Sunday, August 8, 2010

Visit to a Hungarian Special Needs Orphanage

Two of my best online friends are special education teachers in Hungary. (Well, one of them moved to a different area of work a few yíears ago, but between the two of them they have a decade of special ed experience.) I received a few photos from one of them about the other's first school, that happened to be a regional special education centre for children with various levels of mental disabilities. A dorm and and orphanage is also part of the school. 

Now I want to point it out that I have never been to this particular school/orphanage, but I have been to various similar educational institutions in Hungary. Some are worse, some are better than this one. 

In Hungary doctors have, for the most part, stopped advising parents to abandon their special needs children, but some parents, especially the less educated and from more rural areas still decide to give their children up. Many of them, however, regularly keep in touch, take their children home during school holidays, etc. Other children, once again, from rural areas, attend residental schools and stay in dorms Monday through Friday. Most of the children with mental disabilities attend segregated schools, because at the present their needs are met there better than when they are integrated. Integration often means that the child (and his teacher) are simply abandoned by the system beyond two to four hours of tutoring per week. 

After the passing of the 2000 Child Protection Act, the dorms and orphanages had to be separated, and a y particular orphanage couldn't house more than 40 children in the same unit. Many special ed centres went the group home route with their wards of the state, moving them to local single family houses, with 8 to 12 kids per home, others did the same separation by building family unit apartments in their already existing buildings. The children and youth can stay till their early 20's when they are moved to other state or foundation run facilities - many of them, unfortunartely, in much poorer conditions than the orphanages. They also receive 10-14 years of education (or more if the teachers feel like that staying in a certain grade level would benefit the child), often in classes that have more than one grade level. My friend Judit taught 5th through 7th grade in this particular school, for children with an IQ range of 20-50. Class sizes vary between 5 and 13, with a morning teacher, an afternoon teacher and a teacher's aid.

A bathroom. It might actually be in one of the teacher's quarters: the teachers' apartments are in a rather old building. 

Bulletin board  with the children's work. Since these photos were taken in January, they were most likely preparing for carnival.

Classroom corner.

Time table.Can you guess what the 5th period is on Monday? 

More of the classroom.

Some of the kids at home, after classes.
Miss Judit with one of her students in the cafeteria.
One of the boys in the livingroom.

Showing off one of the bedrooms. Two or three children normally sleep in one room. The wall covering next to the bed was actually made by one of the caregivers. The other side of the room was not photographed, because it was "messy" with toys and books. The children have their own clothes, toys and books that they might later pass onto someone else, but they normally don't share clothes. There are group possessions as well, as in any normal family there are toys shared by all, but others, received for Christmas, name days or birthdays are individual possessions. Older children also have their own money, learning how to budget and handle it.
Study/play area. Each home had a TV, VCSR/DVD player and a computer with or without Internet access. (These photos are from 2006, they most likely all have Internet access now.)
The therapy horse. This particular school has a vocational school that prepares the youth to work in agriculture, too. So this school had a lot of animals, including a therapy horse.


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