UNICEF launches a campaign to support non-verbal children
Actress and UNICEF Goodwill ambassador Elena Petrova and musician Orlin Pavlov become faces of the campaign
Sofia, 10 November, 2020. “Non-verbal children have so much to say - help them express themselves”. With this message UNICEF Bulgaria launches the campaign ‘One second changes life’ to support children with disabilities who cannot speak as well as others including their teachers.
Actress and UNICEF Goodwill ambassador Elena Petrova and famous musician Orlin Pavlov become faces of the campaign. Dozens of celebrities supported the cause, among them Yordan Yovchev, Beloslava, Michaela Marinova, Maria Ilieva, Lyubo Kirov, Niki Kanchev, Maria Grozdeva, Yana Marinova, Boyko Krastanov, Maria Ignatova, Dimitar Ratchkov, Divna, Michaela Fileva, Ivan Tishev, Dimo Alexiev, Iliyan Lyubomirov, Niki Iliev, Irina Tencheva and Silvia Lulcheva.
Around 10,000 children with disabilities and special needs in Bulgaria are estimated to be out of school. Latest data from MoES for 2019/2020 shows that the total number of children with disabilities and special needs in kindergartens and schools are over 25,000. Almost 15,000 of those children experience difficulties in verbal communication.
The inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream kindergartens and schools without tools enabling their communication and teachers and without enough training and support for the teachers is not effective and often even impossible. Assistive technologies for augmentative and alternative communication help these children express themselves and communicate with their families and peers.
Although assistive technologies means are widely used in the developed European countries, the USA, Australia, Japan, etc. and are fully or partly funded by the social system, this is not the case in Bulgaria.
UNICEF aims at the gradual introduction and use of assistive technologies for augmentative and alternative communication in Bulgaria’s kindergartens and schools so that all children can learn and communicate easily with their peers.
‘Non-verbal children have so much to say if they are supported to express themselves. We applaud the teachers and specialists who put a lot of efforts, but we acknowledge that there is lack of awareness of what is available and no appropriate training on which children can benefit from use of assistive technologies and tools and how they are implemented in practice. Therefore, it is important to provide training and support and that is what we are proposing this initiative’,
said Dr. Jane Muita, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria.
Initially, the support will be focused on five regions up to 2022.
In the first phase we will:
- support directly 150 children with disabilities, incl. through providing devices or other AAC tools based on their needs;
- support 150 groups/classes to become more inclusive, thus reaching around 3000 children.
- strengthen the capacities of 150 teachers to use these tools and technologies in everyday activities in classrooms
- develop and test an application for symbol communication which will further support the participation of children with disabilities in education and other areas of life. The application will be available to all the children, parents and teachers who need it, completely free of charge.
Based on UNICEF’s partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science, the goal is for this initiative to be introduced in the whole country.