The approach used at the Pokrov Day Care Center
The approach used at the Center mirrors the methods used in Great Britain allowed with a law of 1988. In that year, a new national program is accepted, according to which children with special status could be educated in special institutions, in special classes in the regular schools, in a regular classes with a companion (a resource teacher), or education outside the school (The Center).
The work with the children
When admitted at the Center, the child with special needs is subjected to a full examination of his or her condition – psychological test for determining the exact IQ, determining the speech therapy status - for the future correction of the speech disabilities, educational tests for determining the learning capabilities and habits. Once the necessary tests are conducted, an individual program is designed (appendix 3). It is corrected if needed, and additional information regarding the child’s new knowledge and adopted new habits is added weekly (appendix 5). At the end of the year, this report is presented to the parents, summarizing the final results of the conducted work (appendix 6). The principle in the process of integration, at the Center, is to create an environment, as close to the one in the regular schools, as possible. Approximately after a month of intensive rehabilitation work (mainly educational, psychological, art therapeutic and physical), the child begins the process of integration. In the first week, the child attends a regular class for one hour. In the second week, the time spent there increses to two hours, in the third – to three, and so on until at the end of the year, the child has a 100% attendance in the class, in other words, he or she is already integrated.
The children’s stay at the Center varies accordingly. If the child advances fast (i.e. successfully develops school skills and builds habits), he or she starts to attend a regular school after a short while, as a regular and integrated pupil. In that way, a spot for a new child with special needs is vacated. In the more serious cases, the child’s stay at the Center is longer, and the rehabilitation procedures are more intensive.
In the process of integration of children with special needs, the Center works with the teachers and students in the regular schools, in order to prepare them and the environment for the successful adaptation of the children with special needs.
The work with the parents
While the experts work with the kids, a family tharapy specialist works with the parents. The goal is to encourage the parents to actively develop new practical skills for an independent life for their child with diasbilities, while being able to solve problems within the family that arise from the special condition of their child.
The innovation in the method
In the Center, the method is eclectic, i.e. it is modernized. The most accptable methods applied in the West are copied, combined with the possibilities in Bulgaria. The group director at the Center is also a resource teacher in the regular school, and he or she visits the school along the integrated child (Great Britain). At the same time, the psychologist conducts a psychological monitoring in the regular school and participates in its educational council meetings (Holland). In that way, there is an influence of the Center over the school. There’s also an exchange of teachers between the two institutions – the Center and the school. The goal is the reciprocal introduction of the different problems of the integrated children.
A standard class includes: breathing exercises, phonetic exercises and developing phonetic hearing skills. Specific exercises for lips and tongue. There follows work on a given sound, correction and placement, as well as work on general linguistic development. During individual logopedic sessions are also used many training or entertaining games.
With the enrollment of a child at the Day Centre assessment is made of his or her language status and at the end of the academic year assessment is done of the progress in their language skills. According to the rate of progress (fast or slow) an individual programe for a child is tailored to their needs, or the therapy (methodology) is amended.With some children work is more diversified and according to the instructor’s assessment the standard logopedic classes are not provided.
For instance more improvisation is needed in the work with children with severe or atypical autism.
An individual approach is applied during diagnostic sessions with problem children, one testing session lasting usually one astronomical hour. A standard psychodiagnostic session starts with a short introduction aimed at winning the confidence of the child and establishing emotional closeness with it to help build a correct and above all realistic picture of the results. At the same time a working hypothesis is formed on the basis of such sideline signs as behaviour, appearance, possible malformations, standing, speech problems and so on, for the psychologist to see what problems the child has, the depth and seriousness of mental retardation if any and for the most appropriate choice of psychodiagnostic instruments. Then follows the main part of the psycho-diagnostic session at which various methods are employed to determine the child’s psychophysiological development.
The programme of art therapy includes diverse techniques of painting and drawing such as wet upon wet, drawing with sand, monotype, lithography through crushing, collages and other exercises in which are used non-standard materials apart from the classical ones (water-colour, tempera, dry and oily pastel etc). The classes include puppetry with puppets made by the children themselves. For pre-diagnosis art therapy are used projective methods like “The Enchanted Family”, “My Family”, drawing upon wood of human figures in which are not sought creative achievements but are registered subject content, colour gamut, spatial configuration, integration and disintegration of the composition, focus on a given object of the painting and so on.
The games, techniques, and exercises produce positive emotions and a feeling of satisfaction from success achieved nad help them realize their own problems which are moved from an emotional to an intellectual sphere. Creative work plays a decisive role in developing the imagination of children as well as their ability to think for themselves and cope with the tasks in hand.
In this programme are included a system of exercises and tasks the aim being the formation of kinetic skills and stimulation of the needs for active motion. Diagnostic procedures of mobility are also carried out for the spotting of possible malformations of the spinal column, and – respectively – the child’s posture, his or her coordination of movements and the degree of development of geneal mobility.All this is used as a basis for working out individual work patterns.
Besides the rehabilitation programme for every child is traced his or her development, comparing his or her achievements with indicators, approximating the sporting programme of the general education schools.
Play is the basic method used in the classes of remedial exercises.Entertaining games are also included which contribute to the good emotional state of the child,develop their skills and improve their mobility.
Development of computer skills is central. Children are fascinated by them. On this basis we manage to overcome various problems of instruction like alalia etc. Teachers themselves develop various individual computer programmes (Power Point) which meet a child’s specific problem. This activity has helped achieve a higher degree of computer literacy among the disabled children whom we rehabilitated than among their co-evals at the schools of general education.