Andria* is a 7-year old child with diagnosed with Down syndrome. He is a very quiet child: no facial expressions; no body movements- just quietly sat in his toddlers’ carriage. He does not walk and definitely doesn’t show any interest in his surroundings. That was the scene when he first arrived at the Day Care Centre.
His foster mother Maria* tells his story: Andria was left by his biological mother in a state care institution for infants shortly after his birth. He grew-up there, devoid of parental love, stimulation, any emotional attachment or development opportunities. When Andria was 4 years old Maria became his foster mother. Since then she has struggled to get appropriate services for Andria’s development. According Maria she was not able to get assistance as no information on Andria’s developmental and cognitive level was available and Day Care Centres were not willing to accept a child who showed no signs of developmental potential. Mobility issues exacerbated this further due to Maria not being able to access a proper wheelchair for Andria- his toddler carriage no longer functional. As a result of this Andria barely left home, where he spent his time mainly sat in his carriage, fed and bathed by his Mom.
On March 2016, Maria came across Save the Children and Association Anika’s new project “community based services for children with disabilities” on Facebook. After reading the information and looking at pictures she saw this as her chance to enrol Andria in Day Care Centre and get appropriate services for him.
The Day Care Centre’s multidisciplinary team warmly welcomed this quiet little boy. Although it was at first difficult to assess the level of Andria’s actual development and understand what he really knows or feels, the team immediately started to work with Andria. Firstly, the team aimed to teach Andria to express his simple wishes and feelings. The second important aim was to provide Andria with the opportunity to move around independently in his own wheelchair. From the very beginning Andria attended speech and language therapy sessions, sensory and motor development sessions with a psychologist and, most importantly, was present at all Day Care Centre activities. Meanwhile Day Care Centre social workers, together with Maria, sent requests to various organizations to get the wheelchair Adria so desperately needed. Finally, in May, an NGO Coalition for Independent Leaving provided Andria with an age appropriate wheelchair that give him the opportunity to experience independent movement for the first time in his life.
Finally, based on daily observations of Andria’s behaviour, his reactions and his individual preferences, an education plan was created. After five months of involvement in Day Care Centre services and intensive participation in individual and group activities, Andria has shown immense progress in his development. He has learned to express his needs and emotions: he laughs, expresses frustration and can communicate his wishes- excited to demonstrate his newly acquired knowledge and skills. Andria has also developed his fine motor skills and today he can catch a ball, move his wheelchair according to his needs, hold a spoon whilst eating and even draw! Activities which were previously beyond his reach.
Most importantly Andria is showing a growing interest in his surroundings, he is no longer the scared, isolated little boy he once was. He loves the zoo, animals, and is even willing to pet a crocodile!
In Georgia a large number of children with disabilities remain unidentified and are not receiving the social, educational, medical and material support they are entitled to. There is a lack of tolerance of the rights of children with disabilities. Although there are no exact statistics, it is believed that around 60% of children with disabilities are out of school.Currently SCI Georgia is implementing the project “Community based services for children with disabilities” supported by the M.A Cargill Foundation providing direct services for children with disabilities, supporting families of children with disabilities in advocating for their children and increasing the capacity of relevant government authorities.
We are campaigning for children with disabilities so that children like Andria can enjoy equal access to services and opportunities. The Day Care Centre team is positive about Andria’s rapid progress and are now negotiating a school placement for him in the academic year 2017.
*Names have been changed do to protection issues.