The term “sensory integration” refers to the brain’s ability to receive information from the sense organs, process it and respond appropriately. This is what enables a person to function within their environment and learn new things.
Many children with autism and other developmental disorders have difficulty responding appropriately to sounds, tastes and smells, coordinating their movements, concentrating and learning. Certain sensations that are ordinary for other people may be painfully strong and unpleasant for children with autism. Meanwhile, sensations that are usually felt intensely may be experienced as too weak. As a result, these children may find it difficult to respond to certain situations or to concentrate, communicate and learn new things. Sensory integration programmes to support children with disabilities teach those children coping mechanisms. Some are taught to calm down and manage their anxiety and uncertainty, while others are helped to “wake up”. Such programmes help people manage various behavioural problems, reduce self-stimulatory behaviour and improve concentration. Occupational therapists around the world use the sensory integration approach in their work. In Russia, this is a relatively new are of expertise and there are still very few Russian specialists who are trained in sensory integration.
Classes are usually held in specially equipped rooms where children get the chance to experience important sensations in a safe environment, supervised by specialists. Sensory integration rooms can be found in almost all rehabilitation centres and special schools in Europe and the United States. Sensory integration programmes are an important element of child support programmes.
For several years, School No. 46 in St. Petersburg has been working to apply modern approaches to teaching and assisting children with autism spectrum disorders. It was there that the Naked Heart Foundation built its first fully equipped sensory integration and occupational therapy room. The school is now developing sensory integration programmes that can be implemented in the therapy room.
In May 2015, occupational therapist Joan Surfus ran a special training in this room. Joan has worked with children for many years and teaches at the University of Misericordia. The training was also attended by teachers from Nizhny Novgorod who are participating in a project on modern and effective education programmes for children with autistic spectrum disorders. Project updates:
One of our main working objectives is to create a network of family support centres for children with special needs and their families. Their purpose is to provide combined psychological, educational, social, legal, therapeutic, and other professional assistance. Our first Family Support Centre was opened in Nizhny Novgorod.
Our annual international "Every Child Deserves a Family" forum is a unique platform for dialogue between Russian and foreign child development experts, which allows representatives from various regions of Russia to exchange views and experience. It is also a step forward towards developing a professional community in Russia.
We are supporting projects run by the legal department of the Centre for Curative Pedagogics in Moscow, and relevant projects run by other organisations, aimed at ensuring the rights of children with disabilities and raising legal awareness among parents and specialists working in the field.
It is impossible to solve the problems of families with disabled children without changing the attitudes of society and the state. That’s why one of the Foundations most important activities is advocacy.
The objective of our interactive online seminars is to introduce people to up-to-date, proven methods of working with people with disabilities. They are held on a regular basis and cover topics such as autism, communication and foster care. The webinars are aimed primarily at the Russian audience.
The aim of this project is to support NGOs that provide psychological, medical, therapeutic and social support for children with disabilities and their families; families intending to adopt, take guardianship of, or foster a child with disabilities; and disadvantaged families or families in crisis.
We support projects to run summer and autumn integrative camps for children with special needs. Such camps create an environment in which children can relax emotionally, recover their health, have much-needed new experiences and communicate in a variety of different ways.
The purpose of the Education Programme is to allow specialists from organisations working with children with special needs and their families to learn modern and effective working methods, exchange experience with colleagues and take part in education programmes involving international experts.