“Our biggest success is seeing parents’ tears of happiness”
Although there are many autistic people in Azerbaijan, the number of institutions carrying out complex activities for them is quite limited. One of the organization working with autistic people in our country is “Assistance to Rehabilitation of Autistic Children” Public Union,” which drew our attention.
We had a chance to get answers for our questions related to this topic by Elnur Mammadov, co-founder and chair of the Organization.
- How did you come up with the idea to establish this kind of organization?
- The idea to establish this organization was created after my son turned out to be autistic. I took him to different rehabilitation centers and decided to establish an organization working with the same system after noticing development in my son’s skills and behaviour. “Assistance to Rehabilitation of Autistic Children” Public Union was established in 2012 and legally registered in 2013. Afterwards, we launched Baku Autism Sport and Life Club under our organization in order to support autistic children more effectively. The staff of the Center were trained by turkish experts for a year and a half, and the staff members are mostly pychologists and physical training specialists.
- Why did you decide to create a sport-oriented center?
- Recent studies related to autism show that exercise has positive effects on the rehabilitation of these children. Therefore, we established this kind of center using the experience of Turkey. We succeeded in a short time period. We are using sport as the key aspect on this path. Sport can be helpful to confront aggression, hyperactivity, and other bad habits. It helps to boost the self-esteem of autistic children, which is direly needed. I would like to add that the main aim of speech therapy is supporting autistic children to gain basic communication skills that might be needed in life.
- How many children can use these services in your center?
- In our center, 24-25 children are periodically rehabilitated. Despite high demand, it is temporarily impossible to provide services to all children due to a shortage of specialists. Children are involved in 9 hours rehabilitation programs, 6 days a week. One of the differences of autistic children is their willingness for trainings. That is why I should mention the positive effect of exercise on this kind of children.
- It’s likely that the center has had quite successful and memorable activities.
- I would say that every rehabilitated child is our success story. In general, to teach something to autistic children or to draw their attention to something is a very complicated process. For instance, my son took 5 months to learn how to grab a tennis racket. In our center, children can even learn to ride a bicycle. Parents watch them with tears in their eyes. Our center teaches them the most important skills to live independently. There might not be any other success story bigger than this. As you know, the complete treatment or rehabilitation of autism has not been found yet, since its causes are also unknown. However, it is possible to decrease the side-effects of autism to a minimum with well-developed rehabilitation programs. The most influencial condition is teaching autistic children basic life skills and habits. Therefore, it is essential to establish different rehabilitation centers.
- What can you say about cooperation with government agencies and their support to your organization?
- Although the Center currently provides service at a cost, the Organization has carried out different projects with the financial support of the Youth Foundation under the President of Azerbaijan Republic and The Council of State Support to NGOs under the Auspices of the President of Azerbaijan Republic. At the same time, we organized awareness campaigns about autism and organized initiatives and events regarding proposed relevant changes to the existing legislation on Autism. Meaning, we are open to cooperating with government agencies and benefiting from their support from time to time.