme to help parents of children with ASD who have recently discovered the diagnosis of their child. The programme was developed by the British National Autistic Society in 1997.
It is difficult to bring up children with ASD; these children find it difficult to express their needs, and their behaviour can be undesirable, so to speak. The main idea of the EarlyBird programme is to help children by educating their parents, who should learn how to handle the situation, using special techniques and evidence-based practices.
The main goal of the project is to help little children with autism by educating their parents. During classes with qualified specialists, they are taught to understand the peculiarities of the children’s behaviour and to use effective strategies for developing communication, playfulness, motivation, and independence of the child. The programme also helps parents to cope effectively with everyday difficulties such as feeding, sleeping, fears, hysteria, aggression.
The EarlyBird programme is developed to help parents:
- to accept the diagnosis of their children and cope with inevitable stress;
- to understand the nature of autism, find out how their children perceive the world and how different they are;
- to learn about modern approaches to caring for children with ASD;
- to define first-priority areas for support programmes and make a list of specialists to visit.
In Russia, the EarlyBird programme has been used since 2013 by the Naked Heart Foundation. Over this time, we trained over 140 specialists from over 50 organisations in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Voronezh, Tula, Tver, Chelyabinsk, Yekaterinburg and other locations, as well as the CIS countries, for free. Now they have the opportunity to provide families who visit these organisations in their locations, with a support programme.
In autumn 2020, the Naked Heart Centre for Early Intervention will be opened in Moscow. Although the building is being renovated and the Centre is not fully operational, the major preparations are under way: specialists have been recruited, trained, and started to work with the parents under the EarlyBird support programme.
The parent educational programme includes group classes and home visits. In group classes, parents study methods and techniques of working with children with ASD, watch videos, perform practical exercises, discuss the material together and most importantly — get homework and feedback from the experts on its completion.
The first programme of the Naked Heart Centre for Early Intervention was launched in August, and it was attended by six families with children with of ASD. The youngest child, whose parents were trained, was two years old, the oldest one has recently turned four. The three-month course consisted of eight group sessions and four home visits for each family.
«One of our mums managed to prepare her daughter for a children’s play in the kindergarten with the help of a social story,» told Natalya Chelmakina, the qualified trainer of the Naked Heart Foundation. «Previously, the girl just looked at the floor and barely whispered in front of the audience. We managed to help the child through social stories, encouragements, and visual support. In the last class, her mother showed a video where the girl tells a poem loudly and expressively.»
Another two families started using PECS (the Picture Exchange Communication System) for teaching children to communicate. Parents of both kids note that communication with children became more positive, and children have started to initiate communication more often, vocalise in a richer and more diverse manner than before.
Moms and dads learned to play with children. Now they know how to make games for children with ASD more diverse and flexible and, most importantly, truly mutual, allowing effective development of interaction and communication skills.