Training to support disability – We did it !

Training for parents of disabled children in Colombia
Thursday 14 January 2021 01:00
Soeur María Candelaria Corva Lozano
We did it

This Colombian project financed the materials necessary to set up a "parents' school" for the families of disabled children at the Marillac Foundation. The objective was to generate a change in the beliefs, attitudes and understanding of the parents towards their children and to continue the efforts made by the young people at the centre during their time at home.

Sister María Candelaria tells us:

The steps taken to develop this project were as follows

1. Formulation of problems, needs and management alternatives through workshops with parents, teachers and the team of therapists and psychologists. (October / November 2019)

2. Development of the Physiological Excellence, Social Excellence, Emotional Excellence and Stimulation Activities workshop, determination of the necessary materials to be used to conduct the workshops and lectures (September / November 2020)

- Design of a school booklet suitable for parents
- Design of a card game to facilitate communication
- Design of a daily routine program

3. Development of the videos and the programme of the parents' school. (October / November 2020)

4. Printing of materials for the Parent School workshops. (December 2020)

This project will be presented to the student community from February 2021, when the new school year starts.
The development of this project and the Parent School programme has been greatly affected by the emergency measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In March, we were forced to close the Fundación Marillac school facilities in San Gil, and it was not until July, once organised, that we were able to start the home school programme. It was set up with great effort, as the teachers had to go to the houses and farms of our students, often travelling up to 2 hours from the school.

In accordance with security measures, it has not yet been possible to organise workshops, meetings or encounters with parents, which is why the project could not be implemented this year.

The development of the video and digital materials could be done remotely and the project team continues to make the best progress. Unfortunately the contracts of the therapists and psychologists had to be suspended for the time being.

The project is therefore not quite finished, but it is ready: the implementation phase of the workshops, discussions and socialisation with the community of San Gil and the local government will be carried out during the school year 2021, if the emergency measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic allow it.

Each material (cards, videos, etc.) has been developed with the mission of supporting the Institution's efforts in the training, schooling and rehabilitation of our students with cognitive, intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities.

Our students with severe brain injuries who cannot speak and need to use special communication mechanisms will benefit from our facilitated communication cards.

These include 100 pictures with words, actions, routines, people, food and basic things that will enable them to communicate with their families, being able to select what is on their minds. Parents who do not know sign language and do not know how to communicate with their children can do communication activities. These cards will allow them to know if their children want to eat, what part of their body hurts or what emotions they are feeling. This will help young people in their emotional process and increase their acceptance by society.

On the other hand, the 14 basic daily routines programme will enable children with cognitive and intellectual disabilities (i.e. all children on the autism spectrum) to increase their basic daily skills and learn to dress, wash their hands, eat, understand daily routines and determine their emotions through pictures. Parents and educators will be able to improve their communication and develop training processes that were not possible before.

The videos are produced in plain language so that parents, family members, carers and the wider community are reached with a friendly message of inclusion, respect and tolerance for the different disabilities that exist.

The beneficiaries

The Fúndacion Marillac estimates that in 2021, 40 students will be enrolled for the new school year. The project will therefore benefit an average of 160 family members, including parents, siblings and close family members.

The socialisation of this programme through the Municipal Governments will benefit more than 500 families who have been identified in the municipality's disability programmes. We do not know the number of families with disabilities in neighbouring municipalities with whom we intend to share this beautiful project.

The development of this material provides us, as an institution, with better mechanisms to disseminate the message we want to get across to parents, family members, carers and the community at large.

Our students will be the direct beneficiaries for many years to come and we know that with the support we receive, we will continue to work towards our mission of promoting respect and support for these young people.

We know that once we have carried out the workshops of the parents' school programme, conducted discussions with our entire educational community and socialised with the community of San Gil, Socorro, Paramos, Valle de San José, Mogotes and other neighbouring municipalities, we will be able to launch a movement for the promotion and acceptance of disability. In this way, we will be able to generate the attitudes of inclusion necessary for the future of our students.

Parents' school video: here