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Multisensory room universe explored by children in Cluj

For children included in the project "A new world, of joy, for each child with special needs", run by the County Council Cluj, experimenting Snoezelen Therapy meant exploring a universe of colors, sounds, textures and smells, an incentive learning environment which encourages development and communication of children.

Multisensory room arranging produced different emotions to future beneficiaries of the 8 special schools involved. While some of them were waiting with interest and joy to explore the equipment from the room, others were watching shyly and with anxiety this process because it was a new environment for them and needed an adjustment period.

Multisensory rooms have become a place of escape for children. By opening a door, kids walk in a world of deep relaxation and well-characterized safety and security. Children experiencing self-control, exploration, cause and effect, exceed their inhibitions, increase their self-esteem, in a relaxing and stimulating environment. Appropriate stimulation of children with special needs and adapting the learning environment to their needs, increase motivation to explore and so is encouraged developing and communicating with others.

Their experiences with multisensory room were captured and are a proof of the good result.

Ana is a pupil in primary cycle in the Special School "Baciu Transylvania" in Cluj-Napoca. She has Syndrome Lennox-gestation. Frail, with big black eyes, Anna is forced to face frequent seizures, too exhausting for her weak body. Experience in multisensory room has managed to provide a state of relaxation due to the waterbed and projector lights. She is having a great pleasure to play with colored balls, kinetic sand and tweak it with different shapes, squeezing it in her hand, developing fine motor skills such. Slowly, the girl manages to write different signs in the sand. But, she likes the most the basin ball: Ana takes two large containers, and plays pouring from one container to another.

Dan is a student in primary cycle in the Special School for the Visually Impaired in Cluj-Napoca. Although regularly attend therapy sessions visual specialists could not identify precisely the seriousness of his deficit of view. What was clear and you could see was that he did not react to the presentation of a variety of impulses. In search of a change, Dan began to enter in multisensory room and get acquainted with Snoezelen therapy. The results, to his delight were immediate. Oneday he entered the room with the therapist who started stimulation with the bubble column and lights. At that time, the child began to see, to perceive shapes, colors. Dan was extremely enthusiastic at the sight of the water column.

The biggest achievement for us who support these children is to be witnesses to the delight and smile that can be read on their faces. The greatest joy is to take part, with them, the wonderful changes that occur in everyday life of children who open the door to multisensory world.

 

The 6 years of home and one of...fairy tale

Casian, a 7 years boy with squirrel eyes raised in the outskirts of Targu Neamt Town is the model of success of the project "Area centre for engaging local resources for integrated services for children in need". He says proudly that "has 6 years at home and one of ... fairy tale". You may ask yourself what’s his fairy tale? Now, due to activities of the projects he was involved in, he’s a child perfect for "advertising".

His family lives in the Blebea neighbourhood, at the edge of Targu Neamt Town, in a modest little house and hardly cope with everyday life.

Their chance was that little Casian, at only 6 years old, was included in the project: "When I met him he was a child extremely shy, not looking up from the ground and could not rule redness of the cheeks. Any attempt to talk to him was hitting a wall, as the child stubbornly refused to talk. Then watching him closely, I realized that he actually had a speech problem, which was not diagnosed by any physician or a speech therapist.

I was fortunate to meet his mother, who although is a very simple woman, she’s a partner and a loving mother who was very open and happy to do something for her child to correct language. After one year, the results are remarkable and Cassian is a great kid, with many friends and now speaks like a finch, it is hard to stop. Obviously there is still much work, counselling sessions continuing thanks to the extension project, but progress is evident and we are all happy and proud of him", she recalls with emotion Elena Baciu, the psychologist of project that worked almost daily with Casian.

Casian, like other 149 children from poor families included in the project came daily after kindergarten to the center in Targu Neamt. Here, they have lunch and are included in all sorts of activities. Speech therapy sessions were held with the agony of language exercises: „Bucură-te cum s-a bucurat Bucuroaia de bucuria lui Bucur când Bucur a venit de la București…“. Terrible craft of stupidity, as would say the great writer Ion Creangă!

On the contrary, says psychologist Elena Baciu, who has been working with Cassian for a year.

Proof? At the Christmas party, her little pupil - student to a school in Targu Neamt - said a poem without getting tangled receiving applauses from his colleagues, friends and parents.

The work is far from finished, but Casian progresses, he makes friends easily, and he cannot wait to finish the classes to come to the center.

"I think the project gave many of these children a year of fairy tale, literally. Some of them went out of their villages in their lives, others had not eaten a cake in the cafeteria, while others do not even dare to dream of a trip. Some had trouble learning, or language disorders, such as Casian. To all we have offered the opportunity to be part of our story and, behold, a year later, the story goes on and hope to "continue happily ever after." The project has changed our lives, made us more sensitive, more empathetic and more willing to fight to provide an extra chance to disadvantaged children, "concluded Cristina Paval, general manager of General Direction of Social Assistance and Child Protection Neamt.

The "Area centre for engaging local resources for integrated services for children in need" has as beneficiaries 150 children and 180 parents of Targu Neamt, Răuceşti and Pipirig. For children, the project ensure daily "School after school" activities and a hot meal, and for adults, advice and guidance.

The project is funded with the support of the RO 10 – CORAI programme, funded through EEA Grants 2009-2014.

 

Flavius - a miniature adult

We are heading to a mountain village, part of the Almasu Mare commune located in the southern outskirts of Apuseni Mountains. There, we have the impression the time stood still. The car makes hardly way to Flavius home. In fact,  you cannot call this place home, it seems rather a temporary shelter for wood or animals. We dive into a world where needs are mixed with sorrow and resignation, and the family that is subject of social investigation is not an isolated case.

The area, known not long ago for the gold extracted from the Hanes mine, employing over 1,000 locals, has become increasingly poorer and villages are becoming smaller and aging. Involuntarily, my mind echoed Octavina Goga's lyrics: "Our mountains are polished with gold, We beg from door to door".

As we enter in the little house bent by the problems, we are feeling smaller and smaller, more guilty and useless. The man in front of us find it hard to speak. Although we find that his wife left home when the child was very little and never wanted to see him again. Next to us, in silence but curios to find out what is all about with our coming to their home, Flavius is all ears. We told him that we know he never missed a day from school, that he's hard working doing by himself all the homeworks everyday, and that he's very sociable. 

He watch us with his big eyes and ask: "... and it's not ok what I do?" Sure is fine, but we want to include you in our project, a way to bring jy in your life, I replied. His face is enlighted and his words are flowing as a mountain river. He speaks as if he was 100 years old, not 14. He listen with great attention what a project is, what is "Network welfare school", when and how we will meet, what we do, how we think we can help him continue his studies and joy becomes maximum when he learns about the possibility to go on a summer vacation camp in Strungari.

Many weeks have passed from our first encounter with Flavius. Since then, he beneficiated weekly by information services and social counseling, socio educational activities aimed at growing his self-esteem, on education of tolerance, goodness and respect for others. Flavius now look more confidently to the future. He wants to become an engineer to protect forests, animals and "be all in perfect order", an expression which belongs to him. Wants to bring peace and calm to people's lives and thinks he could do that by taking care of them. His desire to do good certainly has to do with the hard life that he has, but also with those taught receiving services thorugh the project.

Another service was oriented towards father who benefited from social counseling and assistance in the process of changing attitudes towards the role and importance of education for child development and social inclusion.

The social worker in me never ceased to seek other solutions for this family and study alternative funding through POCU 2014-2020, Axis 4 "Social inclusion and combating poverty" being convinced that a job for dad, improving their living conditions and child support in school is an integrated package of services that family  need for their social inclusion.

A material made by Ildiko Tamasi, social worker, involved in the "Tntegrated Services" Pianu, a project developed by the Mayoralty of Pianu, Alba. For more information about the project, please visit http://complexpianu.ro/

Encouraging overcame

It's called Tudor and is 27 years old. I met the first time in October last year. He arrived in the programs of Foundation Alaturi de Voi Romania by accident. Or maybe not...

Shortly before meeting, I was contacted by a social worker from the Center for Recovery and Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities Budai, where Tudor is housed and asked to what extent it is possible the collaboration between our foundation and center on working. The social worker was very interested to connect youth to community services center.

So, this is how I get to know Tudor. At first sight, he was a young man traveling only with help, having always trembling hands and mouth and difficulties in expressing itself.

I remember I had prepared a Halloween activity and we gave to the young people the task to colour and cut out specific images of this holiday: pumpkins, ghosts, spiders, and witches, then stick them on a castle made of cardboard. After the first line drawn on a pumpkin Tudor has said that he cannot colour. I encouraged him to continue, but the teacher who accompanied him intervened and said: "Let him that he cannot colour! He has Parkinson... He cannot ... He cannot write ... He cannot drink alone”. And the list of things he cannot do was endless.

So Tudor thought he can’t do anything because he’s sick, and that others must help him or do everything in his place.

I understood then that for helping him, I must transform "I can’t" in "I may". I worked with him individually, I encouraged every single line he drew with trembling hand, each coloured dot even outside contour, at every step alone.

Once he understood that if he has the will can do wonderful things, and that it’s natural to make mistakes from time to time, that things do not always go as we want, we started seeing the progress. Suddenly, the man who was sure he could not do anything wanted now to prove that he can. He started to colour sheets daily, struggling to focus. And he managed to do so increasingly better! Each success made him wanting to do more and better. It went from colouring to writing letters stained ... slower ... really ... but with a fantastic will. Tudor is continuing to come to ADV activities, he’s happy to spend time here and to make interesting things now, which were prohibited not long ago.

It is true that it takes time and practice to achieve significant progress and sometimes your condition has limits, but he began to believe in him, to not be afraid to try and not be annoyed that things sometimes doesn’t go as planned, makes us believe that the work with him was not in vain.

He told us later that his parents left him in the center because they could not care for him because of his health problems and thought it would be better treated in Budai. They were right or wrong? Who knows? The fact is that he’s very much fond of his family and enjoys whenever he is visited by one or more family members.

As Tudor are many young people who can be supported to improve their lives, which is why the project "Partnership for Inclusion" is continuing, a project implemented with the financial support of RO10 "Children and young people at risk and local initiatives and national and regional reduce inequalities to promote social inclusion”, financed by the EEA Grants 2009-2014.

Several faces of hope

On the road leading to "Casa Heidi" you could meet every day a girl too small for her age, with dishevelled hair, dirty clothes, who was always playing with a puppy. Depending on the mood, she would greet you with either a "Hello!" or a curse, prompting contradictory reactions.

As we found out later, the child has no father and her mother is hearing impaired and she also suffers from a congenital abnormality. Also, her big brother is semi-illiterate and he’s not involved in the girl's upbringing and education. The three live with the grandfather who is very ill for years.

What could be the future of this child?

On the recommendation of his teachers, a few years ago this child was enrolled in Day Care Center "Heidi House". Although she spent only a few days in kindergarten because of the large numar of absences she was forced to repeat the preparatory group, from the center has not missed a day unmotivated. In the first year, she found it difficult to integrate and adapt. Reacting to the negative attitude of children, she developed an aggressive defence system, both physically and verbally, manifesting a very low self-esteem.

Under the project "Development of social services for children at risk", she receives psychological support services and extracurricular activities. Also, she participated in the first trip of her life. She's very involved in all activities like a sponge trying to absorb all the information that is offered (on behaviour, health, culture, the arts, etc.). Although it was very difficult for her to be accepted by colleagues, she succeeded in developing relations of friendship. Now, she can communicate more easily, more positive, accept to lose and relate positively with others.

According to school teacher her results are good, she’s attentive in class, has a good ability to accumulate knowledge and motivation for learning. If she’s asked, the girl says she wants to become a teacher.

*

A., 13 years. At the first meeting with her in the day care center, I had the impression that she’s a child with special educational needs. Her face was inert, immobile, without a trace of smile. In the days that followed, I understood that it was just sad, tired and matured too early. Longing for her mother away and poverty had made it a monument of suffering.

Her mother is at work in southern Italy for several years now, working hard to send money to her five children left at home and husband. The two parents are working for many years to raise their two-room house in which they can live decently with their five children. A. is the only girl in a house full of boys and, as she says, already knows how to do everything.

Although he had no great academic results, because I wanted to work a lot and reward, we selected to participate in the largest camp organized by the Foundation in July 2015. That could see that the world is bigger and it's nice to travel and meet new people.

Since opening day center in June 2015 he attended daily to all programs of the center, has recovered much of loopholes, worked his ass off, and new team center, with her and our work started to pay off. Slowly A. is changing: she laughs, it's cheerful, optimistic, full of confidence, and dreams of becoming a veterinarian. We believe that the project will change her destiny, we believe.

*

P., 15, is a special needs child from the country, the first child of a large family. I learned about him in an unfortunate situation, when local press brought his case to public attention: it seemed that his behaviour at school forced the limits of patience of a teacher who applied him some physics correction. The teacher was known as dedicated, loved and respected in the community. From the whole story, the family did not win anything, not even compassion.

P.'s story gave us the impetus to create proximity support services for children with special needs and their families tested, especially to those with low family incomes.

Today, P. receives therapy services applied at YANA House, do physical therapy and occupational therapy, attend psychological counselling group sessions with other children. Participation in these activities helped him to be understood and accepted by others, even managed to work through some conflicts with some people in the entourage. His parents are offered parental counselling service to learn to live better as parents of a child with special needs.

There are days when we see how P.’s face is a smile, a particularly precious one.

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