From Russia with questions
Herald Journal (Logan, UT)
Posted on July 18, 2005
By Emilie H. Wheeler
|Olga Koroleva, center, asks questions about autism of Katie Endicott, right, as Marina Vashavsky translates Friday morning at Utah State University's Center for Persons with Disabilities.|
A delegation of five Russians, with interpreters and representatives from Open World, the program that funds such visits, toured Utah State University's Center for Persons with Disabilities on Friday. Specifically, the group was interested in the center's ASSERT -- Autism Support Services: Education Research and Training -- and Up to 3 programs.
"Normally, our program is more broad," said Jennifer Andelin, a representative from Open World who accompanied the visitors. But this group wanted to specifically learn about early childhood intervention -- for children diagnosed with disabilities or not exhibiting necessary development skills.
Four Russians who visited are faculty members at Udmurt State University in Izhevsk, Russia. One of the four is an administrator at a children's hospital. The first group member was a facilitator from another Russian university who also served as a translator.
The Open World Program is managed by the Center for Russian Leadership Development through the federal government. The Academy for Educational Development has administered this and similar exchanges through a grant received by Open World.
The delegation was especially interested in the autism unit, and watched children with autism and asked questions through interpreters.
Nikolay Leonov, the dean of the psychology and education department at Udmurt State University, told CPD staff through a translator that there is a growing number of children in Russia with autism and not enough help.
"We are really interested in how you deal with these issues," he said in Russian.
Russia does not have a foster care system or many governmental programs to help with children who are disabled. Several end up in orphanages because parents do not have the resources to take care of children with extra needs.
"I guess a lot of people in Russia who have disabilities end up being institutionalized," said Tom Lee, USU department head of family, consumer and human development. Lee helped plan for the group to come.
Leonov and the other three asked several questions about how parents are involved, the structure of the children's day at the center and the most recent research about autism.
Olga Koroleva, the children's hospital administrator, told CPD staff how grateful she was for the most recent knowledge about "how things are in the U.S.," so she can update her students.
The visits are aimed to create a better understanding between the United States and the former Soviet Union, as well as assisting in democratic and economic reforms. Russian leaders from all 89 Russian regions have visited the states since the program's inception about five years ago.
The delegation also spent time in the Salt Lake area, touring places including other early intervention facilities, Utah's foster care system and the Utah State Health Department. They have been staying in host homes and have also seen several of Utah's historical and tourist sites. The group left Sunday after more than a week in Utah.
[Reprinted with Permission]