Support to Children with Special Needs
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.
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.
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.