Naked Heart Foundation holds a workshop as part of JASPER programme in St. Petersburg

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29 November 2019

Naked Heart Foundation has held a workshop for Russian specialists in the early intervention programme called JASPER developed for preschoolers with autism

We have been developing the JASPER methodology in Russia since 2019. Its name is an abbreviation of words: joint attention (JA), symbolic play (SP), engagement (E) and regulation (R).

JASPER is a modern behavioural programme based on evidence based practices, which helps small children with autism spectrum disorders to develop their social communication skills through play, as well as their joint attention. Using games and practices of the naturalistic study, JASPER blends seamlessly with other intensive behavioural techniques already used by the Foundation in Russia, for example, within the ASSERT programme.

5 day workshop on the JASPER programme was held for young specialists on the basis of the Kindergarten No. 53 in St. Petersburg. Kyle Sterrett and Jonathan Panganiban University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and Naked Heart Foundation’s Tatyana Morozova and Svyatoslav Dovbnya held the workshop.

A unique opportunity to study the JASPER programme was provided to education psychologists of Naked Heart Family Support Centre and Early Intervention Centre in Nizhny Novgorod, kindergartens No. 452 and 439 (Nizhny Novgorod), preschool department of school No. 46, and kindergartens No. 35 and 53 (St. Petersburg).

"Ten years ago, there were no such behavioural practices of working with children with ASD based on a structured assessment of children's play and focused on the development of their involvement and joint attention. Nevertheless, all scientists around the world have long understood that playing is a natural and essential process in terms of children's development and socialisation. Today, JASPER creator, partner and good friend of the Naked Heart Foundation, professor at the University of California Connie Kasari — one of the world's most cited experts in the area of early intervention programmes for preschoolers with ASD — helps the Foundation not only to prepare specialists who will use JASPER, but also to help those who learn to apply the programme become coaches and share their knowledge with other specialists," told Svyatoslav Dovbnya.

Each of the five workshop days included several parts. In the morning, American experts spoke about the methods of assessment and intervention used in the JASPER programme and asked questions to understand how successfully the information has been absorbed. During the case studies, workshop participants played with children under the supervision of the experts, using the newly learned JASPER principles.

"A special feature of JASPER is that the programme cannot be learned by attending theoretical workshops only. Therefore, such educational format of a workshop requiring active participation is used wherever studies of this programme are held: in the USA, Sweden, Great Britain and other countries," explained Svyatoslav Dovbnya.

"For us, the most important thing is that we received both a theoretical basis for assessing play skills and practice which help children to take the game to the next level. Games motivate, and we can develop engagement and, as a result, communication. We are glad the material is well-structured and practical activities are cool," "I found a system that takes into account all details and hope it will help me in my work," "I had the same problems with playing as our children with ASD. I did not understand what to do or what techniques to use. I have also dreamt of participating in the programme for a long time, and it exceeded my expectations," workshop participants shared their experience.

In the coming months, they will be working as supervisers. By means of video communication, Russian specialists will show their work to American experts, after which they will pass an exam confirming their readiness to use the JASPER programme themselves without distortions. After obtaining the necessary certificates, Russian specialists will start helping children with ASD to develop their play skills, joint attention, involvement and social communication. The best of them will be able to go to the next level of the joint programme by the Naked Heart Foundation and the laboratory of professor Connie Kasari, so that in the future they can independently train other specialists in the JASPER techniques.

The Early Intervention project — within the framework of which the Naked Heart Foundation is developing the JASPER programme — has been implemented since 2015. The project aims to help preschool children with autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy and other developmental disorders.

We sincerely thank the participants of the Green Running Hearts Marathon, organized together with Sberbank. The funds raised helped us to continue the Early Intervention project in 2019.

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The Naked Heart Foundation is a registered charity in England and Wales (1122345). It is also company limited by guarantee, registered at Companies House (6293334).

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