The Bulat Utemuratov Foundation announces that it has signed a three-year Memorandum of Intent for Cooperation and Interaction with world-renowned autism spectrum disorder expert Dr. Connie Kasari.

This is aimed at implementing joint projects to support children with ASD, including early diagnostics, training specialists and organising seminars. It will pave the way for Kazakhstan to become a leading regional centre for autism research, training and treatment.

The partnership was announced at the Bulat Utemuratov Foundation's 5th International "Asyl Miras. Autism. One World for All" conference in Astana, Kazakhstan. This year's theme is "Diagnosis and Early Intervention in ASD", one of the areas that the work with Dr. Kasari will cover.

The conference was attended by world renowned experts in ASD who discussed the latest developments in the early diagnosis of autism, with practical seminars for teachers, students and parents on children with ASD. Recognition of the importance of early diagnosis and intervention for ASD is growing, demonstrating clear benefits of the effectiveness of treatment and improving quality of life for children and their families.

The Foundation will work with Dr. Kasari to provide training for the Foundation's specialists and Trainer of Trainers ("TOT"), to train the next generation of experts. Beyond this, the Foundation and Connie Kasari will jointly develop a training plan for specialists from across Kazakhstan, including creating different certification levels and mechanisms for assessing and supporting training.

The training program will be based on the Joint Attention, Symbolic Play, Engagement, and Regulation ("JASPER") treatment approach, which was pioneered by Dr. Kasari. JASPER methodology is already used in the Foundation's 12 Asyl Miras autism centres across Kazakhstan.

More than 15,000 children have received treatment at the centres since in 2015, and the Foundation has invested US$12.5 million in this project. In addition, the partnership will conduct joint research projects and develop tools to promote the JASPER methodology in Kazakhstan.

Almaz Sharman, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Bulat Utemuratov Foundation, said: "As the leading international autism expert, we are thrilled to be working with Dr. Kasari on advancing the mentorship program associated with JASPER, which is a ground-breaking methodology she developed to enhance the early social communication skills of children with autism spectrum disorders.

“The partnership will help improve the lives of children and their families across Kazakhstan, providing the support and care they need. It is also an important moment for autism support in Central Asia, building on the Foundation's work to date and paving the way for Kazakhstan to become a leading regional centre for research, training and treatment."

Connie Kasari, Distinguished Professor of Human Development and Psychiatry and Founding Member of Centre for Autism Research & Treatment, UCLA, said: "There is growing awareness of autism in Kazakhstan, and this important initiative will play a key role in further developing the systems and structures to support children with autism spectrum disorders. It is encouraging to see that specialists in Kazakhstan use the JASPER method in their work, and I believe that our cooperation with the Foundation will allow us to strengthen the professional community of behavioural specialists and develop successful support strategies for more families with autistic children."