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Wednesday - From Kelly

Wednesday - From Kelly
Kelly - Wed Jun 27, 2012 @ 04:18PM
Comments: 8

Today was a day filled with mixed emotions--quite the roller coaster.  I was pretty jazzed after hearing about the inclusive elementary school in Khmelnytsky, but then I heard horror stories from the VBS group working at a Level 3/4 Orphanage.  (The level 3 means the children have mental disabilities and 4 consists of children with multiple disabilities).  There's a 17 year old boy with cerebral palsy living predominantly in a crib.  His legs are the size of my wrist and severely bent (up around his waist bent) due to lack of use and therapy.  He uses a diaper, but his caretakers (at least the other day) didn't position the diaper correctly by placing it between his legs and securing it.  They somehow, instead, wrapped it around his legs.  On top of that, his mental faculties are completely intact and he's able to communicate.  He's even a flirt!  He blows kisses to his "nannies" (caretakers).  Megan, one of USNOF's annual volunteers shared pictures of her family with him and he told her he liked her 17 year old sister.  The only reason he's in the orphanage is due to his physical limitations caused by the cerebral palsy.  So...technically....he doesn't really meet the Level 3 or 4 criteria.  I can't help but think that if he lived in the United States he'd be cared for most likely by a loving family.  He'd have a wheelchair and physical therapy and probably have a job.  He'd have a life, or at least a higher quality of life.  Another 10 year old girl, again with CP, was found several years ago by her neighbors because they could hear the screams coming from a fallout shelter out behind her home.  They called the police who eventually removed her and placed her in the orphanage.  She too has good communication and cognitive skills.  She even spoke to Jenny, another annual USNOF volunteer, in English.  She knows how to say, "What's your name?"  These stories are beyond sad; however, they're reminders for why I've been doing this the past 6 years and strengthens my commitment to USNOF.  I'm trying not to be tormented too much by these heartbreaking stories and focus on the positive changes being made in this country.  It's hard though.  There were some uplifting stories from the orphanage yesterday too.  The children thoroughly enjoyed playing with bubbles and from what everyone has said I really wish I could have heard the squeals of laughter.

We had another successful day at the conference.  Karen Decker gave her first lecture today on ADHD.  ADHD is another disorder Ukrainians are very interested in learning about because it's something they're not aware of at the child's birth since it presents itself later in life.  We had technical difficulties again so Karen's presentation ran into the second morning session, which was supposed to be Lori's literacy presentation.  Lori really needed the full amount of time to complete her presentation so we decided to mix things up and I ended up finishing my nonverbal communication strategies presentation from yesterday.  I had the perfect amount of time to complete it. In the afternoon I taught a good dozen or more people how to use Boardmaker and then consulted for the next 2 1/2 hours.  Karen continued presenting on ADHD; this time providing strategies for teachers and parents.  She had good feedback from her presentations and good conversation came out of them.  Lori also had a successful session with an interactive, hands-on lecture on adapting materials and curriculum and using adaptive equipment.  Maria (her translator) wants it to be known that Lori made her crawl on the floor to great applause.  : )  She was modeling the bear crawl, which provides sensory input and builds strength.  Lori and Karen also had several consultations in the afternoon.

The Omni Center and parents group have been taking great care of us!  They've fed us lunch every single day.  When going out to lunch the first day didn't work out they decided to have the food delivered and put out a beautiful spread.  When we barely had time to eat it even then, they started getting it in take out containers and saving it for us so that when we're finally done presenting and conferencing we can have food.  Today we finally ate lunch at 4 pm.  While the overall feeling of today was good I also became very frustrated during my consultations.  I was continually asked to explain how I set up my schedule.  How do I decide how many minutes of services to provide to my students?  How do I teach my students; in whole group or one-on-one?  Do I teach the same thing to all my children?  Do I create year long lesson plans?  For anyone that's heard me talk about my job (or complain about my job) you know that there is no simple answer to those questions.  And our systems are so vastly different that it's incredibly difficult to provide explanations or answers to those questions.  Additionally, following two days of presenting on PECS and describing the various children that can use this system I was asked, "Can PECS be used with nonverbal children?"  I know I'm being slightly ridiculous and I was trying so hard to be patient, but some of it was disheartening, especially the PECS question, after trying soooooooo hard to communicate clearly and explicitly.  Plus I was reminded over and over about how far their system, their awareness, their knowledge, etc. has to go. I have to remember that these topics or ideas are virtually brand new to them and some nuances do get lost in translation as accurate as our amazing translators are or try to be.   Pray I have patience and strength please (and an iron stomach).

I continue to have a great time and love participating in the conference; however, I am looking forward to a "day off" tomorrow.  Well, a day off from the conference.  We're still going to meet with parents and children at the camp.  I'm also really hoping to visit the Level 3/4 orphanage first hand.  I'd enjoy an opportunity to love on some beautiful children.

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