Children with autism in Kosovo, whose number is estimated to be around 500, face different problems and in particular concerning is the absence of access to education.
According to Jeta Deva, national association of autism in Kosovo, there is still no clear data on the exact number of children with autism living in Kosovo.
"In Kosovo we do not have accurate statistics because diagnosis is very difficult. There are no structures or data bases for registering and dealing with children with autism. Globally 1 in 110 children is autistic. This number in America seems to be 1 in 68", said Deva.
Children with autism in Kosova are facing a wide range of problems and concerns, but the most immediate one is the absence of access to education.
Violeta Hyseni, “Autism speaks'” organization, also mother of an autistic child, said for Free Europe Radio that children with autism in Kosovo are continuously facing difficulties and the biggest problems relate to their social integration.
"There is willingness in some of the schools to accept these children. What becomes problematic later is the absence of a proper training on the particular needs of these children and the teachers do not know how to approach and deal with them. In almost all the schools, in every classroom there are up to 35 pupils. This is what makes it more difficult for the teachers to accept children with autism. There is a need to have fewer children in order to be able to support a child with autism", said Hyseni.
According to her, parents themselves must provide the needed assistants in a classroom, paying by their own, in order to offer the minimum possibility to education to their autistic children.
“The biggest burden is for the parents. They must pay an assistant for their children to be with them in the classroom in order to facilitate for the teacher the learning process. This is because the Ministry of Education takes no responsibility to cover such expenses for these children.”
Lulavere Kadri, who leads the branch for the education (secondary education) of children with special needs, within the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, told Free Europe Radio that starting from September 2017, Kosovo will have professional assistants to work in schools with children with special needs.
“This year, 2017, we will start the program for assistants for children with special needs. This is the first program launched for professional assistance for children with special needs. From September it will be implemented initially in Ferizaj."
"It's a one year program, but actually that covers two years. It is financed by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the government of Luxembourg. The standards as well as the programs are developed in cooperation with Pearson, England[p1] , "said Kadriu.
She said that a number of teachers have been trained to make possible the implementation of this program and for the first time in Kosova there will be possible a professional training to support children with special needs, including children with autism.
There are about 390 thousand pupils who follow the elementary education in one year in Kosova, around 1200 schools[p2] , and with over 25 thousand teachers.
Officials from the Ministry of Education say that there are over 6 thousand pupils with special needs attending education.