New cen­ter in Kyiv helps chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties


Di­ag­nosed with autism and visual ag­nosia, a rare form of vi­sion im­pair­ment, Lev Onufryk, 9, un­til re­cently could only be taught at home: He re­quires spe­cial care and sup­port that even those Ukrainian schools that have in­clu­sive classes are un­able to pro­vide.

But now Lev is able to study to­gether with other chil­dren, hav­ing been en­rolled in Open4u, a new in­clu­sive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter for chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties that was launched in Kyiv on Sept. 17.

Lev’s mother, Mar­i­anna Onufryk, 38, says that it is ex­tremely im­por­tant for chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties to ex­pe­ri­ence at least some changes in their rou­tine.

“Chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties can­not al­ways have the same rou­tine, the (same) ha­bit­ual sit­u­a­tions,” says Onufryk. “Changes push them to­wards im­prove­ment. And if a child is pre­pared to cope with change, it can be very use­ful.”

The main aim of the co­or­di­na­tor of Open4u, Ole­sia Yaskevych, 37, who has been de­vel­op­ing the pro­ject for many years, is to teach chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties how to in­ter­act with each other.

“The first goal of this pro­ject is to help chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties com­mu­ni­cate with each other and also to show them how they can in­ter­act with other kids through games, draw­ing and other types of cre­ativ­ity,” says Yaskevych.

“The se­cond is to show their par­ents that it is pos­si­ble for chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties to spend time and have some fun with­out them.”


Open4u has fund­ing to work un­til next May, with 36 chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties tak­ing part in its free re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and so­cial­iza­tion pro­gram.

Each of the 36 chil­dren has an in­di­vid­ual pro­gram of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and de­vel­op­ment cre­ated by Open4u.

“We an­a­lyzed ev­ery lit­tle de­tail, and for ev­ery child we cre­ated an in­di­vid­ual plan for de­vel­op­ment with im­me­di­ate, long-term and short-term goals,” says Yaskevych.

The pro­ject was funded by Ku­razh Bazar Flower Power, a char­ity event held in Kyiv on June 23-24, which col­lected Hr 1.5 mil­lion ($53,500) in dona­tions to cre­ate a sum­mer camp for chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties called Space Camp, as well as the Open4u re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter.

Te­tiana Raykova-Py­lypchuk, 31, the pub­lic re­la­tion man­ager at the Ukrainian Phil­an­thropic Mar­ket­place, said the main ad­van­tage of Open4u is that it al­lows chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties who are not ac­cepted ei­ther by nurs­eries or schools to in­ter­act with other chil­dren.

“In gen­eral, this cen­ter is a pi­lot pro­ject estab­lished to show the coun­try, and to show our peo­ple that the law on in­clu­sion, which was adopted last year, is just a law on pa­per, with no con­crete ac­tions to help chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties and no con­tri­bu­tion to their so­cial­iza­tion,” says Raykova-Py­lypchuk.

“In fact, chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties are not study­ing any­where, as there are al­most no spe­cial in­sti­tu­tions to deal with them, where they can com­mu­ni­cate with other chil­dren. For these kids, Open4u is the only way to do some­thing.”

The law on in­clu­sion was adopted in May 2017, with the aim of cre­at­ing ap­pro­pri­ate con­di­tions for ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, tak­ing into ac­count their need for in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and Science of Ukraine, some 4,180 chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties were cov­ered by the pro­gram on in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tion in 2016-2017, when the to­tal num­ber of chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties un­der 18, as es­ti­mated by State Statis­tic Ser­vice of Ukraine in 2017, is 159,044 or 38 times more.

Yaskevych said the whole process of in­clu­sion was very com­pli­cated and re­quires more time.

“Imag­ine a child with dis­abil­i­ties in a mod­ern Ukrainian school – even if this child is ac­cepted, he or she will not be able to study. Chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties are usu­ally taught in­di­vid­u­ally. Yes, a cer­tain num­ber of kids are cov­ered by the pro­gram on in­clu­sion, but all of them have rel­a­tively less se­ri­ous health prob­lems and di­ag­noses,” says Yaskevych. “Schools, teach­ers, par­ents are not yet ready to ac­cept chil­dren with the kind of dis­abil­i­ties who at­tend the classes in our cen­ter.”

Open4u ar­ranges work­shops and classes to help chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties so­cial­ize and in­te­grate with the rest of so­ci­ety. The first half of the day, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., is ded­i­cated mainly to com­mu­ni­ca­tion among chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties, teach­ers and vol­un­teers.

Chil­dren with­out dis­abil­i­ties are in­vited to spend the rest of the day, start­ing at 4 p.m., to­gether with chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties, tak­ing part in work­shops and games.

“Chil­dren will com­mu­ni­cate through games, through ev­ery­day habits, and we will teach them how to in­ter­act with each other. Our aim is to treat them not like lit­tle chil­dren, but more like teenagers,” says Yaskevych. “We will talk about mod­ern art, about (the artist Claude) Monet, and oth­ers.”

To ap­ply for a place on the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cour­ses the par­ents of the chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties had to fill out forms, which in­cluded the ques- tions about their fi­nan­cial po­si­tion. The pro­gram’s co­or­di­na­tors wanted to pro­vide help pri­mar­ily to those fam­i­lies who were un­able to pay for the cour­ses them­selves.

“It was im­por­tant for us to help those chil­dren who re­ally need this help, but who have no other op­por­tu­nity to get it,” says Raykova-Py­lypchuk.

Open4u has al­ready in­vited around 40 spe­cial­ists to carry out var­i­ous work­shops for chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties, in­clud­ing work­shops on pa­per craft, his­tory of art, draw­ing and sculp­ture, and a num­ber of classes on read­ing, danc­ing, act­ing and cook­ing.

The cen­ter wel­comes any will­ing to vol­un­teer and help chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties so­cial­ize and com­mu­ni­cate.

“We in­vite ev­ery­body to visit the cen­ter, to spend here an hour or two, just to read a book, to play, or sim­ply to talk. We want ev­ery­body to have this op­por­tu­nity to com­mu­ni­cate with chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties, with no re­stric­tions,” says Rayko­vaPy­lypchuk. “And I per­son­ally think that all the big changes in our coun­try should start at such places.”


(6V Lobanovskoho Ave.) Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. www.face­

An em­ployee of the Open4u re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter in Kyiv talks to chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties on Sept. 17. Open4u ar­ranges work­shops and classes to help chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties so­cial­ize and in­te­grate. (Oleg Pe­tra­siuk)

Ole­sia Yaskevych sup­ports a girl with dis­abil­i­ties dur­ing the dance class at Open4u in Kyiv on Sept. 17. (Oleg Pe­tra­siuk)

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