Real lives

Real lives

 

Support to Children with Special Needs

© UNICEF BiH
Children, parents and psychologists at the workshop in “Palcic” kindergarten in Teslic

According to numerous expert studies, the best possible way to improve the lives of children with special needs is through their inclusion in social life in schools and pre-school institutions. Unfortunately, the inclusion of children with moderate to severe mental disabilities is not adopted as a regular practice in the education system of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because of this, such children are not able to attend mainstream schools. Specialized schools are available only for a small number of children, living in the big cities. Regardless, in both cases, educated in special schools or not, the existing system contributes to their social exclusion which continues throughout their entire life.

Knowing this problem very well, parents of children with disabilities formed a non-governmental organization called “Association for Assistance to Children with Special Needs” in Teslic, North Central Bosnia, With support from the International Bureau For Humanitarian Issues (IBHI), UNICEF and the Government of Norway, they initiated a number of activities to assist children and their parents and to support their inclusion. This was part of the joint IBHI/UNICEF project implemented in the municipalities of Bugojno, Kakanj, Gradiska, Vares and Teslic.

© UNICEF BiH
The Association also organizes training sessions for parents and makes additional efforts to raise the awareness of the community about these children and their needs.

The workshops for children and their parents are organized twice a week in a playroom especially created and equipped for this purpose in the premises of the kindergarten “Palcic”.  The number of boys and girls attending the workshop varies up to 18 in total. Supported by their parents, speech therapist and two young psychologists, they are trying to develop some motor, language and orientation skills through learning and play.

“The wider community is not even aware of their existence. Needless to say, they don’t have an idea about the problems families of children with special needs are facing. We are fighting on two fronts, trying to raise the awareness of the community, but also to educate the parents, as many of them used to keep their children home, hidden from the world outside.” said Ms. Zdravka Jelic, the President of  the Association, who herself is a mother of a child with special needs.

And support from the “outside world” is exactly what those children need. The atmosphere in the playroom is cheerful, same like in any other place where the group of children usually plays. The visitors are welcomed with their irresistible smiles and hugs. The Association occasionally organizes small field trips for children, in order to socialize with others.
“It is amazing how much they enjoyed those trips, although many of them were separated from their parents for the very first time. We were also pleased to see, other children are ready to spend time and play with them.” said Ms. Jelic.

These workshops are also a “kind of therapy” for the parents, as one of them said. “It is much easier when you realize that you are not alone, and share the problems and experiences with other people” she added.


The Project ended recently, but the Association is now capable of continuing the activities without donor support. They have established good cooperation with the private sector, but the most important fact is that the Municipality of Teslic recognized the value of their work, and granted some funds for the year 2007. Ms. Jelic said “This should be sufficient for our basic yearly needs, but it proves sustainability and the value of our work. With some additional support from the private sector and the enthusiasm of our members, we hope to extend our activities, and involve more children, as we know that many of them, especially in the rural areas around Teslic, are still hidden and excluded. “.

 


Nineta Popovic, Communications Assistant UNICEF BiH

 

 
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