||programs :: diakonia :: day care center :: presentation
Why did the Pokrov Day Care Center come about?
According to the basic principle of the Declaration of Salamanca, the schools have to enroll all children, regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistical or other levels. This includes children with disabilities. In the context of modern education, the term “special needs” applies to all children and adolescents, whose needs arise from disabilities or learning disabilities. Regular schools should be able to find ways for the successful education of children with disabilities. It’s already agreed that the children and adolescents with special needs must be included in the regular educational system. The challenge here is that there needs to be a program, which essentially is targeted to successfully educate all children, including those with serious disabilities and difficulties.
The merit of the Daily Centers is that they not only provide quality education for children with special needs but their development is a step towards changing discriminatory attitudes, and the growth of an accepting and tolerant community. The change of social perspectives in Bulgaria is a must. The problems of people with disabilities were created by the society for the longest time because people emphasized on their disabilities rather than focusing on their potential. This is a direct result of the ingrained atheism during the communism, which essentially led to not knowing the problems of people with disabilities and the unreal attempts for realization of the idea of the superhuman.
The Center in the context of the social change in Bulgaria
The education of children with special needs involves demonstrated principles for excellent education, which could be beneficial to all children, whether with disabilities or not. According to this education, human difficulties are extremely normal and the education should be tailored to the needs of the child and not vice versa, where the child is supposed to adapt previously approved norms for the speed and context of the learning. The education, where the child is the basis, is beneficial to all students and as a result – for the whole community. The experience shows that education could drastically reduce the number of failed students, which happens very often in a lot of the educational systems.
It could also allow for higher level of achievement. The special education, employed by the Center, could help in maintaining hopes, which are lost due to the results of bad educational quality and the development of the educational type “one measure for all.” The Center’s emphasis of the children with disabilities could probably aid in developing a society, which respects the differences in and the pride of all human beings. The Center, in its ideology, recognizes and responds to the various needs of children with disabilities. It satisfies all different styles and levels of education, and guarantees quality education for all by employing appropriate educational programs, organizational measures, teaching strategies and successful usage of resources and partnerships.
At the Center, the children with special needs receive all the needed extra help, which guarantees their practical education. The Center is the most effective way to build a relationship between the children with special needs and their peers.
“Pokrov Foundation” is a non-profit organization. Thus, it has a wider span for action and is able to answer the need for help quicker, while it works with new ideas and methods. By realizing the project of the Center, “Pokrov Foundation” plays the role of a discoverer and a catalyst, expanding the scope of action of the already existing social programs.
The Centers in the West
The ongoing trend in the western social policy in the past 20 years has been constant integration of people with special needs and the fight against their isolation. The integration is extremely important for human dignity and for human rights. From the educational point of view, it leads to strategies for the equalizing of opportunities. The experience in many country shows that the integration of children and adolescents with special needs is best realized in the schools where all children, regardless of need, are taught. It is in that way that children with special needs can achieve highest level of improvement and social adaptation. The Centers allow for a great environment to achieve equal opportunities and full involvement and thus, require the united efforts of the educators, the children, the parents, the families and the volunteers. The change in the social institutions doesn’t only depend on technical solving. It mostly relies on the faith, the desire and the good will of the individuals who make up our society.
The movement of integration, arising in the 80’s, is gaining more and more supporters. It is a fact, set in the normative legislation, affecting people with special needs in Western Europe and U.S.A. It couldn’t be ignored that most developed countries emphasize on the need of adaptation and the involvement of this special group in the social life.
The assessment of integration is positive – the sooner the process of involvement, the more beneficial the result. Thus, the attention is focused on the young age. Multidisciplinary experts base the efforts on early evaluation of the physical and psychological characteristics of the children with special needs. The goal is to outline the resources and the potential for a strategy to help and develop each and every isolated case in the context of regular schools. The implementation of the carefully prepared individual programs and their periodical realization is assisted by a matrix of medical, educational and social departments, who offer an additional special help for each child – partial rehabilitation, correction and therapy.
In Western Europe, the movement for integration quickly gains popularity, while economic prosperity, the cultural and historical traditions of each country, define the policy for caring of and supporting the rights of children with disabilities.
What is it done at home?
According to the basic principle of the integrated school, all children must learn together when possible, regardless of the existing difficulties and differences. Unfortunately, in Bulgaria these types of schools are missing. The reasons could be because of lack of interest from the public policy makers’ side or not knowing the problem and not having an interest in handling it. Essentially, this function needs to be taken care of some other institution, such as the Center.
The situation in Bulgaria regarding the care for children with special needs is similar to the one in most former communist countries, and even sometimes a lot more perplexed. Although Bulgaria was one of the first countries among the group to pass the “Law for protection, rehabilitation and social integration of the handicapped” (1995) and founded the National foundation “Rehabilitation”, in practice, the idea for integration was only in written text. Besides the economic and political reasons for this backwardness, the rigid structures and the heavy bureaucratic apparatus, dividing the responsibilities among three state departments reinforces the chaos.
The Ministry of Health is responsible for orphans and for children from 0 to 3 years of age of low-income families, who live in the orphanages called “Mother and Child”. The majority of them have malformations and deformations where two thirds of the healthy-born children slow down in their psychological development, demonstrating the whole spectrum of early psychiatric symptoms, following the effect of hospitalization. There is a very sad irony in the name of the orphanage because the mother is practically missing but her role, connected to the formation of the child’s psychic, is essential and groundbreaking.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy is responsible for children after three years of age. The education of children, who have only slight mental problems and are eligible for enrollment in special schools, and those who have physical difficulties and somewhat normal intellectual level, is responsibility of the Ministry of Education. The children with average and heavy mental problems, and those with intense psychiatric difficulties, are placed in institutions for social care, where in practice, there’s no special education due to lack of high quality care takers. These institutions are outside of populated areas and these children consequently become even more isolated from the social life.
The faith of parents of psychologically and physically damaged children, who have decided to take responsibility for their offspings, turns into a saga for generations because there’s no public system for early attendance and maintenance.
What happens to the children in special schools and public institutions?
- In the specialized medical establishment…
The inhuman and degrading attitude towards adults and children with special needs as a basic problem is looked at and reported by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) for the past year. The BHC has done a thorough analysis of the system for psychiatric help and has summarized its findings in a special report. In this report, which is only limited to the system for psychiatric help in the cases for active medical treatment, BHC has concluded that there’s poor organization, material base and hygiene; applying of humiliating and degrading healing methods, i.e. outdated electroconvulsive therapy, violation of the right to informed medical treatment; systematic malnutrition of patients and arbitrary isolation and immobilization. All these factors, individually and altogether, make the accommodating and medical treatment in the Bulgarian psychiatric institutions inhumane and humiliating.
- …and special schools and public care facilities
During the year, BHC has visited the majority of the care centers for children and adults with mental and psychitaric disbailities. The material base and the treatment of the sick in some of these facilities has been even more degrading and humuliating than the approach in the psychiatric accommodations for active medical treatment. In some of the public care facilities (such as Sanadinovo, Dragash Voivoda, Cherni Vrah, Radovec, Podgumer, Samuel), BHC has found out the existance of metal cages, underground rooms, spaces under stairs and closets which are used to isolate patients for prolonged periods of time. The conditions of the buildings and rooms, the heat, the food and the hygiene in most of these facilities are extremely poor and its own way contribute to the inhumane and humuliating treatment of the patients. In some of the places, BHC has determined that there is systematic physical and sexual abuse by the care takers and even among the actual patients.
Priorities for the year 2003
Among the most important priorities for 2003 are:
- Making contracts with numerous regular schools for the integration of children with special needs.
- Continuing and extending the contracts with the Universities for preparing students from the Center and their internship at the regular schools with which we have ongoing contracts for integrating children.
- The use of the licence of the Center as a social facility to obtain community or national subsidy.
- Broadening the limits of the target group – not only to include pre-school age children (I-IV grades) but also children from junior-high level (V-VIII grades), inreasing the number of the educated children in the Center, respectively.
Creating and establishing work methods by the Center, included in the integration of the children with special needs.
The target group that the Center has focused on consists of children with special needs who are “educated” in the special schools, and possibly in the public care facilities. The reason for their attendance there is primarily not knowing the children’s problems by the parents, along with the corruption in the educational committees. In its core, the committees are made up by school principles, psychologists and teachers from the special schools, whose only purpose is to fill up their classes in order to sustain the national subsidy. The result is that many children who are capable of being among their regular peers, regarding of their condition, are sent to special schools where they are being taught in awful environment by an unqualified staff.
The Center mainly works to rehabilitate and integrate these children:
- 6-11 years of age (I-IV) from the special schools (12-15 of them), with the following conditions: Dawn syndrome, autism, epilepsy, mental retardation, deafness, micro and hydrocefaly, educational difficulties. Moreover, children with hidden handicap are integrated as well. These are children whose parents refuse to enroll them in special schools or public care facilities, but can’t integrate them into the regular schools either (3-5 of them).
- The second group consists of children who are being re-integrated into regular schools after dropping out from the same, due to unpreparedeness by the staff and not knowing the problems of the children with special needs (4-5 of them).
- The third group is made up of children with multiple disabilities (4-5 of them). These are children who are being taught simple skills and habits for self-service. This is necessary because of the combined weight of the disabilities – epilepsy and heavy mental retardation, cerebral paralysis and epilepsy, etc. In some regular schools, where there has been a procedure explaining the children with special needs and in centers, like ours, even the integration of children with heavy mental retardation is possible.
Statistic of the integrated children
Statistic and description of the children with special needs in the 21.10.2001 – 30.06.2002 period
І Column. Integrated children with special needs from special schools into regular ones. Total number – 5.
ІІ Column. Re-integrated children with special needs into regular schools (dropped out, due to unpreparedeness of the staff in the regular schools.) Total number – 7.
ІІІ Column. Day-care for children with multiple disabilities. Total number – 7.
ІV Column. Speech therapy services, conducted by the Consultation office of the Center.
V Column. Consultations with parents of children with disabilities, conducted by the Consultation office of the Center. Total number – over 30.
Report for the years 2003 – 2004 on the work of the Day Centre for Rehabilitation and Integration of Children with Special Needs of the Pokrov Foundation
Rehabilitated and integrated children with disabilities at the Day Centre for 2003 – 2004: 24 (twenty four)
Number of children with disabilities integrated into general education schools: 8 (eight) of which one child into a higher course (11th class), one child into the intermediate course (6th class), six children into the primary course (1 – 4 th class). Work was done with these children only in the morning during the first year. During that year classes were mainly held at the Day Centre and by the end of the school year they increased their attendance at a school of general education.
Number of assisted children after initial integration: 7 (six in primary and one in intermediate courses). These were children who we integrated the previous year. They attended the Day Centre in the afternoon thereby we monitored their progress for one year more.
Number of children with multiple disabilities: 9 (nine).
These were children whose serious condition did not permit their integration. The aim was to teach them basic skills and habits. For example using forks and spoons, dressing themselves and so on.
Types of disabilities of the children who were rehabilitated, integrated, or assisted at the Day Centre:
- autism – 8 (eight)
- Down syndrome – 2 (two)
- infantile cerebral paralysis – 3 (three)
- epilepsy – 5 (five)
- combined disabilities – 4 (four)
- impaired hearing – 2 (two)
Number of parental consultations (psychological and juridical): over 60
The psychological consultations are the result of serious difficulties of adaptation of parents of children with disabilities to the new conditions under which their children were rehabilitated, integrated or re-integrated. As a result of the consultations by the end of the year were achieved the following:
- supplied information as to the integration of children with disabilities;
- overcome dependence of the parents of disabled children on other persons and various institutions;
- supply of realistic understanding about education at general education schools;
- overcome hyper-protectivity by parents over children with disabilities;
- realistic assessment of the abilities of disabled children on the part of parents.
School network: 3 schools
The high percentage of success is due not only to the intensive and professional work at the Day Centre but also to the network of 3 (three) schools of general education in which we integrated the disabled children. We signed agreements with them on joint activities and visits of disabled children started at them in accordance with a plan agreed in advance.
Participation at conferences
Participation of the coordinator at 4 conferences on topics bearing on the integration of children with special needs (2) and the education of children with impaired hearing (2).
This year volunteers did substantial work. They were 4 (four persons). Ionina conducted psychological consultations with parents, Yavor drove the children in a mini-bus. Svetla worked with the children with impaired hearing. Anny conducted classes with autistic children. The latter two (Svetla and Anny) are assistant-lecturers at the University of Special Teaching Methods and Psychology. They helped in our work a great deal.
The aim was to provide an opportunity to young and motivated specialists monitored by the staff to work with the children. This type of work proved quite promising. In this way the volunteers learn skills which they cannot learn at the University on the one hand, and on the other they help the Day Centre performing diagnostic and upbringing work which the Day Centre budget cannot afford to finance.
Total number of classes for 2003 – 2004: 1600 classes of general education and special subjects
General education classes
The general education classes aimed at imparting a minimum of knowledge necessary for the successful integration of children. These are basic subjects which build basic skills (writing and reading) and notions about the environment (native place).
Number of classes held with children with special needs at the Day Centre:
- Bulgarian language – 280 hours
- Mathematics - 280 hours
- Geography of Bulgaria – 160 hours
The specialized classes taken at the Day Centre are a service not offered at the general education schools. They aimed at overcoming difficulties of education and health experienced by children with disabilities. This makes the Day Centre unique as it provides this special treatment of children.
- logopedic sessions 160 classes
- psychological sessions – 160 hours
- art therapy 160 hours
- computer skills – 200 classes
- remedial gym – 200
The children with special needs from this school year, who come from low-income families, are not charged any fees. The rest are required to pay 50 lv for half-day care and 100 lv for the whole day.
Pokrov Day Care Center for Children with Special Needs
3 Mladezhka Iskra Str., kv. Krasna Poliana, Sofia, Bulgaria
tel/fax: +359 2 929 6778