ADDS, one of our FIT For Charity 2020 beneficiary organisations, aims to realise a society in which children with autism and their parents can maximise their potential through early and appropriate support. We interviewed Ms. Airi Kato, one of the directors.

Photo by Hikita Chisato

Can you give us a brief background on how you came to establish the organisation?
Twelve years ago, the current leaders of ADDs, who had studied child development psychology at the same graduate school launched the project. My original experience goes back to when I was in college and was engaged in activities to help parents with home remedies while learning from them. Through therapeutic support, children who could not effectively communicate their needs gradually started to express themselves in a way that could be understood. I directly felt the changes in the children, and the fact that we could expand children's potential with the right approach was an experience that I could not have gained otherwise. Hence after completing graduate school, we established our NPO and continued this activity (therapy and education based on applied behaviour analysis for those families who are in need).

Have there been any changes since you became a member of COVID-19? Didn't the lack of face-to-face interaction increase the number of restrictions?
We kept the traditional in-person method but added a remote format. Our program is originally based on parent training, and we believe that the best progress can be made when the parents, who are the closest and most understanding people to the child, learn how to support him/her. We ask mothers and fathers watch their children doing a task, and then we give them instructions and feedback. If the child does not seem to be getting the message, we ask the parent to respond immediately by giving instructions in certain way, or to try using different materials. Sometimes, it is difficult to capture the child's sense of tempo and detailed facial expressions in a remote environment. However, since our support was based on the form that parents are able to instruct their children at home, I believe that we have been able to expand our service offering under this Covid situation. We have also launched an app called kikotto, which is a platform for families who have lost access to consultation services due to Covid to discuss their concerns about their children. Our goal is to create an environment where people can easily ask for consult with specialists wherever they are.

How do you plan to expand your activities?
When we first started, we thought that since we were working as therapists, we should increase the number of people who could provide direct support in the same way. But now, instead of increasing the number of children we can directly support, we focus to make the people around us into supporters and create an environment where experts are available for consultation no matter where they are. For example, I would like to create an environment where as many people as possible can become supporters. We can accomplish this through efforts such as the parent training I mentioned earlier, a certification course to teach therapy skills, and the creation of an app called ‘kikotto’, which is a platform for people to discuss their concerns about their children. I hope to create a community where as many people as possible can become supporters.

How do you use the funds from FIT?
We use the fund to develop programs for partners that are interested in our programs. We have developed a system called AI-PAC, and we use it to create a program of individualised tasks for each child. Until now, there has been no systematic support, and the program content has been determined by the experience and discretion of each teacher. There were many partners that wanted to standardize the quality of their services, so we used the funds to ensure a certain level of quality.

Finally, please give a message to the readers of this article.
As I mentioned earlier, we could not develop ‘kikotto’ with our own resources. By incorporating new knowledge and insights into our organisation, we have been able to expand our support for children and increase the speed of our work. I would like to connect more with people who have such expertise. We will continue our activities in the hope that the activities of the organisation will be recognised by society, and that appropriate early support for autism will spread. We hope that as many people as possible will support us.

Photo by 疋田千里