“The most important thing we learned is to understand each other”
Xenia Tarasova talks about her daughter Zlata’s progress after Zlata’s training in the “Learning to Develop a Child” program.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Labour and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan created and conducted the “Learning to Develop a Child” training course as part of the “Introduction of Effective Technologies to Support Vulnerable Families with Children and Teenagers” joint initiative.
The “Learning to Develop a Child” program (the “Program”) is based on the WHO “Caregivers skills training” methodology and adapted for Kazakhstan families raising children with developmental disabilities and delays.
The Program targets children between the ages of two and nine with special developmental needs or whose development raises concerns for parents or specialists.
The Program uses Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) principles, which teach developmental science methodologies, social communication activities, positive nurturing skills, and self-care methods.
The “Learning to Develop a Child” program is not just a training course for dedicated specialists. Rather, it provides broad behavioral assessments aimed at directly improving the availability and quality of assistance to children with special needs or potential developmental delays.
It has been many months since that first class. My daughter and I have learned a great deal since then. As a whole, everything has helped: training with specialists, TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation1), and medicines.
One of the most significant things we learned while attending classes with coach Gulmira Abzalovna Amanturina was to understand each other!
Some people may think that this is nonsense. However, it is essential to know what your child likes to eat, what her favorite color is, and what games she enjoys playing. Sure, I’ve always been interested in all of this, but how can you get this information out of a non-speaking child? Overall, my daughter was doing what I wanted rather than what she wanted to do herself. As a result, previous classes did not help us gain new knowledge or develop new skills. Our development stalled. I got irritable, and my daughter was also nervous and naughty. Overall, the situation was far from good.
Little by little, I started to let my daughter make her own choices in everything (food, clothes, activities, toys), and I found out that my daughter likes yellow, potatoes, and buns. She also prefers apples to bananas. She doesn’t like dolls or like to draw, but she likes cars, loves puzzles, and so much more!
Thanks to the Program, now I also know that Zlata loves water and everything associated with water. Therefore, she is an excellent helper at washing the dishes. I don’t make her do it, but I encourage her when she manifests a desire to help me. She loves to help. Zlata helps me with everything, and she likes
it because I do not force her. I simply ask her: “Would you help me, please?” She even “helps” her daddy fix computers.
We accompany all activities with verbal comments, including the names of items used and actions taken. She repeats some things, or she may turn a deaf ear. I do not press her. As sessions with the psychologist show, my daughter’s vocabulary is growing.
When I teach her a new skill, I watch and listen to my daughter’s response so I can understand where to start. Coach Gulmira Abzalovna taught me that it is better to start learning new skills from the simplest step or from the one that most interests the child.
I use this technique for everything. First, I divide the activity into steps, and then I choose the step she likes the most and begin with it. Her progress is all thanks to the “look and listen” principle we learned in the Program.
Before the Program, it used to take us a long time to switch from one activity to another. Coach Gulmira Abzalovna taught me that it is enough to “warn” the child of an activity change in advance and then fix the time after which she should, for example, put the toys away and go to bed. It all seemed so easy! But why didn’t I come up with it myself? Because I thought my daughter “wouldn’t understand anyway because she doesn’t talk.” Yes, she did not understand at first. However, after several repetitions, she began to understand these transitional phrases – “first, [we will eat], and then [we will play]” and “in [15 minutes] we will [go to sleep].” She is less nervous and naughty now.
Also, I found the “mood thermometer” to be very useful. It became so easy when I gained insight into what happens before, during, and after unwanted behavior! And most importantly, I can prevent it now. If not, I can quickly bring my daughter back into the “cold zone”.
For example, once during a session with the psychologist, there was a slight change in our normal session activities. After this, my daughter started dangling her feet and fidgeting before beginning to whimper, and after some time, she just shouted, “saaaailence!” (“silence”). We were shocked, so we let her calm down and continued with our session.
After analyzing this behavior, when I see her legs dangling I now understand that she will soon be in the “red zone.” As such, I give her something she loves. She gets calmer, and we continue with our activity. Now, the unwanted behavior rarely happens.
The “show and tell” approach, which we learned about during the training, works great too! My child’s vocabulary is expanding! So if she repeats a word, like “jacket,” I add a verb, such as “put,” for her to say. So she learns “to put on a jacket.”
While I’m still disappointed that my daughter hasn’t made much progress with her speech, we keep our heads up and continue working and practicing.
Special thanks to UNICEF and our coach, Gulmira Abzalovna,2 for the opportunity to take this beneficial course.