WHO Caregiver Skills Training changed one family’s life for the better
When Maria V.’s son Nazareno, 5, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at age 2, Maria did not have the knowledge and skills she needed to help him grow and develop. Luckily, she learned that the World Health Organization’s Caregiver Skills Training (CST) program had a site right in her hometown of Rio Grande, Argentina.
She signed up to learn new strategies to engage with her son, teach him new skills and address his behavior issues. The program has been life changing for them both, with Nazareno growing leaps and bounds since his mom started CST.
Learn more about Maria’s experience in this Q&A.
Can you tell me a bit about your son?
Nazareno is 5 years old. He really likes to go to kindergarten, play with blocks and play with his family. He also likes to paint and draw, go for walks and watch TV. I am very proud of everything about him, especially his desire to learn.
At what age did Nazareno get diagnosed with autism? What led you to seek out a diagnosis?
We got the diagnosis at 2 years and 4 months old. I took him to the pediatrician because he stopped talking, he got stuck in his development and he started to have unusual behaviors like lining up objects, pulling my hair, crying and walking while looking from the side of the eyes.
How has your son’s autism diagnosis impacted your family? What has the experience been like for you as a parent?
The impact of his diagnosis was hard. We didn't know what ASD meant or what we needed to do. It was a painful experience. But with a lot of help I started to accept what was coming ahead, and we started to do what we were told to do with him.
What is one skill that you learned in CST that you found helpful?
All of the skills were useful, but the most useful things were learning how to be attentive and watch him carefully to observe his interests, and learning how to anticipate his reactions before doing something.
How has the CST program affected your approach to parenting?
CST helped me a lot. There were many things that I didn’t know before that I learned during the program. The truth is I would do it again if I could. There are many helpful tools that one doesn't know are there to help your child.
Some of the things I learned were how to prepare the environment and remove distractions to make a safe space to interact, and also how to be very attentive to him. These were things I didn’t do before that I learned by going to the workshops. The program also helped me see the skills that my child could have if I did things well.
What advice would you give other caregivers who are considering the CST program?
You should not hesitate to do it—it will change your life completely. You should try to go to all the classes because you will bring many lessons back to your home and family, and it really changes your life. The program is free and I’ve learned a lot, so I advise all families to take advantage of this opportunity because it changes everything and you learn lots of things that you didn’t know you could do before.
Have you noticed any change in Nazareno following the program?
Yes, quite a lot. His speech and behavior are much better. He has fewer tantrums, and I can anticipate his needs and how he will react. For example, if he is playing and I want to take the toy away from him, I learned how to communicate that it is time for him to eat so he can no longer play. I learned many things from the sessions that really helped him self-regulate.