Thriving despite the post-conflict hardships. Supporting children with disabilities

With the dedicated support of practitioners and parents, children with disabilities, affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, focus on learning and development

Zhanna Ulikhanyan
Tigran is doing physical exercises with his mother at home.
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Mariam Ava
14 June 2021

Meet Tigran, 6, curly and always cheerful after his physiotherapy session, delivered with the support of UNICEF and Source Foundation. Tigran loves to watch old cartoons, especially Winnie the Pooh. He also loves honey and anything with meat. It’s been nine months that Tigran and his family have moved to Yerevan fleeing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

“We came to Yerevan on 27 September. A month later I got a call from the Source Foundation, and they informed me that with UNICEF’s support, Tigran can receive rehabilitation and other services at the center. We were very pleased to enroll and attend all this time,” said Susanna Grigoryan, Tigran's mum.

Maya Simonyan, UNICEF Early Childhood Development Officer, at a meeting with children and parents.
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Mariam Ava

“From the very first days of the conflict, UNICEF provided humanitarian support to children and families affected by the conflict, aiming to create an environment where children will develop feeling safe and protected and have the opportunities to thrive and not get behind.

Children with disabilities need continuous quality rehabilitation services, appropriate assistive technologies and adjustments, quality and inclusive education, so that they too can reach their full potential. We cannot waste that potential and will do whatever we can to support the affected families.”

Maya Simonyan, UNICEF Early Childhood Development Officer at a meeting with children and parents
Tigran is working with exert, while his mother is following the process.
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Mariam Ava

For now, Tigran spends five days a week and six hours each day at the center, benefiting from various services, such as ergotherapy to develop his independence, counseling to develop cognitive skills, physiotherapy to strengthen muscles, and speech therapy. He then continues this work at home with his mum, just like the bees in the Winnie the Pooh.

“The sessions with professionals are essential for children’s development, but I also believe, that it’s no less useful that mums do a proper follow up at home. We have always made sure to do additional work at home, so we usually train together for at least one to two hours a day,” explained Susanna.

In order to facilitate the additional work at home, UNICEF and Source Foundation provided children with various items fit for their specific needs.

Susanna is doing physical exsercises with his son at home.
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Mariam Ava

“We definitely work better at home here with these customized items. We had some items back in Nagorno-Karabakh - a stand, a physio roll, a mat, but we had to leave quickly and didn’t have the opportunity to bring our belongings with us,”

recalls Susanna

Susanna says that as a result of the provided sessions, Tigran has been able to open up and become more sociable. “He attends the sessions with pleasure and follows all instructions from the professionals, unlike at home when he knows he can be more at ease. I wish for him to also enroll in a preschool where he can play with other children and communicate with his peers. He would so live that!”

Unlike Tigran, who is attending the center for quite a few months now, Mane, 5, is relatively new and has benefited from the sessions for the past two months

Mane is working with expert to develop her motor skills.
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Mariam Ava

“Our children are very neglected. Our society is not ready to accept children with disabilities as they are. It is not ready to realize that our children have abilities, like everyone else, and that they must have their own contribution to the development of this country,”

says Varduhi Hasratyan, Mane’s mum
Varduhi is doing physical exsercises with Mane at home.
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Mariam Ava

Varduhi also firmly believes that in order for a child to succeed, parents must work closely together with the professionals. After their family had to flee Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia, she made a DIY physio-roll and sewed a mat and a wedge pillow for Mane to practice at home.

“When I received the new items from the center, we no longer needed the half-useful items that I had made, so I told my elder son to throw them away. Of course, it is more pleasant and more comfortable to work with these. We do hope that Mane will get to go to preschool and then to school. Step by step, we will succeed, I am sure,” said Varduhi.

Tigran is working with expert to develop his motor skills.
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Mariam Ava

Development, indeed, goes step by step and block by block.

As Tigran and Mane practice their skills in a safe and loving environment, we are reminded by Tumanyan’s wisdom that “life is nothing but the aspiration to excel and the path to it.”

And it is easier to pass through that path if children have people who support them at all levels of the society.