Scientific-Practical Conference "Medical, Psychological and Educational Aspects of Managing Children with Special Needs"
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Scientific-Practical Conference "Medical, Psychological and Educational Aspects of Managing Children with Special Needs"

Tetyana Vihovska, M.D.
Head of the Volyn OMNI-Center

On September 26-29, 2006 the II International Scientific-Practical Conference of the "Contemporary Approaches to Integration and Socialization of Special Needs Children" cycle took place in Lutsk. The conference was dedicated to medical, psychological and educational aspects of managing children with special needs. It was held at the Psychology Department of the Lesya Ukrayinka Volyn State University which has a collaborative agreement with the OMNI-Net regarding development of resources to work with children having developmental problems. The co-organizers of the conference were Health Care Department of the Volyn Regional State Administration and US charitable organizations - Caring Partners International (President Roy W. Cline, Ohio, USA) and Ukraine Medical Outreach (Medical Director Dr. James J. Peipon, Kyiv, Ukraine). The main topics of the conference included: developmental pediatrics and early intervention, psychological support of a special needs child, pathology of speech and language, therapy and special education.

Among the conference participants there were pediatricians, rehabilitologists, pediatric neurologists, pediatric psychiatrists, family physicians, social workers, psychology teachers, practical psychologists from medical, educational and social protection facilities, speech therapists, special teachers, teachers of combined pre-school institutions, teachers of primary schools of intensive educational correction, parents of special needs children.

During the conference
During the conference

Prominent specialists and scientists from USA shared their experience in the sphere of early rehabilitation of special needs children. The group was headed by a well-known physician and a scientist Professor of Pediatrics of the Cincinnati University Medical School Dr. Robert Lerer. To a great extent it was his personal effort and enthusiasm in making the tremendous preparatory work to search for lecturers, develop the conference program and conduct all the necessary organizational activities to make the trip to Ukraine possible. His team consisted of specialists from 13 US states.

Before the conference beginning there was held a press conference for Ukrainian national and local press, radio and television. The journalists were particularly interested in living conditions for disabled people in USA, social guarantees, right to work, etc.

About 320 participants took part at the conference. Besides Volyn people there were 20 representatives of Rivne Oblast, as well as people from Khmelnytsky OMNI-Center and Chernivtsi State University. In addition to participation at the plenary and sectional meetings the conference participants could visit the Volyn Regional Specialized Children's Home and Center of Early Social Rehabilitation of Disabled Children. Visiting the Volyn Regional Children's Territorial Medical Center the conference participants viewed its Neonatal Center and the Volyn OMNI-Center. OMNI-Net Information Coordinator Serhiy Lapchenko told about existing in the center information resources, International Birth Defects Information Systems (IBIS) website, showed the last scientific publications based on birth defects monitoring data in Polissya region.

On September 28, 2006 in the Volyn State University library there was held a presentation of the Ukrainian edition of "Small Steps" Early Intervention Program for Children with Developmental Delays. This book is created by a group of scientists from the Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia); it is one of the most popular early intervention resources in the world. Australian colleagues gave International Children's OMNI-Net Not-For-Profit Organization the right to translate the manual into Ukrainian and publish it in Ukraine.

Presentation of Ukrainian edition of "Small Steps"
Presentation of Ukrainian edition of "Small Steps"

"Small Steps" is an early intervention program to stimulate children of 0-4 years of age with developmental delays. The manual is mainly meant for parents having mentally retarded children. It contains practical advices how to teach children at home. The main postulate of "Small Steps" is that parents are the best teachers of their child. The program can be also used by teachers, physicians and students. There are eight books in the set:

The "Small Steps" program is developed by M. Peiterse and R. Treloar in collaboration with S. Cairns, D. Uther, E, Brar (Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia). The book is translated into Ukrainian under the support of the Ukraine Special Needs Orphanages Fund (Virginia, USA) and International Children's OMNI-Net Not-For-Profit Organization.

The presentation was open by Prof. T. Ponimanska (professor of pedagogics, Department Head of the Rivne State Humanitarian University). As the scientific editor of the Ukrainian edition Prof. T. Ponimanska emphasized the uniqueness of the manual, its worldwide popularity among both professionals and parents. During the presentation there were the speeches by L. Yevtushok (Head of Executive Committee of the International Children's OMNI-Net Not-For-Profit Organization), O. Melnyk (Head of Excutive Committee of the Volyn Regional Public Organization of Parents of Children with Down Syndrome and Other Developmental Disorders), H. Shulha (Assistant Chief Editor of the Ukrainian weekly newspaper "Visnyk"). It is "Visnyk" which helped to print the books at the proper time and in good quality.

The first 10 copies were given to representatives of the regional specialized children's homes of Lutsk and Rivne cities, to Director of the Volodymyr-Volynsky Family Type Children's Home N. Buchkovska, to Executive Committee Head of the Volyn Regional Public Organization of Parents of Children with Down Syndrome and Other Developmental Disorders O. Melnyk, and to some other specialized facilities working with children of early age with developmental disabilities.

On September 30 after the conference closure the American guests were invited by Rivne oblast and city authorities to visit the city of Rivne. The aim of the visit included acquaintance with OMNI-Net activities (Rivne OMNI-Center in particular), its resources and scientific research. The guests knew about the oblast birth defects and neonatal registries. They showed much interest in the information about the Rivne and Kherson teams' pilot research to find prenatal markers of fetal alcohol syndrome disorders which is carried out together with the California University.

Also the guests became familiarized with the activities of the Early Intervention Educational and Social Rehabilitation Center for Special Needs Children "Pahinets". This unique facility is the first state early intervention center in Ukraine. It was created due to cooperation of the Rivne Association of Special Needs Children Parents, local authorities and OMNI-Net. "Pahinets" small children and their mothers met the guests with bread and salt (big hospitality). The center Director T. Savchuk told about the facility history, support and understanding of their problems by the city administration, importance of cooperation with OMNI-Net.

American specialists among the Pahinets children
American specialists among the Pahinets children

At the end of the visit their was a round table discussion which summed up the conference results, drew up plans for further collaboration regarding development of early rehabilitation resources for special needs children, common scientific research, telemedical consultations, informational and resource support.

Date of report: November 14, 2006

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