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Based on the initiative of parents-members of the “Right to life for children with special needs” regional charitable organization, their kids will be able to attend a new integrated school alongside healthy children. This proposal is already on the municipal government’s agenda and will be discussed at the next session of the city council. “ZS” correspondents visited the “Special Kids” group, talked to their parents, teachers and caregivers, found out about their challenges, needs and what makes this project unique.
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President of the “Right to life for children with special needs" regional charitable organization Angelica Vikhlyaeva knows about the problems of disabled children first hand. Her eight-year old daughter Diana is not able to walk and needs constant care. She has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy… During all these years she has been taken to numerous hospitals and clinics based on her doctors’ recommendations. While she was undergoing treatment and rehabilitation she lacked social contact with other children, and medications and procedures made her tired and weak leading to further health problems. Angelica met many parents and children with similar concerns at many hospitals and rehabilitation centers. She came up with the idea to create the organization, and at the same time, several professionals volunteered to help the kids.
Physiotherapist Angelica Psareva, who later became the director of the project, had been one of the volunteers. She had previously worked in state healthcare facilities for children with special needs and was very familiar with the program and rehabilitation approach. “For most specialists, rehabilitation means physical therapy and massage. However, these are just a few methods of care that we use. Our approach includes psychological development and learning. We need to teach the child to live, move, take care of self, and establish contact with the world – both with children and adults. We must not isolate these kids from the society. They need to learn in groups to learn from each other”, - says Angelica Psareva.
The charitable organization was registered in December 2011, but the moms have almost two years of experience of working as a group. The kids have an opportunity to play and get rehabilitative care together in a temporary facility that was rented through financial contributions of kind donors. During this time, the organization grew – now it includes 22 children, ages 2 to 9, diagnosed with cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome. Four professional caregivers are working with the group. The parents find noticeable improvements. Specifically, the children who were previously given severe diagnoses and thought to be untreatable, unable to learn or move, now recite poems, sing, participate in arts and play together. The kids who have not learned to speak yet show great improvement in non-verbal communication, all kids move, any way the can – walking independently or assisted, crawling, etc. All kids are encouraged to get up and go. By looking at their friends, the kids are motivated to get up and be active.
Galida Bardus told about experience with her three-year old daughter Dasha who began rehabilitative treatment when she was one year old, first individually and later in the group. Having cerebral palsy, she was lying in her crib, curled up, unable to move her arms or legs. Her first achievement was learning to turn by herself, then get up, then talk. Today she can crawl, sit up, stand up, walk holding someone’s hand… And a few days ago, the family was thrilled – she made 20 steps independently!
Both parents and teachers agree that the earlier the child begins the rehabilitation, the more effective it will be.
Today the organization is financed only by membership fees and needs both financial help and facilities. The project leadership asked the city council for help and obtained support from first deputy chairman of Zaporozhye city council Andrey Ivanov, as well as city council members Tamara Ogorodova and Raisa Chukhrai. The representatives of the city council proposed to allocate some office space in school #39. Today the school is in need of a new roof and the third floor is empty. Once the decision is made by the city council and the budget is allocated, the roof will be repaired, the regular classes will move to higher floors and the first floor will be given to the special-needs children.
It is expected the kids will be in school from 9 am to 5 pm, and they will have some opportunity to attend regular school program alongside healthy children.
Vice-President of the “Right to life for children with special needs” organization Natalia Zavrazhina said it is very difficult for kids with disabilities to sit through the entire 45 minutes of a class, and they will attend only some of the classes under supervision of the specialists. If a child gets tired, they will be able to leave at any time. Today Natalia’s eight-year old daughter Dasha is studying the first-grade program with a tutor. In the future, Natalia hopes that Dasha will be able to learn with a group.
The organization is trying to develop opportunities for kids from the entire region outside Zaporozhye to come and stay for an extended period of time.
Members of the organization hope that the city council and donors will help solving other issues, such as nutrition at the center, purchases of furniture, special equipment, computers, etc. “We are very grateful to everyone who decided to help, and hope for future support”, - says Angelica Vikhlyaeva.
If you wish to help this center, please call Angelica at +380661915436 or Natalia at +380504511538. The center is also looking for volunteers.
P.S. When the issue went to print the organization received a letter from the Department of Education, Youth and Sports of Zaporozhye city council which approved the allocation of the office space in School #39. However… the letter states that while the roof repairs will be financed by the city budget, the organization will have to finance the renovation of their office space on their own. “Even by squeezing all the last drops we will not be able to raise the needed funds by ourselves. We hope for support of those who care”, said Angelica Vikhlyaeva.