Nariman Amantayev →

M.A. in Multilingual Education, 2021
April 2 is the World Autism Awareness Day. Scientists estimate that there are about 60,000 people in Kazakhstan and about 80 million people worldwide with an autism spectrum disorder. On the eve of April 2, our alumnus Nariman Amantayev, who does brain research at McGill University, talked a little about himself and shared useful information about autism in his interview.

My name is Nariman Amantayev and I am working on my doctoral dissertation at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. My research interests are in the executive functions of the brain and their role in communication of people with autism. At McGill, I am affiliated with two labs; in one of them I work on my major doctoral project, while also training undergraduate assistants who help with the tests. I like to cook and I don't like to run.

What prompted you to take up science?

I'm inquisitive.

How does EdTech help people with autism in learning?

EdTech can be a very useful tool. For example, research shows that people on the spectrum are more successful on computerized versions of executive function tests than they are on one-on-one with an examiner. It is assumed that this is due to the fact that social anxiety (in autism, the main difficulties are observed with communication), which is inevitable when testing with an examiner, is significantly reduced when solving tasks with a computer. This can also apply to learning through technology. In addition, EdTech can provide individualized approaches, visual support and game-based learning tailored to the specific needs of the student with autism. Unfortunately, funding in this area and even more so the implementation of these technologies in Kazakhstan is still quite low.

Through your instagram you are engaged in educational activities. Tell us about it too, please.

I work and learn from the world's leading experts, and it pains me to think that the knowledge I get from them will not reach the people who need it. This is a big problem in modern science: the gap between scientists and stakeholders. For example, scientists have long proven the benefits of bilingualism in autism, but speech therapists still tell parents to remove all of their child's languages and leave only one. Why? Because, on average, clinicians don't read articles, and scientists limit themselves to them when communicating research results. You need additional channels of transmission, so I share knowledge with people directly.

In addition, I am concerned about the low awareness of our citizens about people with neuropsychiatric disorders. In Kazakhstan, for example, very often people with autism/Down/Williams syndrome/etc. are stigmatized - they are considered mentally retarded and simply avoided. But we must realize that these prejudices do not come from people's anger, but from their ignorance. So I'm doing everything in my power to fix it.