Children’s homes must not be the only possible form of rehabilitation for children with disabilities

This is what commonsense tells us, and what their parents want. And yet the only alternative at present in Ukraine for many mothers is looking after a disabled child full-time, depriving the child of time spent with children of the same age, and being isolated from social life. Journalists learned about the prospects for resolving burning issues for children with special needs and their parents during a meeting of the Rivne Press Club on 22 February.

“All different – all equal” – this is the credo of the nationwide civic organization “Coalition to defend the rights of the disabled and people with learning difficulties” which encompasses more than fifty similar organizations from all around Ukraine. The Rivne region is represented by the Association to protect the rights of people disabled since birth “Nadiya” [“Hope”] from Kuznetsovsk.

Unfortunately this credo is seldom reflected in Ukrainian legislation, and a considerable number of children with disabilities and their parents are left to deal with their problems alone. As a result, parents who don’t want to send their children to a home and deprive them of family care, are forced to sacrifice their own self-fulfilment, not being able to work themselves and take the child to a kindergarten or school.

–  After several years of looking after a child without any break we already have two patients – mother and child – Zoya Matviyenko from “Nadiya” explains.. – One solution would be to create in different districts of the region the appropriate rehabilitation centres which parents could bring their children to, and then collect them after a few hours. It’s also vital to create a barrier-free environment for disabled children, with ramps etc in educational institutions where children in wheelchairs can come. And a no less important task is to create conditions for disabled young people to fulfil themselves after they reach 18.

There is positive experience in Rivne of resolving these problems. There is a Centre for early educational rehabilitation and social adaptation for children with special needs “Pahinets” (“Growing generation”; for pre-school age children) and an educational centre “The Special child” where children of different ages study. For example, in “Pahinets” children with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy and other difficulties are integrated into the general groups. Their parents bring their children and leave them for a few hours. The results of tests carried out show incredible results. Children without disabilities fully complete their program of study while learning to empathise, and children with special needs considerably improve their possibilities and have a chance to fulfil themselves.

–  One of the children who was here is close to finishing the “Special Child” Centre, and after that we want to give him a job helping to teach the children that he earlier played with”, the Director of “Pahinets” Tamara Savchuk explains.

– The fact that these children have limited possibilities does not mean they should be limited in their rights.  Each of us, after all, has some limitations: one person can’t sing, another can’t dance, and another has weaker intellectual development.

The creation of similar institutions in the region, unfortunately, comes up against the reality of Ukrainian legislation which does not allow state funding for this, with children’s homes being prioritized for children with disabilities.  Therefore Zoya Matviyenko, together with other organizations in the Coalition, is calling on parents of children with disabilities and all those who feel concern, to join forces, tell the public about these problems and push for the necessary changes in legislation.

Rivne Press Club

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Please see the detailed study in Human Rights in Ukraine – 2005: XVIII. Observance of the Rights of People with Impaired Physical Possibilities

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