On March, 5, Office for a Democratic Belarus (Brussels) in partnership with the "Good Jam for Good People" initiative organised a creative workshop for children with autism who study in the integration class of Minsk City Secondary School No. 5. Together with artist Sophie Sadouskaya, kids made gifts for the International Women's day: they crafted colourful applique cards and decorated linen bags with their own drawings.
Olga Stuzhinskaya, (second on the left), Director of the Office for a Democratic Belarus
The integration class created last year was the first one in Belarus to include children with autism. Currently there are three students who have the opportunity to attend classes on certain subjects together with the rest of the students. Autistic children and their classmates attend classes on physical education, Russian language, art, music and sometimes maths together.
Sophie Sadovskaya (second on the left), artist
According to a speech therapist and teacher Natalia Vauchok, five more classes like this have been created in Belarus in the past academic year. All of them have integrational curricula, which include both corrective classes (3 classes per week) and regular subjects. During PE lessons children with autism do exercises and play games together with other students.
Specialized lessons include corrective activities for thinking skills development and incorporate elements of the ABA programme. The teacher explained that these individualised curricula have been developed with support from their Moscow counterparts who work in a resource class for children with autism. "We cooperate with them, and they help us examine children: we will send them a video and they will watch it and give their opinions", says Natalia Vauchok.
According to teacher Valiantsina Davydkova, classmates easily accepted children with autism as their equals: "Our children are wiser than we are: they embraced them and immediately got it all sorted out. You should see how good they are with them and how they protect them! They are always ready to help, they get kids to play together, and no one tries to avoid them. They are always treated as equals".
Valentina Davydkova, primary school teacher
Before the integrational class was opened, teachers and representatives of the "Good Jam for Good People" initiative would provide training and organize conversations with parents and children.
Integrational education was organized with support from school administration. "It was not easy: at first the kids’ attention span did not exceed 5-7 minutes. Today they can sit through the whole lesson. Zhenya comes to us to study maths: today he can already come to the blackboard, communicate, understand what I'm asking, he works along with the rest of the class throughout all of the 45 minutes. He solves problems in his own way – he might not be able to explain the sequence of some actions, but he provides correct answers ", - adds Valiantsina Davydkova.
At the moment students with autism little by little get involved in school performances together with other students.
During the master class which was held on March, 5, children with autism learned creative skills and got valuable experience of taking part in a children's workshop. Psychology coaches and supervisors used the workshop, which was organised with support from ODB, as an additional tool to enhance the development of autistic children.
The atmosphere during the workshop was very amicable: aside from making March 8 presents for their mothers, children also received lots of positive emotions.
Read more: Week-end with the Good Jam for Good People