Workshop on disabled children has international implications Educators from around the world attend seminar

February 05, 1997|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

Educators from developing countries around the world visited staff members at Woodside Elementary School yesterday to share ideas on how to include disabled children in regular classes and provide them with needed help.

"Children with Disabilities: The World's Promise," a global workshop on children with disabilities in developing countries, will continue through Friday at the Washington Hilton Towers. A pre-conference seminar was held at Woodside, where children with disabilities are put into regular classrooms as soon as they start school.

Attitudes are changing in his country, said Ajun Bahadur Bista, chief of basic and primary education for the Ministry of Education in Nepal.

"They used to hide the children with disabilities in the home, not letting other family members or the community know they had that problem," Bista said.

Now, Bista said, "we're trying to bring the children with disabilities to the schools as early as possible, and in many of these schools we're trying to provide some support to the teachers and students."

Other workshop participants came from Brazil, Cambodia, Cape Verde, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Slovenia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Yugoslavia.

Money, staffing lacking

Helping children with disabilities requires staffing and money that can be in short supply in developing countries.

UNICEF, a sponsor of the workshop, estimates that 140 million children with disabilities live in such countries. Many are victims of land mines in war-torn areas or suffer from a lack of prenatal care and infant malnutrition. Some become disabled as a result of long days spent working in unhealthy conditions in places without child labor laws.

The main problem faced by those in other countries, said Edward Feinberg, program manager for the Infants and Toddlers program at Woodside, is that "they don't have an organized system to work with families in the home and provide physical therapy and speech therapy."

There are no trained specialists to work with families of children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or mental retardation.

As a result, such children are put into institutions.

For 1 1/2 hours, Feinberg and other staff members of the county's Infants and Toddlers program told participants how the United States developed its system of care for disabled children.

But it was Renie Quan, 41, of Laurel who helped participants grasp what a program such as Woodside's can mean by telling the story of her 3-year-old son, David, who has an unknown learning delay. David now attends Ruth P. Eason Special School.

When David was diagnosed, Quan said, she and her husband, Brent, 39, "fought in every direction not to accept this, not to believe this."

The Infants and Toddlers program provided support for them and help for their son.

'A long way to go'

Now David is "more calm. He's more attentive. He's not as hyper as he used to be. We still have a long way to go, but we have a start," Quan told participants as she rocked Rachel, her 5 1/2 month-old daughter.

Quan said she hoped that by sharing her son's story, she could "make a difference in your countries in starting a program like this."

Namita Jacob of India, who works in Bombay and New Delhi with disabled children, said, "Across the board, parents go through the same stress, the same trauma. It's good to have our attention drawn to that as much as possible.

"It reminds us that despite the resources available in America," she said, "they have heartaches like everybody else."

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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