Occasionally I will write a blog about people that have made a difference in regards to autism at the international level. Today I will talk a little about Igor Shpitsberg. I met Igor while attending a congress in Russia. Igor was introduced to me by my good friends and organizers of the congress, Olga Bogdashina and Elena Chereneva. The congress was heavily attended by thousands of individuals and had several breakout sessions. Considering the number of attendees and breakout sessions this was one of the largest autism congresses ever held in the world. During the congress I spent a lot of time with my good friends Steven Shore, Adam Feinstein, and Richard Hayhow. At one point in time Steven disappeared for a long period of time and was not seen by anybody. When I asked Adam Feinstein whether he had seen Steven, he said, “He must be with Igor.” When I asked who this Igor was, Adam answered, “Manny, everybody knows Igor”. Adam’s comment kindled my interest in trying to find a little bit more about Igor Shpitsberg.
From his presentation Igor seemed to be a dynamic promoter of special education needs for those in the autism spectrum disorder. In effect, Igor’s career has been filled with numerous accolades for which we are all proud of him. Igor is best known for his role as the Director of a rehabilitation center for children with ASD called “Our Sunny World”. He has occupied this position since 1991 (www.oursunnyworld.org). More importantly, and beyond his young appearance, Igor is the parent of a 27 year old child with autism. Although Igor’s position as the Director of “Our Sunny World” would keep anybody busy, Igor has found a way to represent the rights of autistic individuals within the government and thus promote new initiatives on their behalf. Among the many positions Igor has occupied I would like to stress his participation as a member of Autism Europe’s Council of Administration; Assistant Rector of the Moscow State Psychological and Pedagogical University; Member of the Coordinating Council on the issues of Autism at the Ministry of Health of Russian Federation; and being a Member of the Coordinating Council on the issues of children with disability and persons who have conditions limiting their functioning of the Civic Chamber of Russian Federation.
Igor’s main focus has been the modernization of special education services for children with disabilities in Russia. In this regard he has played a major role as the author of the Method of Correcting Sensor-Based System Developmental Peculiarities in Children with ASD and the author of the concept of Integrated Eco-System Rehabilitation and Social Adaptation of Children and Young Adults with Autism and Developmental Challenges that was first introduced in 1997 at the 9th International FRDI Congress in Denver (USA). He is also the author of the first app in Russian (for IPad), which helps non-verbal children with autism to communicate.
Igor has received many awards and recognitions. In 2013, the UN Secretary-General – Ban Ki-moon – personally thanked Igor Shpitsberg and” Our Sunny World” for their help to children with ASD in Russia. In 2014 Igor Shpitsberg was elected as a member of Council of Administration of International organization Autism Europe.
I am always amazed as how parents change the world for their children. Igor is a wonderful example of this, making a difference for those in need.