By Stephanie Keyser, M.A., BCBA, COBA
“How was your trip?” This question is the conversational opener I would expect from anyone interested in learning about my recent experience in India, yet each time I’m asked I find it inordinately difficult to answer. Working with students and staff at SOREM, and with the SkillCorps team, has had a profound impact on both my professional and personal outlook and practices. The effort that educators at SOREM are putting in daily, to enhance the lives of their students and to promote acceptance of individuals with autism in their community, is truly inspiring. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to work with, and, most importantly, to have learned from them.
After a two-day training in NYC, in which SkillCorps team members discussed clinical goals, and important topics such as sustainability and cultural humility, each individual team set out to their international partner site. Our team of five began the 18-hour journey to Chandigarh, India. The next day we hit the ground running, consulting with classroom teachers and getting to know students at SOREM. We observed, discussed student behavior, reviewed educational goals, and collaborated to promote the use of ABA strategies to support student, classroom, and organizational needs. Together the SkillCorps team members and SOREM staff developed goals to work on over the next two weeks, with the intent that strategies being practiced would sustain in the classrooms long after our team departed.
Throughout the trip SkillCorps members trained and collaborated with SOREM staff to focus on piecing together components of a Behavior Support Plan, effectively generating and using antecedent and consequence strategies, and using data collection methods, to support the needs of their students.
I loved arriving at SOREM in the morning. It was invigorating. We were greeted with smiles and excited waves from the students who had just finished their morning roller-skating activity, or by the student excitedly requesting a high-five, as he got started with academic work for the day. I met mothers. Mothers who are also teachers and advocates, who are working at SOREM to continue learning about how they can best support not only their students with autism, but their children with autism. Working with these women taught me an important lesson in perseverance and strength, and I am so grateful to have met them.
Since returning from India I have enjoyed noticing ways in which the lessons I learned from the experience have carried over into my professional practice, and personal outlook. A sincere “Thank You” to everyone who so graciously showed their support throughout the fundraising and preparation process leading up to the trip. The benefit that SkillCorps, and the Global Autism Project, are having on the lives of individuals with autism and their communities, is truly significant and inspiring. I feel honored to have participated in a movement that is promoting such positive change in the life of individuals with autism around the world.