Scientific-Practical Conference "Aspects of Early Intervention"
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Scientific-Practical Conference "Aspects of Early Intervention"

Lyubov Yevtushok
OMNI-Net Medical Coordinator

During June 11-14, 2007 in Rivne there was held the Scientific-Practical Conference "Aspects of Early Intervention". The conference was held within the partnership of International Children's OMNI-Net Not-For-Profit Organization, Rivne Center of Early Educational Rehabilitation and Social Adaptation of Children with Special Needs "Pahinets", Rivne Regional Association of Special Needs Children Parents and Ukraine Special Needs Orphanages Fund (Virginia, USA; President - Mrs. Karen Feathers).

The conference became the continuation of the training activities performed by the OMNI-Net and the Ukraine Special Needs Orphanages Fund.

The Fund organized and brought to Ukraine a group of highly qualified specialists in special education and child development from 4 US and Canadian universities:

The conference was open by Mr. Vitaliy Novak (Head of Rivne City Executive Committee Education Department) and Prof. Tamara Ponimanska (Pro-Rector on Teaching Activities of Rivne State Humanitarian University, Head of Pedagogic and Preschool Psychology Chair). Head of the Rivne Center of Early Educational Rehabilitation and Social Adaptation of Children with Special Needs "Pahinets" Mrs. Tamara Savchuk also greeted the guests and the conference participants.

Mrs. K. Feathers speaking
Mrs. K. Feathers speaking

Mrs. Karen Feathers told about the aim of American and Canadian training team visit to Ukraine and introduced each team member.

During the conference Mrs. Tetyana Vihovska presented the Early Intervention Program "Small Steps". She told about the program contents and history of its publishing in Ukrainian. "Small Steps" is an important resource for parents. Using the program they will be able to follow up their children development and develop their skills at home independently, without specialists' assistance, without spending big money.

Specialists and parents from Rivne, Volyn and Khmelnytsky oblasts took part at the conference. The conference activities were held in two parallel sections: A - for specialists; B - for parents.

Section A (for specialists)

The conference was attended by 37 specialists from Lutsk, Rivne and Khmelnytsky. Speech therapists, special educators, psychologists and interested persons (parents, family members, and close relatives) could acquire some practical experience. There was held discussions of urgent questions raised by both specialists and parents, delivered a number of lectures on the themes: contemporary methods of teaching special needs children (Milieu, time delay, choice models, etc.); adaptation of special needs children to surrounding (development of "social histories"); teaching children basic concepts through specially designed books ("My Book of Colors", "My Book of Opposites", "My Book of Shapes").

June 11, 2007. The peculiarity of the first training day was giving information regarding developing teaching plans and intervention instructions for children with special needs.

June 12, 2007. The second day was characterized by informational richness of lectures. Diane Browder continued discussing basic teaching plans and instructions for children with severe birth defects. She gave recommendations regarding the "system of minimal hints", differentiated concepts of "good" and "bad" hints, presented concepts of verbal, model and physical hints. There were shown the main steps of using hints in everyday life to receive positive results and gradually reduce social isolation.

Jackie Van Lankveld in her lecture "Early Communication Strategies from Birth To Three Years" exhaustively presented contemporary communication approaches, characterized speech of children with autism, showed children assessment and rehabilitation planning.

June 13-14, 2007. The third and the forth day lectures covered the wide spectrum of questions regarding a child inclusion into society, main activities that should be conducted with a disabled child, feeding strategies for children with developmental problems, communication strategies at home, collaboration with parents.

Thus, Dianne Lowman in her lecture "Feeding Strategies for Children with Developmental Disabilities" emphasized the necessity of breast feeding. This is an important aspect for a child further development, reducing cases of child's detachment from family, establishing close emotional contact with the child. There were discussed main feeding problems caused by prematurity, respiratory problems, cerebral palsy, cleft lip and palate.

Jackie Van Lankveld described the main activities with special needs children at home. They include: teaching parents to plan a child's working day, developing tablets, graphs and choice boards. The purpose of those activities is creation of a surrounding where each participant can work successfully. For example, "choice boards" will allow a child to know the available choices: Which toys can be used? What food is accessible? What activities can be performed? Choice boards lead and control the child while making a choice.

Experienced speech therapist Deborah Arin in her lecture "Autism: Assessment and Intervention" compared autistic children with healthy ones. Thus, she indicated the necessity to continue working with such children and the possibilities of their behavior correction and their adjustability to environment. For example, a child without birth defects easily makes contacts with adults, orients in names and ideas, communicates. In his (her) turn, an autistic child cannot do that. He (she) has difficulties in contacts with adults, hardly orients in notions (can just answer the visual prompts), has poor coordination of eye contact, social smile is absent. Deborah Arin emphasized that it's their nature to be idiosyncrative (using adults as a tool), to have unformed speech, echolalia and stereotype statements, delayed echolalia and neologism usage. It's very important to sue games in developing such children. One should keep in memory that play of autistic children is monotonous and sensory limited. Deborah Arin emphasized the importance of early intervention and work of psychologists and teachers in special rehabilitation facilities.

All the training participants appreciated the practical value of the lectures and training materials. During the training participants received new books and materials, methods and toys to work with disabled children. By the way, partially funds to purchase those presents were gathered by Alice Wiggins' daughter school friends.

American and Ukrainian specialists during the conference American and Ukrainian specialists during the conference
American and Ukrainian specialists during the conference

Section B (for parents)

June 11, 2007. Practical training "Teaching Plan for Children with Severe Disabilities" was conducted by Prof. Diane Browder. In her presentation she showed parents and specialists a specific case of creating a teaching plan for a child with severe disabilities as well as some instructions to develop self-service skills. More than 20 persons took part at the practical training.

On June 12, 2007 American colleagues shared their experience regarding protecting special needs children rights. Janis Le-Sevre and Karen Feathers conducted the training "Rights and Protection". Karen Feathers told in detailed about the rights of a child with special needs and how parents can protect their children's rights beginning from the very first day of their lives. Karen and Janis shared their own experience of special needs children mothers.

On June 13, 2007 Alice K. Wiggins conducted a training of parents. It was dedicated to autism (assessment and intervention). The aim of the training was teaching parents to identify early symptoms of autism, to use basic strategies of behavior and main communication strategies. Parents and specialists got useful information regarding autism early diagnosis. Parents, who cane with their children, were the active participants of the training. They also received useful practical advices from Deborah Arin.

On June 14, 2007 Dianne Lowman held a training for parents under the title "Children with Developmental Disabilities Feeding Strategies". Parents received practical advices regarding feeding infants and children with developmental problems. Mrs. Lowman showed an early intervention program in feeding, forms of feeding observation, and sensory aspects of feeding. She gave a lot of examples and arguments why feeding should attract so much attention in the frames of the early intervention program.

Many conference participants considered speech therapy section with participation of Jackie Van Lankveld to be extremely interesting and useful. During the section activities all the present had a possibility to learn the unique practical experience of their foreign colleagues regarding early diagnosis of speech problems and practical use of correction programs in children of early age.

In general, the conference was held in close contact and collaboration with parents who needed specific practical advices of qualified specialists. Parents received valuable knowledge, practical skills and useful advices regarding further development, teaching, adaptation as well as the ability to defend and protect rights of their children in society.

During the conference there was a discussion of possible collaboration ways, scientific support of Ukrainian early intervention centers activities, informational support of early intervention programs introduction in Ukraine by posting information in IBIS site. We are happy to mention that all the lectures signed an agreement with the OMNI-Net regarding publishing their materials in Ukrainian part of IBIS site and using them in practice.

Upon the conference closing in the Rivne OMNI-Center there was held a meeting of OMNI-Net representatives Drs. L Yevtushok (Rivne), T. Vihovska (Lutsk), N. Zymak-Zakutnya (Khmelnytsky) with representatives of the Special Needs Orphanages Fund Mrs. K. Feathers and Mr. D. Miller as well as with OMPACO representative Deborah Arin.

  1. There was exchange of opinions regarding the conference results. T. Vihovska asked K. Feathers to hold the similar training in Lutsk in summer 2008.
  2. There was discussed a plan of holding in Rivne on August 27 - September 5, 2007 an intensive Bobath therapy training for physical therapists. The participants of the training will include 8-10 specialists from Rivne, 4 specialists from Lutsk, 2 specialists from Khmelnytsky. The necessary for the training equipment has been already given by the Ukrainian Special Needs Orphanages Fund.
  3. There were discussed ways of possible collaboration with OMPACO (USA):
    • training of trainers to diagnose autism (one specialist per Rivne, Lutsk, and Khmelnytsky centers) and giving a special computer diagnostic software for each of the centers;
    • developmental pediatrics - training of specialists from the OMNI-Net oblasts;
    • diet therapy of phenylketonuria children (parents addressed with a request to help them in getting specific formulas).
  4. Among the possible ways of collaboration with the Ukraine Special Needs Orphanages Fund there was emphasized the importance of informational support to early intervention system implementation, including opening in IBIS an early intervention informational channel for specialists and parents and supporting translation into Ukrainian and publishing manuals, programs, etc.

Date of report: July 4, 2007

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