In June 2019, we started our work on the project “Karin Dom – the next 20 years” – the establishment of a basic training center and center for services for social inclusion and independent living of children with special needs and their families, funded by the VELUX Foundations.
The main goal of the project is to build a new therapeutic and training center for Karin Dom, which will increase Karin Dom’s opportunities to spread knowledge, help children and families and introduce a supportive and inclusive environment for these children at the policy level and in our society. It corresponds to one of our main goals – dissemination of good practice through training and consultation of parents and professionals working with children with special needs across the country, adhering to international standards.
In this regard, in December 2020, we signed a contract with CSES Varna, aiming to “Support CSES Varna to change the supportive environment and use of therapeutic methods and approaches in practice.” We chose CSES Varna because this center was facing a difficult stage of transition from an old, small, crumbling building, although located in the city center, into a renovated building with spacious classrooms with opportunities to upgrade its activities.
We conducted a number of on-demand trainings with the teachers from CSES Varna some time ago, we discussed various topics related to direct work with children with special educational needs. From the conversations and discussions we had with the management and the teachers, it became clear that they needed our support in organizing a supportive environment so that it was more structured and visualized, as well as to share our experience in positioning and communicating with children.
We discussed how the CSES environment is structured, we drew a comparison to European schools and centers and outlined basic ideas that teachers can use to improve structure and visualization. We reviewed therapeutic methods and approaches that teachers could rely on to improve the quality of their work. We looked at case studies arising from the specific needs of children and together we sought solutions. We provided the teachers with a “HANDBOOK Organizing a Supportive Inclusive Environment” by Zvezdelina Atanasova.
CSES Varna has been in its new building since April. The building has two floors, in addition to the classrooms there are separate therapeutic rooms and the process of organizing the environment is ongoing. All rooms are painted in soft, pastel tones which brings peace and implies better concentration of children in learning activities. For children with special needs it is appropriate to have a clean environment with a clear structure and visualization which the CSES team strives for. It is recommended that additional information, materials, decorations be placed on thematic boards not directly on the wall. Some of the teachers have started to prepare symbolic pictures for visualization and communication.
Each classroom has a separate soft seating area for children. With some funding some of the soft corners can be replaced or supplemented with therapeutic mattresses for a more comfortable and correct position for children with cerebral palsy. This is the place for rest and relaxing position for children with cerebral palsy for some part of the day, even during the learning process. Changing posture in children with cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions is vital and is a prerequisite for better learning of the material. There will be a consultation with Karin Dom teachers for positioning specific children, as well as proposals for choosing and using positioning aids – rollers, triangular pillows, verticalizers, chairs or adapting the available funds according to the individual needs of children. Soft corners are also suitable for children on the autistic spectrum as a place for rest and solitude in order to reduce anxiety. It is recommended to have shelves or boxes with books next to the soft corners consistent with the age and needs of the children.
The new and comfortable desks and chairs are impressive. There are games and materials for stimulating the senses, mental activity, cognitive skills, for the development of language and speech in the specialized classrooms for children. Many natural materials have been collected. Didactic games and aids have been made. Orders have been made for the equipment of an occupational therapy hall – mattresses, soft modules, swings, etc. Equipment of a hall for physical education and sports is forthcoming where they plan to create a corner for physiotherapeutic work. There are handles in some of the bathrooms which make them accessible to all children. Rearrangement of some of the classrooms, and creation of a Montessori office, a teacher’s room and a directorate are forthcoming.
There are definitely better conditions in the new place for learning, therapy and activities for children and students with special needs, which will improve their quality of life. The management of CSES Varna is motivated and hopeful that the environment in the new building will gradually become useful enough in order to be compared to examples of good European practices.
The trainings were conducted by our colleagues Zvezdelina Atanasova, Director of the Karin Dom Vocational Training Center, methodologist of the Karin Dom Center for Social Rehabilitation and Integration. She is the author and co-author of specialized guides and manuals for working with children with special needs. She develops training programs conducted by Karin Dom. She trains specialists from the country and abroad, parents, students and others. And Andreas Andreu, physiotherapist with many years of experience in working with children with cerebral palsy and other similar neurological disorders and autism.
Our joint work with CSES Varna has gradually become a partnership on behalf of children for their social inclusion.
Thank you, colleagues!
Строим новия терапевтичен и образователен комплекс във Варна