Early childhood years have a profound impact on a person’s future. Communication helps children develop, gain knowledge and skills for lifelong happiness and success. However, for some, communication isn’t as easy and natural as for others. For those with autism, communication is complicated or even impossible.
Psychologists and special educators in the Tavush region are now using PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) to improve the communication skills of children with autism. This is an image-based communication system that is widely used in some countries and was first introduced to the specialists in this region by Armenian-American speech therapist Lisa Iskikian within the Together4Armenia initiative.
"Although children do not start speaking immediately with this method, they learn to overcome barriers to self-expression. Expressing themselves with the help of images, albeit without words, is also progress," says Armine Arakelyan, Director of Bridge of Hope Ijevan Child Care and Family Support Centre, adding that Lisa has helped them get packs of PECS cards from the United States.
Special educator Meline Galstyan is also impressed with the results of the methodology.
"Kids with autism have disjointed speech or sometimes do not speak at all," Meline says and adds, "This method consists of several stages, and though it is not always possible to help children express themselves through speech, there is obvious progress when it comes to how it helps them communicate, even without words."
As part of Together4Armenia, Lisa Iskikian held two seminars in Vanadzor and Ijevan in 2016 with the participation of more than 30 psychologists, speech therapists, special educators and teaching assistants from a number of nearby communities.
"The specialists who came to the seminar showed great interest. It was obvious that the audience wanted to learn more," Lisa says, adding that she regularly provides consultation to the specialists who had attended both seminars.
Autism and communication barriers are inevitable and preventing them is unlikely, but the creation of equal opportunities for the development of each child is everyone’s responsibility.
The investment of knowledge and experience by professionals from the Diaspora is vital for this and other initiatives. It unites Armenians around the globe in a common mission that is the equitable development in Armenia. It has been three years since the Together4Armenia platform has embarked on this important mission. Join our community of professionals and share your experience and knowledge for the betterment of Armenia!