Why children with disabilities should be spared and as a boarding mutilate a child’s life: an interview with Wes Granger

Wes Granger works with people with disabilities twenty years after moving to New Zealand. Two years later he came to Longmont (USA), where he began working with children and adults with challenging behavior. Wes also three years, helped raise three adopted teenagers with disabilities. He is now completing training at the training school of nurses. Kiev Wes called for the team of experts to share their experience of helping children with disabilities, at the invitation of the Institute of social and economic research.

By the way, in Ukraine 167 thousand children with disabilities, and this is 2% of the total child population. People with special needs predominantly isolated from healthy peers. But every third Ukrainian, according to a survey by UNICEF said that child with a disability can receive assistance only at the boarding school. Journalist “Today” talked to Wes Granger on the situation of people with special needs in Ukraine.

“Ukraine is like America 50 years ago”

Wes along with his wife Whitney in the United States engaged in the behavior problems of people with disabilities. Photo courtesy of ISCED

– Wes, tell us about your activities in the United States. How do you help people with disabilities?

– I help children and adults with disabilities. Imagine!’s company in which I work, is engaged in the socialization and development of people with disabilities. This organization is a complex of small houses group living. Our is a behavioral house, we are engaged in behavioural problems. My wife and Whitney help three women with disabilities. We go with them to shop, support their participation in local community life. These women are wonderful people, but they need help. They have difficulty with behavior in society. For this, we establish friendly relations with them. Make it clear that we care about that we care about them, and also use positive encouragement instead of punishment.

– You are in Ukraine for several days and probably have time to look at the situation of children with disabilities in our country. How would you describe what he saw?

– I think you are moving in the right direction. Ukraine resembles America 50 years ago when she began to “turn to life” of people with disabilities. I think that everything that is done for the best. Until society becomes accustomed to accept people with disabilities. American society also think, how more people with disabilities to integrate into their life.

– From the Soviet era children with disabilities were isolated from society in institutions. Although now Ukraine away from it, people still believe that it is in boarding schools children with special needs will receive more help. As in fact, the boarding school effect on children?

– In my experience, children with disabilities are very difficult to socialize in boarding schools and get some experience. Also, the child may not receive the necessary social skills that would affect cognitive development and, in principle, on the General development. Much more benefits when a child remains in the family, and family members are taught how best to handle it. My friend spent his childhood in a boarding school. Every time I ask about the time she was crying. All of her memories are terrible.

– In 2015, the UNICEF survey, only 13% of respondents said that they are ready to accept people with disabilities as friends, family members, or to adopt a child with special needs in society of healthy children. Why so few people are tolerant towards children with disabilities?

That kind of reaction due to insufficient awareness and lack of understanding of these children. We see a strange behavior for us: some yelling, weird gestures, and people start to worry about your child. Due to the lack of knowledge on how to decipher this behavior, there is a failure. But when you start to know more people then you realize that they really are a lovely – open and sincere. This is a very enriching life as a child with a disability and the society, as they learn to communicate and live offers new opportunities for the community.

“Tolerance should be brought up from childhood”

In the United States and Western Europe, people with disabilities are full members of society, they take an active part in local community life, hold jobs and have fun. What you need to do to Ukrainians began to accept people with special needs?

– You are absolutely right, but the US passed a difficult way. It all starts with small steps, to change his perception. You need to put aside the fears and just to talk to the parents of children with disabilities, to learn more about their lives. Tolerance, the need to educate children, to unite children with special needs with healthy so they learn from each other as children communicate with each other very simply. It starts not so much with society, how many of every heart.

Photo courtesy of ISCED

– In Ukraine actively discussed large-scale implementation of inclusive education. Its introduction must be accompanied by the closing of most boarding schools and children with special needs must transfer to secondary school. What is the role of inclusive schools in the formation of a child with special needs and why it should be introduced?

– I do not know how to look school with inclusive education in Ukraine. We have in the United States in such schools there are separate classes for children with special needs and regular classes separately. It is necessary to give children with disabilities the necessary support because the teaching techniques are different. But it is very important that the children were in the same place for the reasons I gave earlier. I want to say that schools with inclusive education is just primary education. We adults already have their own prejudices, their children haven’t, it plays an important role in the formation of an inclusive society. Society it is important to understand that all are one. To exclude a specific group of people from your part would be not that wrong, that’s impossible. This group of people is not going anywhere and they will have to meet. When implementing inclusive approaches with time we understand that we are not just one United community, we are all one family that should support each other and help to develop.

Society it is important to understand that all are one. To exclude a specific group of people from your part would be not that wrong, that’s impossible. This group of people is not going anywhere and they will have to meet. When implementing inclusive approaches with time we understand that we are not just one United community, we are all one family that should support each other and help to develop.

– I have spoken with several heads of schools, and most of them are against inclusive education. They believe that children with special needs face the cruelty of classmates and not getting enough attention from the teachers. How to avoid it?

– That’s not my specialty, but I can say that in any case such a relationship can not be avoided. Don’t know about you, but I was in high school teased is a reality of life. We are not trying to create a special children’s shelter, we are trying applies to children with disabilities in the same way as a normal person. As I said, schools are divided the classes, but lunch and other activities, the students spend together. But in some schools there are separate canteens, etc. In classes with inclusive education employs specially trained teachers that know how to communicate with these children. Also I would urge you to look at the statistics of those countries that refused boarding schools in favor of inclusive education. To skeptics just appreciated the level of education and achievements of those children who went to schools with inclusive education.

“The consistent exercise of pity teaches children with disabilities to “learned helplessness”

– Among children with disabilities there are many able to art or science. As a family to reveal the potential of a child with special needs?

– First of all to treat the child as usual. Need to unlock its potential as well, as if he was raised healthy. It is very important to let the child know that you are waiting for something. There is such a term as “memorized helplessness” is when we feel sorry for the child and we do everything instead of him. However, he loses his basic skills, we take away his opportunity to develop even basic things. It’s important to let the child know what is expected of him that he was the motivation to develop. I believe that child it is important to do the way we want it to be, and just give it acccess their potential – then we will see his capabilities, what he has talent. You need not to search the child itself, but look for his personality. When we find in children the desire to which they will have the desire, then they will be successful.

Photo courtesy of ISCED

– In the Ukrainian society to people with special needs are treated with pity, as helpless. If so to treat the child, how will this affect his future?

– People with disabilities need to show pity, as any other person who is going through a difficult phase. But the constant manifestation of pity teaches them the already mentioned “learned helplessness”. In this case, they will not develop. This is very dangerous – to have pity. Besides, such an attitude is disrespectful. So a healthy person shows a person with a disability that the lower status. But such people can make the same part as we do: walk, drink beer, chat and so on.

– In Ukraine there is no single system of early intervention. This could help the child to avoid disability in the first years of life. How the early intervention system works in the US?

In the organization where I work, there is a separate building for early intervention. There are children from birth. Once diagnosed, the specialists teach parents to interact with different types of behavior, recommend which doctors to contact. There are different programs for supervision. But children are not separated from parents, and Vice versa – teach the family how to help the child to develop. Statistics show that the sooner you to apply a mechanism of early intervention, the more positively it affects the child.

– How the state should interact with the family that is raising a child with special needs?

I know that my organization receives funding from the state, donors and contributions from family or patrons. The government, for its part, as a provider of social services allocates money for certain needs, which requires one or the other family. In principle, the state withdraws from being able to participate in family life. The government “will not go” in the house, and acts more as an assistant financial Manager. If the state you need, then it helps, otherwise don’t interfere.

First you asked me what I see in Ukraine. Me and my team are very impressed that in Ukraine there are centers for children. We came here for a conference for people who are raising or helping people with special needs. I am personally very touched that people are now ready to do something. This interaction, indifferent, desire to grow – very nice to see. I see what happened in the US 50 years ago, when we were just starting your progress along the way. It all starts not with government but with the change of people’s hearts, their relationship to people with special needs. This is a crucial factor. The state is also very important, but it all starts with us.