After more than a year of delay, our team was pleased to welcome at Karin Dom specialists from the State Diagnostic and Counselling Centre in Iceland, with which we have been successfully partnering for more than 2 years in an important project for inclusive education “Transfer of practices to improve support for children with special needs and their families for inclusive education”, funded by the Active Citizens Fund-Bulgaria”. In the period 16-19 May 2022, we managed to visit services for children from 0 to 18 years, as well as those for young people and adults with special needs in order to show services that cover all ages.
The project aims to exchange knowledge and expertise with Iceland to develop methods and guidelines to support civil society organizations and social service providers in Bulgaria, to empower parents and other activists to better understand the condition of the child and support its development and leading the service to create an opportunity for early referral and support of children with special needs.
The Icelandic State Diagnostic and Counselling Centre is a government agency that provides services for children and adolescents from birth to 18 years of age, as well as support for their families. As a result of an extremely successful visit of our specialists to Iceland in 2020, we were able to introduce good practices and approaches to work, based on which not only to develop methods and approaches to work, but also to put them into practice through direct services for children aged 3-8 years and their families. The visit of our Icelandic partners to Bulgaria is a long-planned visit aimed at comparing the two systems of inclusive education and seeing in practice how it works, what are the challenges, what progress we have made, how we work with institutions and other representatives of the educational and social system in Bulgaria and to share practices that would be useful in the work of our Icelandic partners.
We were visited by 4 representatives: Brynja Jónsdóttir – speech therapist in the center, Helga Kristinsdóttir – psychologist in the center, Aðalheiður Una Narfadóttir – special teacher in the center and Emilía Guðmundsdóttir – parent of a child with special needs and a psychologist in the center. In the period 16-19 May 2022 we managed to visit services for children from 0 to 18 years, as well as services for young people and adults with special needs in order to show services that cover all ages.
We started with a visit to Karin Dom to show the therapeutic rooms and the services we offer. Specialists from Iceland observed an individual session with 2 specialists, as well as a group session with more children and specialists. Helga, a psychologist at the center in Iceland, together with a team of specialists from the Early Intervention Center – a psychologist and speech therapist from Karin Dom, made a home visit to the family of a child with whom our specialists work. The aim was to really show what we do, how we work and how we support children and families through various services. Then we sat in the green garden of Karin Dom for lunch with traditional meals, then held a joint team meeting, where we met the team from the State Diagnostic and Counselling Centre in Iceland with the entire team of specialists at Karin Dom.
Two parents of children with special needs were also invited to the meeting, as well as Prof. Dr. Ruzha Pancheva as a representative of the health sector. It is important for effective inclusive education that all stakeholders and representatives of different sectors speak openly and build partnerships with each other. It is for this reason that we held an open, informal discussion, during which professionals and parents discussed the similarities, differences and challenges in education systems. An interpreter helped the discussion to run smoothly and constructively.
The next day we were guests of Neofit Bozveli High School, Varna, where we met with the director Ms. Ignatova, as well as with the team of specialists who work with children with special educational needs – resource teacher, psychologist and speech therapist. We took a short walk around the specialized offices and discussed how to work with children and parents for inclusive education.
The second stop of our visit was the Special School for the Visually Impaired “Prof. Dr. Ivan Shishmanov”, Asparuhovo District, Varna, where we were welcomed by Deputy Director Valentina Yordanova. We took a walk around the school building, briefly participating in classes and activities that involved students of different ages and met with different specialists – psychologist, special teacher, speech therapist and rehabilitator. The pedagogical team takes care of the education, upbringing, rehabilitation and socialization of children and students from all over the country – from preschool to twelfth grade, in order to achieve their independence and independence for decent integration and realization in society.
To conclude the third day of the visit, we visited the new building of Karin Dom – the new complex for social, educational and health services, which will officially open in September this year and will provide a wide range of high-quality services for children with special needs and their families from Varna and the country. The Icelandic specialists were impressed by the innovativeness of the building, the ecological principle on which it is built and the functionality of the premises where therapeutic, educational and health support will be provided.
The next day began with a visit to the Center for Special Educational Support – Varna (CSES-Varna) – a specialized institution for training and education of children with special educational needs, where we were welcomed by the director Mrs. Svetlana Ivanova and speech therapist Zvezdelina Atanasova. We talked about the function of the center and how its specialists support students before and during their transition to educational institutions.
We visited various halls and offices equipped for work – a hall for physical activity, a hall for occupational therapy and a Montessori room. A total of 30 specialists work in CSES-Varna – speech therapists, psychologists, clinical psychologist, occupational therapist and teachers, who work with a total of 137 children with moderate and severe mental retardation, as well as those with multiple disabilities.
We also visited the Center for Social Rehabilitation and Integration “Chaika” (CSRI-Chaika), which celebrated its birthday and we had the opportunity to share with them the festive mood and positive emotions. CSRI-Chaika offers hourly services for adults with intellectual disabilities with a capacity of 30 people. The center employs two social workers, a psychologist, an occupational therapist and a nurse. CSRI-Chaika offers alternative forms of training – individually, according to the needs and capabilities of clients and through group work based on assessment of individual skills, working closely with the families of users of social services. At the center we were greeted by Plamena Koycheva – team leader and psychologist, who told our guests from Iceland more about the work of the center and the services they offer. These include training for young people with mental disabilities, a speech therapy program to improve communication skills, computer training, psychological support and counseling, social inclusion and more.
After the visit to CSRI-Chaika we headed to the Riviera Day Center, which offers day care for 35 young people with intellectual disabilities. We saw how the center practically works on various programs, such as the program Social Skills, Mastering Household Skills, domestic work, art therapy, music classes. We visited a music therapy group, which greeted us with a song they were preparing for May 24. We also observed a pedagogical activity on Healthy lifestyle, in which young people actively participated and demonstrated their knowledge.
In the afternoon we visited the Community Center – Varna, where its head Daniela Biyacheva and its team told us and our guests from Iceland about their work in various fields in support of children from 0 to 7 years. The center, funded by OP “Human Resources Development” offers early intervention for the disabilities, individual pedagogical support for children with disabilities, providing psychological support and counseling to future and current parents to develop parenting skills, family counseling, support and children’s health care, consultation and activities for disease prevention, additional pedagogical support to increase the school readiness of children and equal start in school, as well as a family center for children from 0 to 3 years.
Later we visited Kindergarten №5 “Sun”, which is one of the kindergartens with which Karin Dom works long-term to build an inclusive environment and promote inclusive education. The director Ms. Uzunova and the staff of the kindergarten welcomed us with traditional Bulgarian hospitality and treats.
We had the opportunity to watch an open lesson in Bulgarian and enjoy the children’s musical performance. We also shared our experience of everyday life in kindergarten and how integration is happening in Bulgaria and in Iceland. Our hosts pleasantly surprised our guests with traditional Bulgarian gifts.
On the last day of the visit of the team of the Icelandic State Diagnostic and Counselling Centre, we visited Kindergarten №23 “Iglika” in Vinitsa, Varna, where we were pleasantly surprised with an emotional and exciting welcome. In traditional costumes, children and educators greeted us with a folk dance, bread, honey and salt, as required by Bulgarian tradition. They congratulated our team with the wonderful Bulgarian song “A Bulgarian Rose”, and for our guests from Iceland they had prepared a special surprise against the background of wonderful Icelandic music.
We work with the director Marchela Petrova and the whole team of Iglika Kindergarten in a fruitful and successful partnership, trying to provide professional and focused support to the specialists in the kindergarten, supporting their work with children with special needs and their parents through training and supervision. We also work with the kindergarten to build a special educational environment.
In the kindergarten we visited several groups, including the nursery, we were shown the newest room, which was officially opened in April – a sensory STEM room. Our guests were told about one of their most successful mediation projects in the kindergarten. We exchanged experience, knowledge and ideas on inclusive education and successful and applicable practices with the director and the team of specialists.
The work program ended with a visit to the Regional Center for Support of Inclusive Education – Varna (RCSIE-Varna) – a public service unit – out-of-school pedagogical institution in the education system, where we were welcomed by the director Ms. Mariana Panteleeva. We talked about the role of the resource center in inclusive education and the ways in which a child could benefit from the services and support of the center’s specialists – resource teachers, psychologists, clinical psychologists, speech therapists and hearing and speech rehabilitators. All of them work with over 600 children and students with special educational needs from the district of Varna, supporting the process of inclusive education.
The visits are carried out within the implementation of the project: Transfer of practices to improve support for children with special needs and their families for inclusive education, funded by the Active Citizens Fund of Bulgaria under the EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021.
Karin Dom Foundation carries the entire responsibility for the content of the published information and under no circumstances can it be assumed that it reflects the official opinion of the EEA FM and the Operator of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria.
Строим новия терапевтичен и образователен комплекс във Варна