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April 2007 "Development of Home Based Education Strategies for Youth with Disabilities"

Kathleen photo Human Dignity and Peace (HDP) Foundation in cooperation with Open Society Institute (OSI) successfully completed an 8-month grant (September 1, 2005-May 1, 2006) for the “Development of Home-Based Education Strategies for Youth with Disabilities”, piloted in 2 districts in Yerevan: Shengavit and Malatia-Sebastia. The overall goal of the project was to develop strategies for improving education for home bound youth with disabilities.

Home-bound youth were the target for this project. HDP monitored and assessed the educational arrangements for home-bound through door-to-door checking, working closely with district polyclinics, Inclusive and regular public schools, Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and non-government organizations (NGOs).

The monitoring of home education for disabled children showed that:

  • Persons with disabilities are mostly from poor families (65-70%) causing additional hardships;
  • Families of youth with disabilities are not aware of their rights;
  • Existing stigma and prejudice in the society: parents do not want their children ridiculed in public; school community, including teachers and parents are not ready to accept youth with special needs;
  • Resistance in Special schools for releasing their students to go to public schools;
  • School environments are unprepared and handicap-inaccessible (relevant building facilities, classrooms, toilets, etc.);
  • Lack of special education teachers, social workers, psychologists, therapists; Absence of teachers’ experience in working with children with special needs at schools or homes;
  • Lack of funds to allow school management to create interest among teachers to provide home education to children with special needs.

Rudik photo Success Story - Sahakyan Rudik is now receiving homebound services from a local teacher. Kathleen Paduano was able to expand his program to include some developmental and therapeutic interventions. This included parent/volunteer training to expand Rudik’s opportunities to learn. An easel made of cardboard was developed for him, so he was able to work on his homework independently while sitting in his favorite chair. Fine motor strengthening activities and academic books were also provided.

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During the project HDP created a working group which helped us to find ways for engagement in either home education or attending a Community center which would provide the necessary services for the children. We also worked very closely with the Ministru of Education and Science: this partnership resulted in drafting a Government Decree on “Home Education for Persons with Special Needs outside Mainstream Education for Short or Long Periods of Time.” We believe this is an important step towards achieving education for all at a national level. This document lays out key terms, conditions and mechanisms for organizing home or alternative education. It clearly lays out the sources of funding for home education, the roles and responsibilities of the involved parties, i.e., parents, schools and teachers. The document contains four main sections:

  • Who is responsible for the education of the homebound youth with special needs;
  • Who is administrating the process and how;
  • Roles and responsibilities of public schools, teachers and parents;
  • Evaluation and monitoring of results of home education for youth with special needs.

Photo of published pamphlets Another achievement of this effort was the many activities were carried out by volunteers. We were able to recruit 10 volunteers to work on this project. We offered recent graduates and current university students an opportunity to have a significant work experience and exposure to this group of children.
Two international volunteers spent significant amount of time on this activity in different capacities. Earl Watt, PhD, with over 10 years of experience in statistics and data-base development, trained HDP staff to use a computer software program, to develop a database that is adaptable to the various needs of the stakeholders.

Kathleen Paduano, Occupational Therapist, Occupational Therapist, M.Ed., with over 20 years of experience working with children with special needs in the US, provided training to local therapists in rehabilitation and pre-vocational training for children with disabilities.

As part of our advocacy and awareness campaign, HDP published 500 copies of “Education for Life with Dignity” booklet and distributed to all project participants, stakeholders, ministries, and other interested parties. The Booklet summarizes the current situation in Armenia regarding home education for youth with disabilities, major findings and observations illustrated with case studies, analysis of the Armenian legislature on education for persons with disabilities and recommendations. It also contains the Government Decree that was drafted during this activity.

In, summary HDP was able to develop a data collection system as the first step in the process to provide educational services to homebound students with disabilities. We were able to increase our understanding of the complexity of this issue through our collaboration with the coalition “Education for All.” From this, we worked with MOES and developed a Government Decree/KARG that clearly defines the process for providing education to the homebound youth. We realized the importance of parent education in the process, and hope to, in the future, train parents to advocate for education for their children in the public schools. A small group of professionals were trained in techniques to facilitate “parents as teachers”. The importance of incorporating functional activities into the child’s home life was outlined. We were able to provide home programs to several students as part of our training program. HDP is committed to serve youth and promote their education: findings and lessons learned during this important effort will be used in our future programs.




 

 

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