SkillCorps Peru: And it’s only the beginning

Our first day in Peru was a very touching experience for me. We attended a workshop held at the University of San Martin de Porras by Mapy Chavez where she presented to parents of children with autism. I was really shocked that these parents had amazing questions to Mapy. Like, “what does research say about gluten-free diets and autism” and “my child is being excessively negatively reinforced with food at school”. The fact that some of these parents are willing to try anything for their children shows how much love they have for them. I spoke to a mother who had traveled by bus to listen to Mapy’s presentation and it really moved me. Another heartfelt experience for me was when another mother came up to me and asked me about how she could get more information about being trained by me. Without knowing anything about my profession, this mother wanted me to help her child.



After our workshop we went to eat lunch at a very delicious “sanguchera” or sandwhich place. We also had dinner at Larcomar which is a popular shopping mall. On Sunday we had more team-bonding experiences at the historical center of Lima. I have been exposed to anticucho (cow heart),  papas a la huacaina, and salchipapas. Overall, I’ve had a great time so far in Peru and we have not yet even began with our training at Alcanzando.

- Alma

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Intern Impressions: Part Two

We started off this week with our very first Staff Meeting! It was a great way to start off the week. Here is an insider’s peek on what’s happening here at the Global Autism Project. Happy Monday!

This week we had our first staff meeting. At the meeting we reviewed how weekly meetings usually operate, and looked over the form that usually gets filled out before every meeting. Each of us discussed what projects we have been working on recently. It was really great to see what everyone has been working so hard on over the past week, and to be on the same page as everyone. We discussed an upcoming project to track online activity of SkillCorps volunteers, collect data, and track their success in fundraising. We also discussed the difference between administrative training calls and clinical training calls with our partners, and how each of them work. Overall it was a very successful meeting and it was great to learn more about how the Global Autism Project works and how each of us is contributing to the success of the organization. -Jaime Berghorn 

June has been a really exciting month for the Global Autism Project. We had the opportunity to visit the United Nations for their Speaking Colors event, the opening of  Debbie Rasiel’s exhibit, Picturing Autism, took place, we return to Peru on June 30th, and especially exciting for us, has been our move to the Brooklyn office! Even more exciting, though, is everything that has been going on behind the scenes. At our staff meeting today, I got a chance to see what my other fellow interns were up to, and everyone has been doing so many amazing things! From expanding our borders on social media, by means of Pintrest and Tumblr, to working with our SkillCorps members in marketing and fundraising techniques, the Global Autism Project is growing in many different areas and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of all the excitement! It is just the beginning of many great things to come. - Liz Cruz

Today was our first staff meeting, and my first official staff meeting ever. Sure, I had similar meetings when I was a camp counselor, but those were filled with trivial issues like figuring out how to get as many campers to shower before the hot water ran out as possible and what the best way to sneak rice krispy treats from the kitchen was. A Global Autism Project staff meeting is filled with ideas and updates on how the organization is working as a whole to make the lives of our partners and the children they work with easier. Molly encourages us to ask questions and rather then insinuating that your questions are silly, she praises each one and answers it as though she was being interviewed by Bryan Williams. It was interesting learning the way the admin and clinical calls are run and exciting to know that Alex, one of the men employed by the R.A.S.I.E program, is going to be trained in collecting the data from these spreadsheets proving, yet again, that the Global Autism Project practices what they preach. -Molly Dickman

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Picturing Autism

“When you think of autism, how do you picture it?”

On May 29th the SOHO20 Gallery began boasting breathtaking photographs by Debbie Rasiel in her incredible exhibit, “Picturing Autism.” Her exhibit focuses on children with autism from all around the world. Her work emphasizes the universality of autism, and eliminates borders, creating one united international forum for autism. The Global Autism Project has been fortunate enough to to travel with Debbie and watch her in action as she captures her amazing artwork.

“PICTURING AUTISM is a composite of disparate landscapes across international, cultural, and socioeconomic divides, inhabited by people of different colors, shapes, ages, and skill sets. It is a collective portrait comprised of improbable elements, coming together and bumping up against each other to create a single experience…” 

Opening night proved to be a success, with an excitable crowd coming out to experience Debbie’s exhibit. Children featured in her work made their way over to the SOHO20 Gallery and stood by portraits of themselves, seemingly freezing time and making the Debbie experience even more extraordinary.

Debbie’s photographs coupled with the passion and excitement filling the room evolved the opening night of the exhibit into an unbelievable adventure.



Debbie’s artist’s statement & Debbie and our CEO and Founder Molly Ola Pinney!

The next stage of Debbie’s exhibit was a Panel Discussion featuring our CEO and Founder Molly Ola Pinney, in collaboration with Bridget A. Taylor, the co-founder and Executive Director of Alpine Learning Group, and Julie Fisher, the Executive Director of the NYC Autism Charter School. As leaders of education in the autism community, they added another great dimension to Debbie’s exhibit. No bound went unexplored in this exhibit, making it one impossible to top. This once in a lifetime exhibit is on display until June 21st. Don’t miss out on a truly unparalleled experience.


Our panelists in the midst of discussion!

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The Value of Autism

We would like to thank Lisa Domican for taking time to guest blog for us! 

 Lisa Domican is an Australian living in Ireland. She’s the mother of Liam and Gracie Domican who both have autism. As a parent, Lisa has had 14 years experience of raising her children with autism and has been attending courses and studying evidence based interventions for the last 10 years.As a mother, Lisa fought to understand her initially non-verbal son Liam, and learned to interact with him using the things he liked most. It was the introduction of a simple picture exchange system that prompted Liam to begin imitating and attempting to say the words on the cards he used to make requests.However, using the same picture exchange system, Lisa was able to prompt Gracie to begin requesting what she wanted with pictures but unlike her brother, Gracie did not begin to develop speech until she was almost 8 years old. It was Gracie’s complex picture vocabulary that inspired Lisa to create the Grace App as she wanted to keep prompting Gracie’s independent vocalisations and reward her social interaction.The Grace App for Autism helps autistic and other special needs children to communicate effectively, by building semantic sequences from relevant images to form sentences. Lisa decided long ago that life was too short to put up with other people’s expectations of “normal” and just does what she wants to do. You can follow Lisa on her blog “Living with Autism”. Also check out her TedTalk!

My name is Lisa Domican and I am the mother of 2 healthy, energetic, engaging and good-looking teenagers; who are both very autistic.

I co-created the Grace App along with my daughter Grace and a very clever young Games developer called Steve Troughton-Smith.

Grace App is a picture communications system for smart phones that has enabled 30,000 non-verbal people with autism or other communication disabilities to ask for what they want.

Unlike the multitude of picture speaking apps that followed, Grace app was created to be owned and controlled by the person who needs it. The goal is to give the user, the person with the disability, total control over what they want to communicate, and the means to do it independently.

When you have a child with Autism, the hardest thing is when your kids can’t and won’t interact with you. I felt like a failure as a parent because I couldn’t “reach” them. I made it my life’s work to find a way to connect. I needed them to need me and now they do. I have value in their lives.

I have been fortunate enough to travel around the world giving talks and have accepted international awards for my work with Grace App; but nothing matches the feeling I get when I know that both my children are well cared for and content to be with me at the end of the day. That was the culmination of 10 years of studying and learning about Autism. Achievement unlocked.

Today I am facing into the fact that my son will be finishing school in 2 years and there is no provision in place for where he will go after that. We’ve just gone through a 7-month process of applying for a disability allowance for him, but at no point did anyone ask what else he could do. He basically has no value in our economic system and is seen as a net burden to be managed.

Sadly I see this attitude wherever I go. Autistic people are not worthy of the investment in systemic change that is required to truly enable them to reach their potential and be a valued part of our world.

We know what needs to be done: early recognition, early diagnosis, early evidence-based intervention and life long support. This combination vastly improves the chances for people with an autistic spectrum condition to have equal access to independent fulfilling lives.

The value of their potential contribution has to be recognised in order for the incumbent systems to accept change.

This would be so easy to achieve! Access to high quality primary care professionals trained to recognise autism would vastly improve early referrals. Access to well-trained diagnostic professionals who do not delay diagnosis would enable much earlier intervention. Access to early evidence-based intervention with qualified professionals would improve the quality of that intervention. Access to parent education would enable them to accept and cope more easily with the changes they have to make to support their children.

Individually planned education in settings that suit the needs of the learner would enable people with autism to progress through their academic education, while getting the specialised help they need with life skills in the same setting. Inclusion on their own terms would enable them to learn from peers with support, but also create communities of better citizens who see inclusion in every day society as a right, not a privilege.

I have never been one to look too far ahead in my autism journey. One bite of the cookie is what I say and leave the rest for later when you feel up to it. Adolescence and impending adulthood has forced that giant cookie in my face and I have had to try and nibble around it, looking for the best way in.

Lying awake and worrying into the small hours of the morning never does me any good. So today I choose action; I am going create an occupation for my son that utilises and values his skills with technology while supporting his additional needs.

My aim is to bring together Coders, Developers, big corporations, social enterprise, Behaviour Analysts and politicians to create a “finishing school” for people with autism so they can earn a living in technology or whatever their skill might be.

I’m going to take advantage of the profile I have from creating Grace App and use it to engage the people I need to make my master plan happen. All parents want the best for their children and parents of children on the spectrum are no different.

I want my children to always be a part of my life, but I also want them to have the chance to play a part in shaping their own lives.


-Lisa Domican and her son Liam Domican!


-Grace Domican, co-creator of GraceApp!



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Intern Impressions

The 2014 summer interns are here! After an orientation and introduction to the organization on Friday, they were put to work Monday morning and have been doing various projects throughout the week including writing newsletters, gala planning and even creating a Global Autism Instagram Page. Below are a few first impressions from some of them.


Molly: I remember sitting in my sorority house living room, procrastinating studying for finals and stressing that I had absolutely nothing to do this summer. Instead of facing my political science textbook, I decided to Google some internships and apply for the first 10 I saw, one of which being the Global Autism Project. It was the last one I applied for but after reading the description of the organization, it shot to the top of my list as the place I wanted to work. Coming in for orientation I had no idea where I was going, what I would be doing and what I was about to become a part of, but I knew I was excited and slightly sweaty as I ran from the 3 train to Water Street. As orientation began, I quickly realized this wasn’t going to be a coffee run and copy machine internship like most others. No, this was going to be us doing meaningful work for an organization that was lead by inspiring, passionate people who not only deeply cared about the cause they were working for, but also about us and want us to get the most out of this summer.

Although I’m exhausted and don’t want to deal with public transportation ever again, my first week at the Global Autism project has been meaningful for so many reasons. Not only am I doing projects that I love and are geared towards what I want to do in life, which is public relations and marketing, but I’m also learning how a non-profit runs and witnessing its impact not only internationally but also in our own office. Meeting and working with the RAISE employees, Rusty and Alex, is amazing and watching what they accomplish and the respect they are given is truly something that everyone should have the opportunity to witness. I’m excited to see what the rest of the summer has in store!

Molly Dickman is a rising sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is the Public Relations Intern at the Global Autism Project.


Jamie: This has been my first week interning at the Global Autism Project, and so far I have learned a great deal about the organization’s structure, function, and goals for both the long term and short term.  I was not totally sure what I would be doing here my first week- I was just hoping I wouldn’t be getting people coffee and opening mail. Immediately I was immersed into the laid back and passionate environment of the Global Autism Project. This week I have done research and planning for next year’s gala and attended webinars about fundraising and planning charity events.  For most of my time this week, I have worked on creating the newsletter that will be sent out next Tuesday. For this assignment I researched autism in the news, and included upcoming events and updates for our organization. I am excited to see what the rest of the summer has in store and what I will be working on in the future!

Jamie Berghorn is a rising junior at Villanova and is a Communications Intern at the Global Autism Project.

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SkillCorps Kenya: Natural Environment Teaching

Hello everybody!

Our trip has been amazing with each day revealing something exciting and new. Having the opportunity to explore a new country and work with an incredible school and staff has been indescribable.  I first signed up to travel with Skillcorps because I thought it would be exciting to share my knowledge to help the students and staff at Kaizora. Little did I know that I would be continually learning and growing each day on this exciting adventure.

I learned so much during one of our training activities on Natural Environment Teaching (NET). Making sure to motivate the staff too :) we started one of our activities with a competition to contrive and capture the most learning opportunities with our students. Because the students were out on holiday for the day, school director, Pooja, and myself played the role of students on the competing teams.

10247408_681689188536968_389121815_nPlaying the role of a Kaizora student was very eye opening. As the staff interacted with me I was able to put myself in the student’s shoes. Sometimes I felt over-stimulated, sometimes I felt nervous, sometimes I felt excited when I didn’t know what the staff members would do to capture and contrive my motivation. Playing this role, allowed me to give feedback to the staff so they could shift their behaviors and skills to make the students feel that their learning environments were fun! After giving the staff feedback, it was absolutely amazing to come to school on Monday and see the staff implement
NET opportunities with their students. That activity and learning experience for myself has definitely been one of the highlights of my trip!1975220_681686118537275_1272985353_n

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SkillCorps Kenya: Small Stones, Big Ripples

First of all, let me apologize for our delinquency in updating the blog here from Kenya! It has been an EXTREMELY busy week at Kaizora, which has been amazing. We have been hitting the ground running every day from 8:30 am to about 10 pm at night, with trainings, implementing behavior plans, and world autism awareness day activities!! Suffice to say, we’ve just been having too much fun to adequately report on what we’re doing.

Yesterday was a half day of training for us, so after finishing up at Kaizora, I took the team to lunch and then to the Kazuri bead factory. Kazuri means “something small and beautiful” in kiSwahili, and it was a factory started by two women as a sustainable, community-based employment opportunity for single mothers and disadvantaged women in the Nairobi community. Now, the factory has grown to employ over 340 women, exporting beautiful beads and pottery made from locally-sourced material to all over the world. It started tiny—“small and beautiful” if you will—but is now a source of sustainable employment for so many people who need it, as well as truly local form of economic development.

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Looking at the amazing progress of this tiny idea over the years, I could not help but think of it as a metaphor for what Kaizora is doing. Kaizora (which means “child” in sanscrit) started as something “small and beautiful” in Nairobi. Initially it was just one person (Pooja) providing therapy for a few kids at her house. Now it’s blossomed into this remarkable movement. Since SkillCorps was on the ground last time, Kaizora’s clinical staff has tripled and they have taken on even more new clients. This trip we have been working on Natural Environment Teaching (NET) and all of the staff (even the new ones) were remarkably proficient at understanding advanced ABA concepts such as various motivating operations after just a small amount of training. Their passion for learning and the kids they world with is truly unbelievable to me.

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Last Tuesday, April 2nd, was World Autism Awareness Day. I had the amazing honor to go to Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital here in Nairobi and sit at a booth with Kaizora Consultants and Autism Awareness Kenya as they provided free behavior consults, developmental screening, and information about autism. It was also amazing to hear Joe, one of Kaizora’s senior staff, give a morning radio interview about autism. Reflecting back on the past four years of partnership with Kaizora, it is clear that everything remarkable starts with something “small and beautiful. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


Posted in All Posts, Autism, Kenya, Stories from the Field

Final Plus/Deltas – SkillCorps Peru 2014 Comes Home

During the Global Autism Project SkillCorps trips, it is common practice to evaluate each day with events that were cherished (pluses) as well as events that one would change (deltas). Each day is rated from 1 to 4 (with 4 representing a great day in which one wouldn’t change a thing). Our team was instructed to adhere to this practice from day one.  We could not go to bed in peace without first running a plus/delta meeting. Molly ensured this would happen for the first few days, but this quickly became habit for us. Two and a half weeks later we got together for the last time in Peru and decided to change the rules a little bit, sharing our overall pluses and deltas for the whole experience.

Naturally, after spending day and night for weeks working on a common purpose, Katie mentioned her biggest plus was to have developed this bond with one another and to have worked closely as a team to do important work and contribute to this project. She considered each delta that was encountered during this trip as an opportunity for personal growth, and therefore deltas became pluses. However, the one thing she would change would be to remain close to her new friends. Our last weekend in Cuzco and Machu Picchu was a perfect ending to this life-altering trip. Cuzco was so charming, full of history, and full of life.

Rusty was proud to have worked as a translator “for none other than the phenomenal Molly Ola (Ola being her middle name of course) Pinney”, and to have worked with the kids at Cerrito Azul. He was glad to have met “Pegasus the Llama” at the ruins of Machu Picchu and enjoyed himself to the extreme during Cuzco’s Carnival. He added that he learned the social etiquette of the culture and a bit of the Quechua dialect.

I had to share how impressed I was by the clinical knowledge and the amount of heart both Stephanie and Katie brought to this experience.  Their contributions were so well thought out and insightful, but what I enjoyed the most was getting to know them on a personal level. They are simply bright and beautiful individuals. I was also impressed with the staff at Alcanzando, who showed great dedication and professionalism. They had a very structured and efficacious teaching system put in place by Mapy, but more importantly they had raw talent that was shaped by their wonderful supervisors who diligently monitored them, and were always on point with integrity checks and programmatic interventions.  I had to take my hat off to those instructors who demonstrated their abilities as master multi-taskers. They were able to keep pre-school aged or younger children engaged in 3-hour sessions, running numerous programs with a constant self-awareness as to when to use the correct prompting and reinforcement techniques. They are expected to master so many components throughout each learning opportunity, and they make it look effortless.  They have to know the performance criteria for the skill they are teaching, how to present the instruction, what level of prompting to use, the schedule of reinforcement, and proper corrective protocols for each program they run. They must do all of this while recognizing when a reinforcer’s strength is decreasing, being strategic about recovering the child’s attention, and while not permitting inadvertent reinforcement of problem behaviors.  Their work is clearly underrated.

I have to say, the kids were so petite, so lovely, and so funny! It is impossible not find joy in seeing them blossom and playing such a pivotal part in the process. With that said, I am also pleased with our ability as a team to have chosen practical and insightful recommendations for the staff that were put into effect within a very short amount of time , and caused a sustainable impact on everyone involved. It felt amazing to see that every single person was so receptive and participative throughout the supervisor, staff, and parent workshops.  On a more personal level, I surprised myself in my ability to lead during several impromptu situations. I also loved having the opportunity to learn and share experiences so closely with Rusty. It was refreshing and enriching to have an adult with autism become a colleague and a friend. I was immeasurably touched by Arty’s story as a mother of a child with autism and inspired by Debbie’s art form and advocacy as a photographer.

I wished we could have worked closer to Mapy, Molly and our team leader Sara, who could only accompany us for a few days, but they all wear many hats and can only be one place at a time. Machu Picchu was such a grandiose place. We are so privileged. It was so humbling and amazing to be there. I don’t know how to express in words the magnitude of the impact it had on me.

Stephanie shared each of our sentiments, but also added that she was proud to have practiced and become more comfortable speaking Spanish. Stephanie challenged herself every day to improve her conversational skills. She did an amazing job speaking with greater fluency as time passed, she made great contributions as a clinician and as a person.  Stephanie also made note of something very important: food. What a delicious gastronomic experience. We enjoyed so many Peruvian foods including ceviche, lomo saltado, causa, anticuchos, aji de gallina, papa a la huancaína, chicha morada, granadilla, alfajores,  picarones and more. Stephanie enjoyed the chifa (peruvian-chinese fusión), and could eat Peruvian sushi every day for the rest of her life. As an animal lover she could not wait to be close to Llamas which finally became a reality at the end of our Machu Picchu tour. Again, the only true delta for her was that she will miss her SkillCorps and Alcanzando team and return to a cold winter in Boston.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the pluses we experienced, but at least I could share part of that emotional conversation that precluded the end of SkillCorps Peru 2014. I applaud the Global Autism Project for their dedication to this universal community. I admire Molly’s vision to have traveled great lengths to create this organization.  As a growing organization involving international travel I could witness the numerous challenges and obstacles it encounters on a daily basis, but also saw countless victories. What an opportunity for growth, what a beautiful mess!

I loved this experience! Thank you for allowing me to be part of it! I give this trip a 4!

Thank you!!

Miguel Avila

SkillCorps Member, Peru 2014


Posted in All Posts, Peru, Stories from the Field, Travel

SkillCorps Indonesia: Reflections from a moving experience


At home, every morning, my alarm goes off at 4:45am, I roll over and shut off my iPod alarm and start my way to the other room. I pick out my workout DVD and start up my laptop. The next thirty minutes, I spend working out and drinking branch chains. At the end of my workout, I have a quick protein shake and jump into the shower. From there I get dressed, pack my lunch, make my second protein shake and watch the news before I leave for work.  Once I arrive to work, I go through the motions and interact with the children, waiting for the clock to hit 3:30p. I then drive home. This is what I thought was a simple day. However, my whole perception has changed.


Over the past two weeks, I woke up between four and five AM depending on the call to prayer. I simply lay in bed and think of my day and what needs to be done and then shower using a bucket filled with water. I get dressed; have breakfast (noodles, some sort of pastry and juice) and then its time to grab a cab. The cab takes about 15 minutes to YCHI where I have met the most amazing people to work with. As soon as you enter the grounds, you are welcomed with warm smiles, and eager minds. The therapist’s ask questions about clients and begin to prepare for sessions. As the day continues, I have gotten the chance to sit in on sessions, help with clients, and watch as therapists help children learn.  At the end of the day we sit and share how the day went and discuss topics of interest like data collection and problem behaviors.


During this process, I watch as the therapist light up over new information, take notes, ask questions and process the information. The best part is when they have that “aw ha” moment and it all clicks. Their smiles become larger, their eyes get big and their shoulders drop as their body relaxes. That is the moment I realize I had made a difference. This difference wasn’t in the suggestions, but it was passing on the knowledge so that the therapists can be more independent as therapists. I am at YCHI to share my experience and knowledge to individuals who want to learn and become independent.


Working in the states I have met many amazing people, but there is always competition to do better then the next person or to please the insurance company. That is not the case in Indonesia. Everyone works together, they open their hearts and minds to strangers to help them learn and they embrace their surroundings by taking every moment as a moment to learn. The countries motto is “Unity in Diversity”, and you see that everywhere you look and especially in YCHI as they use everyone’s different backgrounds to work and grow together.


Now, when I go home and wake up at 4:45am, I will stop and take in the moment. I will go to work and look at everyone I work with as an opportunity to learn and gain new experiences. I will not rely on my devices to help me get through the day, but I will rely on the interactions and feedback from others. This is what YCHI as taught me, it is not what you have, but it is about the experiences and people you learn from.  These therapists have taught me so much and I look forward to learning more from them and learning from my experience here.

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SkillCorps Indonesia: The “Aha” moments from week one

The “Ah Ha” Moments of the Week at YCHI

It’s been a busy week here! We were excited to see YCHI and meet the therapists for the week on Monday! The main center is beautiful! And the staff is so nice. They are all so excited to have us here this week. Mr. Zulfikar, the founder, came to visit us on Monday. We learned more about how YCHI came to be and their future! He is a go-getter; reminds me of my boss, Lee!! He is full of new ideas and wants to do everything he can to help the children! Mr. Zulfikar has a son on the autism spectrum. He was diagnosed at 18 months and around this time he made an oath to himself and God that if his third child were typical he would do everything he could to help children with autism in Indonesia. Several years later YCHI began and there are now 7 centers throughout the country and he continues to start new projects in Jakarta and surrounding communities helping families with children with disabilities.

We spent Monday getting to know the therapists and had a chance in the afternoon to go see Tuman Mini, which is a national museum in Jakarta. It’s a mini version of Indonesia. It sits on 150 acres and has structures representing the different regions and tribes. Shinta and Iffah from YCHI joined us, which was great because they were able to tell us the history throughout our walk through Tuman!

We finally got to meet the children on Tuesday! We began the day by observing the therapists to determine what skills we were going to train them on throughout the week. The therapists are amazing and from what I observed in a short amount of time, their skills are excellent and they are very eager to learn! Overall they are doing a great job of administering the tasks, and reinforcing and prompting. Skill areas that we identified to train on included physical structure, simple visual schedules and visuals, more on prompting and reinforcing, data collection, and identifying appropriate tasks. The therapists had a lot of questions for us about individual children they work with. We quickly figured out that problem behaviors were an area of need. As a group we were able to work together and come up with solutions coaching them and showing them examples of strategies to use. It was fun to see them all have those “ah ha” moments! I realized how grateful of the knowledge I have and to the people who have taught me. This is an opportunity for me to share it with people who need it, want it, and appreciate it! It’s one of the greatest gifts I can give as a professional in my field especially knowing that it will be helping the team at YCHI and the community of children!

We also got to meet a wonderful group of parents and teachers from the community. We gave a two-hour presentation on puberty-not the most exciting topic but a much needed topic to talk about! We had an amazing discussion with them and learned about their cultural norms. Many of the parents wanted to know ways to prevent the events of puberty even occurring (don’t worry I won’t go into graphic details)! This is difficult for puberty is a biological and natural occurring event that happens to everyone, even individuals with disabilities. It was definitely an eye opening experience!

As the week has continued we have worked together as a team; for example, one of the children, Zulni, does not like to sit in his seat and work. He would prefer to move around. His gross and fine motor skills are also very weak. The therapist’s goal is to have him sit and work so I began brainstorming with them ways that we could help Zulni sit. It was fun to hear their ideas and work together as a team. They know these children so well and they are so smart! We strategized and identified that structure was a priority, along with very short work time intervals. So Thursday morning we restructured his work area. We simply put Zulni’s chair up against the wall and slid the table up to him with a therapist sitting next to him blocking him from getting up. We are starting simple and will build from there! I’m happy to report that we had successful sitting! Zulni sat up straight, completed several tasks, and did not fight it! I can’t tell you how excited the therapists were! One of the best moments so far!

Our sharing sessions this week has focused on problem behaviors! As a social worker I never took behavior-specific courses but have learned the basics over the years from my colleagues and being in the schools in Kansas. As a team we prepared a great presentation that professionally I would have presented to teachers and staff back in the U.S. in 30 minutes; however we quickly realized on Wednesday that after two hours and only 3-5 slides in that this topic was going to take much more time. Watching Emily break down the information was amazing! To us it was basic to begin with, but for the therapists it needed to be broken down even more. She was able to quickly take the A-B-C concepts and define them and then have the therapists practice defining them with examples. From there we moved on to define the function of behavior, which was a more difficult concept to grasp. Again Emily was able to break it down and by the end of the two-hour sharing session the therapists were understanding and wanted to know more! The “ah ha” moments were throughout the room and were priceless to see!

As a consultant and coach with teachers and staff in schools I don’t always get to see the “ah ha” moments for in the U.S. we rush to fix a problem without making sure the person learning really understands what is being taught. In a job where time is limited and my team and I have an entire state to cover we cannot be there everyday to coach a teacher to that “ah ha” moment. But after watching Emily and Shinta this week teach the therapists, I have realized that there are simple ways to break concepts down that are understandable and more easy to grasp. My goal, personally and professionally, is to slow down and to think more simply when I coach others. For the “ah ha” moments are what are most rewarding to me!

Sarah Hoffmeier

SkillCorps Indonesia Team Member

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