Hooray, it`s happened! We conducted the first pilot project on the method of “Portage” in the orphanage in Moscow!
This is a very big joy for us! The “Portage” method has proved itself in the whole world as a successful and effective model of work on social adaptation, habilitation, rehabilitation and development of children with developmental disabilities. It is very simple and at the same time has a clear algorithm of actions and basic principles, tested over the years.
And in Russia there is a unique and very successful experience in applying the Portage method in the orphanage – in «Elatma`s orphanage for mentally retarded children» in the Ryazan Region children with severe and multiple developmental disorders (hereinafter – children with SMDD), previously “recumbent” and “undeveloped”, have been successfully developing and growing for more than 10 years! But little is known about this experience. Therefore, the fund with partners has been working for several years to launch a Portage project in the capital of Russia. Then the probability of dissemination of the method by region is much higher and it will be possible to help more children!
Pilot project “Portage” was held for 6 months, from December, 2016 until May, 2017, at the Center for the Promotion of Family Education “Doverie”. The purpose of the pilot project was the introduction of activities on the model of social practice “Portage” to work with children of “Doverie” by forming a team of specialists who know the method. And this goal was achieved – a team of “Doverie” was trained and formed, experienced consultants were provided with daily methodical support of with children.
Sessions were conducted by 3 specialists with 6 children, individually with each child, 1 hour/day, 5 days/week. A total were conducted of 396 sessions during the project. All children, in accordance with their individual abilities, have developed skills in such areas as infant stimulation, small and large motor skills, self-service, cognition, socialization, speech. Children have acquired 17 new skills and 12 skills in the process of working off. Especially important achievements were skills in the field of self-service and nutrition, children became more sociable, open, smiling, began to laugh a lot – they are very pleased with the sessions and the changes taking place with them!
It is also important that during the project the children’s attachment to specialists was formed – they are very happy when they are seen, waiting for them and do not want to leave after sessions. As a rule, in such organizations children often do not have relatives, the child only contacts a narrow circle of persons, in their group there are educators and nannies, an average of 2 people per 10-15 children; and short-term incoming defectologists and other specialists. The time given to each child is, of course, not enough. And the specialist of “Portage” becomes for the child a truly native person, often the only one who spends time with the child “one to one”, who believes in him, inspires and rejoices together successes. The project allowed specialists to pay more attention to each child, better understand what the child likes and do with it. The specialists communicated with the children even in case of their illness, when it was not possible to conduct classes – visited, talked, played, just gave them the joy of communication, thereby creating favorable conditions for development and recovery. Thanks to this, children began to trust specialists and began to believe in their abilities!
So, Natasha initially did not show interest in studies and there was no contact with a specialist. But gradually she began to respond emotionally to the teacher, to initiate communication herself, and interest to the classes also appeared. During the project with Natasha worked out 8 skills, the greatest successes – she learned how to repeat the actions of an adult and eat with a spoon! The girl as a whole became less withdrawn, more smiling and sweet.
With Dasha in the beginning the contact was very formal – she turned away, did not join the class. But gradually began to respond to the teacher, becoming more open. It turned out that Dasha really likes to walk, and each session was asked to start with a walk. And by the end of the project she already began to walk with less adult support! In April we organized a consultation with the physiotherapist, Joanne Pritchard, director of «The Promise», our project partner. Dasha has a real chance to start walking alone, you just need to help her develop a walking skill! By the end of the project, Dasha became more communicative, emotionally responsive and smiling with all people, she learned to eat from a spoon, play with toys, 7 skills were worked out.
Rustam – not walking, not speaking, interest to toys showed very superficial and short-term, the contact with the expert was established not at once. And the boy was hospitalized for 1.5 months to the end of project. Nevertheless, with him a lot was achieved – contact with the teacher was established, the boy began to rejoice at the sessions, he became less withdrawn more independent, emotionally responsive. With him worked out 6 skills, a huge success – he learned to keep the spoon himself up to.
Vanya participated in the project only 2 months, but immediately actively went to contact, revived, rejoiced, very sociable and gladly tried to fulfill all the proposed tasks. Thanks to this for so short time with him worked out 5 skills that already had a noticeable impact on its development – for example, holds the mug with one hand and drinks from it. It is especially valuable that the boy believed in himself, in the love of others, he had a huge resource for development.
Galya was in the project for 2 months too. A girl with very severe impairments, with great motor problems, weak arms and legs, does not hold almost her head, visually impaired, quickly becomes tired, languid or very excited. Therefore, a few weeks of work was done only to identify her existing skills, so it was difficult to understand whether there is a response from the child, there was no contact for a long time. But by the end of the project the girl began to smile at the teacher, turn her head towards her, watch her movements, there was a long-awaited emotional contact! It was possible to work while above 2 skills – but it is a success also, considering a condition of the child. Galya was also inspected by the physiotherapist and gave advice on the pose that was convenient for the girl, ensuring proper functioning of the body.
Maxim in the project for 2 months too, he has severe motor disorders. But contact was established quickly – he immediately reacted violently to his name, movements of the body and the head made it clear that he was ready for communication. Gradually he began to respond calmer to the presence of a specialist, became more relaxed, began to fix a look at the teacher for a short time. In total, 4 basic skills from different spheres were fulfilled with him. The physiotherapist also gave recommendations on the appropriate poses for him.
Another important result of the project is the broader representation of the entire staff of the institution on the development potential and potential of children with SMDD. After all, they saw real positive results of the work and realized that children, even with very serious disabilities, can develop and they are really need it very much. Overall, communication with children has improved, understanding of their needs for development and communication, opportunities to meet these needs have expanded. Many employees began to help to the Portage team during the project and now want to study this method too!
At the end of the project, a round table was held with the participation of the team, the Director of «Doverie» and the partners of the project. All participants were unanimous – the achieved results of the project confirm the applicability of the Portage model, its relevance, effectiveness and benefit for the chidren of the “Doverie”. It was also noted that this team is very enthusiastic, cohesive, independent, invests a lot of spiritual strength, warmth and love in working with children. The Director of the orphanage very much supports the continuation of the sessions with the children in the “Portage” and in autumn the work will resume, already in the current regime. We also plan to study another staff of «Doverie» and to start working with the other children there.
The project was made possible thanks to the donation of the company Boeing – many thanks for this invaluable help! We are grateful to all our partners – ANO “Promise” (Ryazan), Charitable organization “The Promise” (Great Britain), experts from Elatma`s orphanage, consultant of the project, teacher-psychologist Krasnokutskaja Ekaterina – for your professional participation, experience and support! And we say a big thanks to the director and the whole team of the CSIS “Doverie” – for enthusiasm, dedication and love for children! Thanks to all of you the quality of life of children with severe developmental disorders is improving!