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We help parents restore their inner resources

We help parents restore their inner resources

Step Forward Project: Humanitarian action for a sustainable protection child with disability and rehabilitation-social system in Ukraine. The project is implemented with the support of partners Caritas Italiana and Secours Catholique - Caritas France.

One of the important activities of the Step Forward project is the work of mobile teams of rehabilitation specialists who are currently working in Zhytomyr, Berdychiv and Korosten. 

The goal of the activity is to provide systematic assistance to children and young people with disabilities to improve their relationships with the world around them and their integration into it through classes aimed at developing fine and gross motor skills, imagination, memory and speech.  

Raising children with disabilities, regardless of age, requires constant efforts from adults. The family faces many challenges, as the child constantly needs the attention of parents and specialists: it includes examinations, treatment and procedures.  This is not only a daily job of developing their skills and socialization, but also a matter of meeting specific needs. 

It's not easy to keep up with such a workload. Therefore, the mobile teams of the Step Forward Project work in two directions at once, conducting classes not only with children and youth with disabilities, but also with their parents in separate groups.

Natalia Ovcharenko, psychologist and rehabilitation therapist of the Step Forward Project's mobile groups:

Today, in our work with mobile groups, we often face a situation where parents are psychologically exhausted by the constant stress that has accumulated over the years.  

 To ensure a child's normal development and comfortable life, a mother must take care of herself. When parents have energy and vitality, they can actively engage in their child's development. 

Our task is to recharge the parents' internal batteries. It's not just about listening, talking and giving advice, we study their needs and interests. 

We conduct training for parents so that they get to know themselves and their inner world a little better: what they have, how much their battery is "dead", how much it is discharged. What resources do they have, what can they rely on if they don't have external support in the form of family. What we need to develop in ourselves for to move forward, not stand still. 

 During our classes, parents do some tasks, attend workshops, and relax in a circle of people with similar life situations. In other words, everything is done in an educational and entertaining format: we provide parents with knowledge and skills in a playful way that is easy enough to understand. This helps them to restore their inner resources and "recharge" their batteries to be able to move on."

Tetyana Stretovych and her daughter Daryna joined the Step Forward mobile group in Korosten in February. Tetiana shares her own experience:

“I don't have a job, taking care of Daryna is my full-time occupation. In addition, I myself am 2nd group disabled person. My daughter is now 25 years old and keeping her skills up to a certain level is really a daily job. On my own, I was able to give her a certain basic level of self-care skills. But she is helpless in society.

We did not go to kindergarten. Now the state has turned its face to such children. When I gave birth to her, we were only offered to give her to an orphanage, saying that I didn't need her. Well, what do you mean I don't need her when she is my child? I chose to keep her. She was not accepted to kindergarten or school because she was diagnosed with severe mental retardation. At that time, there were no programmes for such children.

When Daryna turned 14, a special centre was opened in Korosten, where we attended for two years. But for children with such diagnoses, such a short period of study is not enough. Secondly, it was too late, because Daria was too old at that time. 

My daughter has undergone two heart surgeries. Unfortunately, such surgeries under full anesthesia do not pass without a trace. There is practically nothing left of the level of development we have achieved. Now she does not speak, we need to start all over again. And, preferably, with the help of specialists, such as psychologists, defectologists, speech therapists. We need a rehabilitation therapist because we have problems with coordination. 

About self-study at home. For Daria, I am first and foremost her mother, that is, her main comfort zone. She does not perceive me as a teacher and may simply refuse to complete tasks, get tired quickly or lose interest in the task. But when we are here, when teachers work with her, when she sees other children who are actively engaged, she has a completely different attitude, she likes it, she works with pleasure and interest. This is something that I can't give her on my own, it's a great advantage of society.”

Natalia Ovcharenko, psychologist and rehabilitation therapist of the Step Forward Project's mobile groups:

"For many years, our country has adopted a medical model of development. It was accepted that if a person has a disability, he or she should be treated and not allowed into society until he or she recovers. Only when he or she is cured will it be possible. Today, our society is beginning to realise that there are people with disabilities around, but not everyone is ready to accept them into their community.

Fortunately, the psycho-social model is now being used more and more, inclusive classes are being introduced, special centres are being opened, and joint events are being held. That is, the movement to protect the rights of people with disabilities and their inclusion in society is gradually gaining momentum. However, I must note that most of the activities and programmes implemented with state support are still aimed exclusively at children under 18.   

But the problem is that the disability itself does not disappear after reaching adulthood. And mentally this person remains at the same level. Moreover, without active work and constant support of specialists, the acquired skills will be lost.

Lyudmyla Melnykovych's daughter Solomiia is already 35 years old, but she still needs the same attention and care from adults as she did before she came of age. According to Liudmyla, who also lives in Korosten, the city has had no initiatives or programmes aimed at the social integration of adults with disabilities. Therefore, the most active parents were forced to unite on their own and now hold various themed meetings for their children every week, trying to fill the gap in their social life.

"Indeed, this is more related to the Soviet and post-Soviet culture, when it was not customary to talk about people with disabilities, they were avoided," says Liudmyla, "The change in our society began not so long ago, about the last ten years, if not less. At first, we started talking about people with disabilities and paying attention to them. But the real shift was the closure of internats and the emergence of inclusion in schools. Our children have the right to go to school, and even if they have an additional teacher next to them, they are still among other children. And I have to say, today I have noticed a very positive change - children do not pay attention to the fact that a child with a disability is studying next to them.

However, after school, all this active socialisation ends. That's why I think it's very good that we joined the classes offered by Caritas-Spes mobile groups. We really need such educational opportunities. 

If we take my child as an example, she needs an additional incentive to learn, namely the team around her, teachers and children, communication and interaction.    

Solomiya is extremely excited here, she is happy to go to classes and is very active in them, even during online lessons. She likes to complete tasks. For example, we must learn a poem, and Solomiya does it with pleasure. This means that we are not standing still, the brain is working, the child is developing. Various workshops, crafts, etc. also have a positive impact. It broadens our children's horizons, improves motor skills and enhances communication skills."

25 April 2024
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