Parents denounce unprofessional, profit-driven care centers for autistic children

“Children with special needs play at a school for autism” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

It is alleged that the centers are run by non-specialized people.

“When my son was 1 year and 8 months old, he was diagnosed with autism. By the age of three, I had applied to almost all centers in Baku. After one year, my child had learned only how to put on and take out his shoes”, an unsatisfied parent, who wished to not be named, told Meydan TV. In another center, he tells, there are rumors that the neglect turns children aggressive.

The dissatisfaction of families with specialized autism centers in Baku is widespread. “Wherever you go, first of all, they want you to pay, they see our children as easy money”, one parent complains.

Chichek Mammadli, chairman of the Autism Defectology and Psychological Assistance Center, told Meydan TV that normally in Azerbaijan non-professionals deal with children with autism. According to her, there is no proper education for children with autism in the country, and the so-called specialized centers are profit-oriented.

“Private clinics, self-proclaimed psychologists, psychological service centers deal with children with autism, but parents do not see results”, Mammdli adds.

Additional challenges in dealing with autism in Azerbaijan are the lack of statistics on the condition as well as the income inequality. “Since dedicated care is very expensive, children of the rich and public officials can receive appropriated treatment, while the children of the poor are left out”, Chichek Mammadli explains.

Although Meydan TV contacted two centers working with children with autism, they did not want to make a comment on the situation.

Local media reported on the end of last year about the commissioning of a new Autism Center built by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in the Nizami district of Baku. The Rehabilitation Center for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders has been operating since 2013 but did not have a permanent building. Now, it said that the Center has created the necessary conditions for children suffering from autism to receive intensive care and effectively organize their leisure time. 

Chichek Mammadli, however, is not convinced that one center will be able to take proper care of all autistic children in Baku and warns parents about fake professionals:

“I heard a story about a manicurist who took a course and now works as a psychologist, the field is disregarded and no one checks. Parents pay money, but are of course unsatisfied with the services. The only solution is for parents to be informed so they are not deceived”, she tells.

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