Volume: 5, Issue: 4


Specific nature of arranging educational services for children with severe and multiple developmental disabilities (from practical experience)
Кицул Н.С. [about] , Комиссарова, А. А. [about]

KEY WORDS: severe and multiple developmental disabilities, educational intervention, satisfaction of physical and social skills, special school arrangements and practice.
ABSTRACT: This paper gives a brief description of different types of services provided at the Rehabilitation Center for Children and Young Adults with Special Needs in Kurchatov, Kursk Region.

The quality of an individual life depends on many factors. Among them are basic (physiological) needs, necessary for a human body to function, and social (psychological, higher) ones inherent in any individual and characterizing a human being as a personality. The degree to which such needs are satisfied may influence various individual aspects and define the quality of a person’s life [13;15]. The former, or physical survival needs, are assessed by ‘calculation’ and may be satisfied if there is a certain available budget comparable to the so-called “consumer goods basket.”

The government employs a great number of ways to provide for people’s physical survival including, for example, attempts to balance between the minimum pay and the price of the consumer goods basket, or available social welfare support in the form of mandated paid sick leaves, students’ stipends, retirement payments, and financial support in case of various disabilities.

Satisfaction of people’s physical needs beyond the survival level may in itself be considered a basic human prerequisite. The quality of life is largely influenced by various ads functioning as people’s motives. Human activities beyond physical survival are diverse, competitive in their nature, and depend on various external factors as well as individual abilities. At the same time, these activities also contribute to the technological progress and increasingly sophisticated environment [1].

Most people have a relatively equal initial level of inborn abilities. Equal rights provided by the government for people to develop their abilities and acquire a certain level of education (in our case, it is secondary education) may lead to a great number of life patterns in their social lives [14].

However, when the level of someone’s abilities is significantly lower than average, such an individual does not only fail to compete in gaining quality of his satisfied needs but also often becomes unable to even independently satisfy his own survival needs and, without someone else’s help, he or she may just die.

There are various ways to save the lives of people with severe disabilities. Such help may be of social, medical, psychological, and financial nature. Social aid, for example, may take the form of providing an accessible environment or an attendant in everyday activities. When the required assistance needs to be constant and sustained, the source of such assistance becomes the next problem to face. It should be noted that the government as a guaranteed source of survival support might not always provide the expected amount and quality assistance.

Significant changes are currently taking place in the sphere of social support to people whose abilities do not let them be independent in their own daily activities. Such changes include direct financial assistance to the family, improved accessible environment, and help in daily routine. The latter is realized by teaching children with severe disabilities to acquire (from early childhood) basic sanitary and hygienic, daily living and other physical and social skills. While the child grows, the acquired skills become part of his/her self-supporting activity to satisfy needs in nutrition, comfort, rest, socializing, etc. [2; 3; 5].

Problems in the above teaching practice are caused by the fact that such children are raised in a special boarding institution with their needs constantly satisfied by support staff and, consequently, such children have practically no opportunity to participate in their own life supporting activity. As a result, there is no need for the above training or relevant teaching support. When such a child is raised in a family, the parents take all the necessary care, thus losing the time for their offspring to acquire all necessary skills.

If the resulting ‘closed loop’ is to be broken, we need special needs’ experts – teachers and psychologists – to develop research-based but also simple and demonstrable educational programs for children with severe learning and occupational disabilities to acquire a whole range of attainable self-supporting skills. The goal of teaching children with severe disabilities to acquire socially acceptable self-supporting skills may contribute not only to their positive behavior support but also to their successful adaptation and socialization in the community [10;11;12].

Within the last 15 years the Rehabilitation Center for Children and Young Adults with Special Needs (located in Kurchatov, Kursk Region) has been providing special educational services to children and young people whose social status is defined as “disabled since childhood.” Our special educational services are of purely practical character and aimed at fostering life skills which will enable our students to duly achieve maximum domestic self-sufficiency and be active participants in the process of satisfying their own needs. The Center programs also contribute to the students’ better socialization and social adaptation.

The abovementioned goals of special needs education for people identified as “disabled since childhood” meet the requirements stipulated in the Draft of Special Federal Educational Standard [4; 5; 8].

Educational practice of the Rehabilitation Center is arranged in accordance with the students’ ages as well as their approximate intellectual and occupational development levels.

Based on the results of the thorough medical and social evaluation, each student may get an individual integral “prognosis” classified as ‘independent,’ ‘partially dependent,’ or ‘totally dependent.’ Our specialists take into consideration these characteristics and individual disabilities’ indicators and based them, they select the most appropriate educational interventions, types of the ‘educational environment’, and the amount of help needed for every student. Thus, the Center designs individual educational trajectories for students with disabilities who may find it impossible to receive mainstream educational services [18].

The current specifics of education for people with severe disabilities have resulted in the situation when most first comers to the Center demonstrate a very poor (if any at all) level of self-supporting life skills. This fact explains the necessity not only to hold special classes of social and domestic orientation in the curriculum for all target groups but also to offer a range of facilitating activities to compensate for the skills our students are “unable to master.” Such classes are crucial especially for the students attending our Department of ‘educational intervention’ because their age coincides with the time period when it is natural for most needs to appear, and the children’s interest in unassisted satisfaction of their needs is natural. 

Different categories of children have a tendency to reveal special educational needs caused by specific psychological disorders and requiring different and individually designed educational patterns [9; 10].

Our Rehabilitation Center has two major departments, but in this paper we describe just one of them – the Department of ‘educational intervention’– which provides ‘correctional’ and developmental help to children with disabilities, ages 3 through 18. Most of them either could not be admitted to other educational institutions or were dismissed from them due to various reasons.

Since its establishment, the Center has been trying to satisfy the needs of such children and develop their feedback skills so they may be able to make their needs known to others in many possible ways. We also foster the development of various life-supporting skills.

The Department of ‘educational intervention’ consists of two preschool and four school groups of children with the total of 47 full-time students divided into four categories according to the prevailing disabilities:

  • Cerebral spastic infantile paralysis and other motor disturbances –18;
  • A wide range of autistic disorders – 8;
  • Down syndrome – 6;
  • Cognitive impairment disorders – 15.

10 children have minor speech disorders, 11 children suffer from severe speech pathologies while 16 children do not have expressive speech at all.

We tried to assign our children to different groups in accordance with the Concept of the Federal Educational Standard for Children with Disabilities and came to the following:

  • First type (Type A) – 3 children,
  • Second type (Type B) – 3 children,
  • Third type (Type C) – 6 children,
  • Fourth type (Type D) – 35 children (mostly with severe and multiple developmental disabilities).

Among 47 attendees of the ‘educational intervention’ department, 15 children take individual educational programs designed by a specialized (‘correctional’) school of the 8th type, and 4 children take programs designed by a comprehensive school. Our Center provides space for visiting schoolteachers who conduct individual classes for an increasing number of children with disabilities.

For a number of reasons, children with disabilities fall out of the general cultural environment, and therefore, the goal of special education is to introduce this general culture to them. To fill this “social gap” and bring every child into the general cultural environment, we need specially designed roundabout educational routes involving special objectives and areas as well as specific methods and teaching aids, which are not needed in mainstream schools with regular schoolchildren.

Efficient education for children with disabilities should take into account basic special needs characteristics specified by the Concept of the Federal Educational Standard for Children with Disabilities.  From the moment a child enters the Center, our teachers and other specialists focus on the student’s most urgent special needs while planning and realizing their educational interventions.

The main principles of our work in this direction may be briefly described as following:

  • Special needs education must start as soon as the primary developmental disorders have been identified in the child.

The minimum age of children attending our programs is three due to the fact that up to this age the child with severe disabilities has received all the required medical vaccination. In case a child needs help at an earlier age, s/he will be provided with individual services by speech therapists, psychologists, and speech pathologists.

  • Special education should contain a number of various aspects not included in the Program designed for mainstream schoolchildren, among which:
  • ‘A morning cycle’ as a subject-based conversation and activity planning for the coming day;
  • Classes in social and domestic orientation;
  • Developing skills for territorial and social ‘orientation;
  • Role-playing;
  • Practicing sanitary, hygienic, and self-supporting skills;
  • Developing spatial skills for children with cerebral spastic infantile paralysis and other relevant disorders.
  • Special education requires specially designed methods and teaching tools to find “roundabout” educational approaches.

Our activities include involvement of all organs of perception, emotional comments of the current situation, controlled speech information portions, verbal explanation of the intended action before its realization, educational interventions, the “expert’s hand on the student’s hand” method, multiple repetition and consolidation, global reading, work on Mac computers (for children with cerebral spastic infantile paralysis), project-based activities, volunteers’ help, and finally, integrated activities according to the general curriculum.

It is very important to realize the following principles in special needs education:

  • Individualized education.

Along with group activities, the Center always focuses on individual classes.

  • Special space and time organization of educational environment. 

Pedagogical correction is carried out in small and larger classrooms, a sensory room, musical room, and a gym.

  • Maximum possible expansion of educational space including activities away from the premises.

Our children participate in various sporting, cultural and environmental events, field trips, fairs, competitions and exhibitions held by the local community. It is possible to implement all these activities in a small city as they are supported and attended by the city authorities.

Reflecting on the results of our 15 years of practice, we can boast of preparing 188 students to continue their education in the following establishments:

  • Mainstream schools – 26 children;
  • Special (correctional) school of the 8th type – 27 children;
  • Individual classes organized by a mainstream school – 4 children;
  • “Special Education” classes at a mainstream school – 7 children;
  • Preschool educational establishments – 28 children;
  • Special schools (including boarding schools) – 12 children;
  • Our Center’s Department of occupational rehabilitation and therapy – 22 children;
  • 62 had to quit their education in the Center due to a number of reasons.

In conclusion, we would like to reiterate the fact that qualified special needs educators, properly organized space, use of the child’s zone of proximal development, effective educational interventions and teaching methods and tools taken together may contribute to successful socialization and social adaptation of children with severe and multiple developmental disabilities.


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