European Newsletter - Issue 16
Volume 6 number 2, July 2000
- Education of visually handicapped children and youngsters in Poland
- The Reform of the Educational System and its Implications on the Education of the Blind and Partially Sighted
- Training of teachers of the visually impaired in Poland
- Postgraduate Study For Early Intervention
- An outline of research studies conducted in the field of special pedagogy with the focus on rehabilitation and practical training of blind and visually impaired people
- The main trends concerning empirical studies conducted by the Special Education Department at Maria Curie - Sklodowska University in Lublin
- EARLY INTERVENTION CENTRE FOR BLIND AND PARTIALLY SIGHTED MULTIHANDICAPPED CHILDREN "RAINBOW", WARSAW
- Problems of multihandicapped blind people
- Report of the meeting of the European Committee of ICEVI
- BJVI May 2000 - The British Journal of Visual Impairement
This issue will appear on the occasion of the European Conference in Cracow: the end of a quinquennium (1995 - 2000) but also, more importantly, the start of a new quinquennium (2000 - 2005) full of challenges and new activities, the foundation of which will be laid in Cracow.
This issue is almost entirely devoted to the Education and Rehabilitation of people with visual impairment in Poland, the host country of the Conference. It offers a varied picture of the developments in this country, developments which I have been able to witness since 1990. I would like to thank Grazyna Walczak who has acted as the Polish co-ordinator for this issue.
Something of quite another nature: recently, the President of ICEVI, Mr Coen de Jong has resigned his office mainly because of reasons of health, which we regret very much. By means of a policy paper based on extensive study he has initiated new developments within ICEVI on a global level, for which we owe him much gratitude. We hope that the new President, Mr Larry Campbell, will build on this. It is regrettable that the Executive Committee meeting planned after our Conference cannot be held now since we think that Europe has much to offer to the colleagues from other parts of the world.
The next issue will be published in November 2000: please send in your copy before 1 October 2000.
Dr Herman A. A. Gresnigt
European Chairman ICEVI
Education of visually handicapped children and youngsters in Poland
Visually handicapped children and youngsters are educated in 11 special educational centres (which include kindergartens, primary schools, high schools and boarding gymnasium), in 3 vocational schools, 3 rehabilitation centres (which are day-care centres or boarding schools run by non-governmental organisations).
Early rehabilitation of small children aged 0 - 6 (including their parents) is carried out in 8 special educational centres from the moment the diagnosis of visual impairment has been made. Children at the age 3-6 are included in pre-school education organised in 3 special educational centres and 4 kindergartens.
The network of such centres for visually handicapped children and youngsters is presented on the map. Every year about 2,900 students are educated in the above centres. During the school year approximately 1570 pupils live in boarding schools. About 1500 students, mostly partially sighted, are educated in integrated mainstream schools.
Every school year, the Special Education Centre for The Blind Children in Bydgoszcz organises education and revalidation at different levels for about 30 deaf-blind children. This institution has most experience in working with the deaf-blind. Blind children with mild and severe mental impairment are educated in the special Educational Centre in Radom. Education for visually handicapped youngsters and children with slight mental handicap is organised in 4 special educational centres. Blind and partially sighted adults are educated in the Special Educational Centre in Cracow and in the Rehabilitation Centre in Bydgoszcz.
Depending on the degree of impairment, vocational training at different levels namely in primary vocational schools (including visually handicapped students with slight mental impairment), in secondary vocational schools and technical schools, in post-secondary vocational centres, is organised for the following professions: operator of textile machinery, purse maker, bookbinder, cook, baker, tradesman/salesman, basket maker, electro-mechanic, knitter, turner, weaver, office worker, farmer, gardener, upholsterer, masseur, sound mixer, piano tuner, phone operator, computer scientists.
In the centre in Cracow there is a music school of first grade and in the rehabilitation centre in Bydgoszcz organists are trained. In the educational centre in Warsaw Laski there is a vocational secondary school with extensive teaching of foreign languages: English, German and Russian. The graduates of comprehensive secondary schools are educated in 4 special educational centres, continue their education at universities or post- secondary schools.
The Ministry of Education provides all blind and partially sighted students with free course books and resource materials (dictionaries, set of books), in Braille or large print. In 2000 about 50 new titles of course books will be issued.
Since the 1st of September all schools for visually impaired have been included in the Reform of the Educational system. The hitherto eight-grade primary schools have been changed into six-grade ones, after which the pupils continue their education in 3-grade gymnasium. In these reformed schools students are offered new educational programmes and they also use new course books. The obligatory school attendance lasts till the last grade of gymnasium while obligatory education is till the age of 18.
Wiestawa Szczepaniak - Maleszka
The Ministry of Education
The Reform of the Educational System and its Implications on the Education of the Blind and Partially Sighted
The changes in the political system at the end of the 80s and in the 90s also triggered the changes in the Polish system of education. Until 1989 all schools, excepting a few private ones, were run by the state administration. Throughout the entire country schools worked within one common programme approved by the Ministry of Education, using the compulsory course books for each subject. Since the beginning of the 90s gradual programme changes have been introduced, offering wider educational possibilities and allowing for the use of different course books. Informatics, foreign languages, ecology and regional subjects were introduced into schools. Together with decentralisation of administration, regional authorities started to administrate the schools, primary ones since 1990, secondary schools in 1996 and special ones in 1999.
In 1998 a decision about the reform of the educational system was taken in addition to the further programme changes. The existing 8-year primary school and the 3, 4 or 5 year (depending on the kind) secondary school were substituted by 6-year primary school, 3-year gymnasium and 3-year profiled secondary schools. This new system was introduced and implemented on the 1st of September 1999. In schools of all levels they introduced new basic programmes with the emphasis on knowledge acquisition and education instead of the former system of passing knowledge. Simultaneously, the schools were allowed much freedom in the choice of programmes and course books. There were also considerable changes in the school system of evaluation. The aim of the new method of assessment is to inform a student about his achievements and difficulties in learning with the object of making the learning process more effective. A new element in the Polish system of education was introduced: the external final examinations at all levels. The exams will be carried out by specially appointed independent institutions.
The above-mentioned changes refer to all schools, also special schools, including schools educating the blind and partially sighted. By the end of the former decade the education of visually handicapped children took place mainly in boarding centres specially established for them. However, quite a number of them, chiefly partially sighted ones, were educated in mainstream schools. New private schools, especially those educating and rehabilitating multi-handicapped children, were also a novelty in the last decade of the former century. In most cases, they were established by the parents of those children. In 1994 a new form of educating the handicapped was introduced: integrated classes in mainstream schools where sighted pupils learn alongside the handicapped. Some groups of children are individually educated at their homes. More emphasis was put on early intervention. As a consequence, adequate actions were undertaken in some centres.
While introducing the reform, it was assumed that all changes refer also to pupils with special needs so the system and programme changes were implemented in all types of special schools. Because of this it became possible to transfer impaired students from special to mainstream education and vice versa. The choice of education belongs to parents. Special schools are entitled to prolong the education with one year if such are the needs of a child.
The way of financing different forms of education for the handicapped has great influence on it. Till the end of 1998 schools for children with special educational needs were run by state administration and financial data were hard to compare. In 1999 regional administration took over and the schools were financed through standardised grants regardless of the kind of impairment. In 2000 a new form of financing (the so- called "education coupon") was introduced in Poland for the first time, allowing to compare the expenses of different forms of education. The outcome of such a comparison showed that most financial means are used for the education of students in boarding schools rather than for integrated classes. The least money is spent on individual education of children in regular schools. So in this way, this most natural form of education has little chance to develop. However, we assume that this system will undergo further changes.
Another obstacle to popularise the integrated system of education is inadequate preparation of schoolteachers to deal with the handicapped. However, further teacher training is planned in this area.
The positive side of the reform is resignation of separate legal acts about education of people with special needs. Such legal records are included into the general acts referring to the whole system. Thanks to that the society becomes more aware of the existence of such pupils and becomes more open to their needs.
The education of blind and partially sighted students in Poland as part of the general education system is changing in accordance with the reform principles. Because of this, the system is more open and flexible and its structure is similar to that of many European countries.
The Ministry of Education
Training of teachers of the visually impaired in Poland
There are two university programmes in Poland training teachers for the blind and visually impaired: the Maria Grzegorzewska College for Special Education in Warsaw and University of Maria Curie-Sklodowska in Lublin. Both offer master's degrees to their full-time and part-time students. The College in Warsaw also conducts specialised programs at a postgraduate level.
Lublin has a combined (dual) programme training students to work as teachers with visually impaired children and with mentally retarded ones. There are 30 students in a full-time programme, 30 in a part-time programme, and six faculty members.
At the College for Special Education in Warsaw the programmes in blindness and visual impairment have a total of 185 students, 135 in master's programmes and 50 in postgraduate programmes. The Department of Blindness and Visual Impairment employs 5 full-time and about 10 part-time faculty members.
In a full-time master's programme, specialist training in blindness and visual impairment starts in the second year. The programme includes teaching methods in grades 1-4, this specialisation being obligatory for all the students; there are two optional specialisations that can be chosen in addition to the one in teaching methods - these are orientation and mobility, and vision rehabilitation. Early intervention, activities of daily living, technology-assisted education, and rehabilitation of blind and visually impaired persons with multiple impairments are courses included in the curriculum and obligatory for all students.
Orientation and mobility is offered as a selective specialisation at a master's level, with an additional coursework of 140 hours and 30 hours of practicum. It is also offered in two programs at a postgraduate level, with discipline specific coursework ranging from 250 hours to 500 hours, plus practicum. The curricula include courses in functioning of the visual and auditory systems, low vision assessment and intervention, psychological implications of visual impairment, and O&M methods. Graduates can work as orientation and mobility teachers at schools for the blind and visually impaired, centres of the Polish Association of the Blind, and at social welfare centres. To date we have had a total of about 60 graduates of these specialised programmes.
Vision rehabilitation is currently offered at a master's level. It essentially consists of an eye course, course in psychosocial implications of visual impairment, courses in vision assessment and training, including functional optics. Additional coursework for those master's students who choose this specialisation is 225 class hours and 54 hours of practicum. Graduates can work at schools for the blind and for the partially sighted, at educational counselling centres, in centres and clinics of the Polish Association of the Blind - either as teachers, house parents, counsellors with a strong background in low vision, or as vision rehabilitation specialists.
Early intervention is taught as a course in the 3rd year of the master's programme and it consists of 45 hours. Early intervention is also implemented at a postgraduate level where the curriculum consists of 250 hours plus 50 hours of practicum. It includes courses in developmental psychology, eye functioning and pathology, and methods of assessment and intervention. The program is run in close co-operation with Dutch specialists from the Theofaan Institute.
Activities of daily living are taught as a course for 5th year graduate students. The course consists of 45 hours most of which are instruction in methods and simulation exercises. The curriculum was developed in co-operation with the American organisation AWARE and was first implemented at a postgraduate programme at the College in 1995, sponsored by the Soros Foundations.
In our master's curriculum the course in computer-aided education accounts for 60 hours and is taught by a blind instructor. The graduates are not expected to teach computers to the blind, but to use them as a tool.
A course in education and rehabilitation of persons with additional impairments for master's students in the blindness programme accounts for 45 hours. The college's interdisciplinary postgraduate programme in multiple handicaps consists of 210 hours. Of these, the issues directly relating to blindness account for 25 hours. Graduates of the postgraduate programme usually work in the centre for children with multiple impairments.
Since integration is one of the principles of the recently introduced educational reform, the College conducts postgraduate programmes for teachers from regular schools. These 2-semester programmes are financed by the Ministry of Education. The participants study special education including methods of teaching blind and visually impaired children.
In our master's programmes the emphasis is placed on teaching academic skills to the blind and visually impaired children whereas the postgraduate programmes focus on teaching independence skills. Today, we cover all ages, children aged 0-6 and the elderly being the target groups most recently introduced.
Antonina Adamowicz-Hummel, Jadwiga Kuczynska-Kwapisz and Grazyna Walczak
College for Special Education in Warsaw
Postgraduate Study For Early Intervention
While considering the effects of rehabilitation of the handicapped, the necessity of early intervention is more often emphasised. Those who have the best opportunities to know a child's needs and his possibilities and thus stimulate his development are the child's parents and caretakers. However, will they be able to help their own child without any support? Having a handicapped child in the family is a new and very difficult reality for his/her parents and all those close to him/her ( Majewski T. 1983; Ossowski R. 1991; Walczak G. 1994). In this complicated new situation support is required not only by the child because of his impairment but also by the entire family. Such family care should include, among others, a wide range of psychological support and extended advice about the rehabilitation methods of a small child. This assistance should be given by professionals including home teachers. Until 1996, there were educated teachers who looked after children over 3 years old. The education of professionals who would care about children 0-3 years old was carried out by different institutions mainly on courses and seminars.
Currently, the problem of early intervention has been introduced at the
M. Grzegorzewska College for Special education. A respective course is conducted in the 3rd year of the bachelor's degree programme and it consists of 45 hours. Five years ago early intervention was also implemented at a postgraduate level where the curriculum consists of 250 hours plus 50 hours of practice. Its programme has been developed on the basis of the experience gained while realising the research programme (grant KBN) dealing with this area. In the postgraduate study curriculum experiences of Dutch specialists have also been implemented (including three specialists from Theofaan in Grave, who give lectures for postgraduate students).
The aim of this study is to prepare staff for realising the purpose of the educational system reform, namely developing a system of support related to the family. Forming this kind of assistance and advice will enable visually impaired children as well to be educated in the mainstream system - in integrated schools. That is why the emphasis of the study is on the problems of a family raising a small blind or partially sighted child. The main emphasis is put on the problems related to: diagnosing the needs of education and rehabilitation of small blind and visually handicapped children, developing individual rehabilitation programmes, preparing to work with a family having a visually impaired child.
The aim of the postgraduate study is to provide theoretical and practical knowledge (know-how) allowing for diagnosing and implementing the effective revalidation activities related to a small, partially sighted and blind child and his family.
Within the realisation of the programme, using the child's natural environment and co-operation with the family in the process of rehabilitation, is especially taken into consideration.
The postgraduate study programme comprises four basic subject stages related to the issues which, when taught to the students, should help them to know the needs and possibilities of a child and his family while realising the efficient therapy.
During the first stage - basis of early intervention- the following is discussed: selected items of developmental psychology; selected items of physiology and pathology of nervous system, psycho-social situation of a family with a developmentally distorted child.
The second stage - diagnosis - includes among others: methods and techniques of collecting data of a child - both formal and informal; diagnosis methods of cognitive functions; methods of diagnosis of motor development of a partially sighted or blind child; diagnosis methods of visual functioning; assessment methods of a child's environment and its adjustment to the child's needs; assessment methods of family environment; diagnosing of a partially sighted or blind child with additional impairment.
The third stage - rehabilitation methods of a child and family support - mainly includes: principles of developing early rehabilitation programmes; methods of supporting psycho-motor development of a child; principles and methods of visual stimulation of small partially sighted children; stimulating everyday activities supporting psycho-motor development- toys and games helpful in early rehabilitation; stimulation methods of multihandicapped children; techniques of getting in touch and conducting the therapeutic conversation.
Formal/Legal conditions of early intervention - the fourth stage- includes : statistical data about the population of the visually handicapped ; rehabilitation services of different institutions for visually impaired people including small children.
Forms of classes:
The programme is realised in the form of lectures, training, workshops and practicum. We estimate that each student will conduct and report the practical early intervention activities in his place of living ( in some cases on rehabilitation camps for small children).
Since 1999 a new method has been introduced, namely training trips to foreign centres, which have significant achievements within early intervention. In this way, in autumn 1999 students visited the Theofaan Institute in Grave and the Centre for the Blind Children in Wurzburg.
Taking advantage of the opportunity I would like to thank here from this place all those who are involved in the education of early rehabilitation teachers.
Dr Grazyna Walczak
The Maria Grzegorzewska College For Special Education in Warsaw
An outline of research studies conducted in the field of special pedagogy with the focus on rehabilitation and practical training of blind and visually impaired people
At The Maria Grzegorzewska College, apart from regular teaching activities, systematic research studies in various disciplines of special pedagogy are conducted. Training of blind and visually impaired people occupies a considerable part of these studies. The members of academic staff, both assistant lecturers and professors, are obliged to carry on regular research work. They are granted academic degrees, such as doctor's degree, assistant professor and professor, in recognition of their individual contribution to the advancement of science. Senior students ( i.e. the fourth and fifth year students) gather data and then write their M.A. theses under the supervision of their academic tutors. A considerable proportion of these M.A. theses reveal high academic standards, and consequently they make a significant contribution to the overall development of special pedagogy.
The following is a review of some selected studies accomplished or still being conducted within the past six years.
- Author: Professor Jadwiga Kuczyñska - Kwapisz
Title: Effects of orientation and mobility training of blind and visually impaired adolescents.
The above-mentioned study is the output of an experiment-based research carried on in all special schools for blind children in Poland. The sample group consisted of 162 subjects.
At present two other dissertations are being prepared:
- Author: Gra¿yna Walczak, PhD
Title: Early rehabilitation of children with impaired vision.
- Author: Hanna Siedlecka M.D.
Title: The Programme of early detection of Usher Syndrome as the starting point for appropriate diagnostic, rehabilitating and educational procedures.
- Author: Gra¿yna Walczak, PhD
- Author: Antonina Adamowicz - Hummel, PhD
Title: Evaluation of professional competence and effectiveness of low vision therapists. A follow - up study of the graduates of the program in vision rehabilitation in Poland. (The author's doctor's dissertation )
The author devised Poland's first vision rehabilitation training programme and carried on the testing of its the effectiveness.
- Author: Ma³gorzata Walkiewicz, PhD
Title: Functional vision assessment and the process of aiding vision development in low vision children suffering from multiple disabilities (the author's doctor's dissertation ).
Academic supervisor: Professor Jadwiga Kuczyñska - Kwapisz
The above-mentioned dissertation was very well accepted and highly evaluated by professionals and it is in the stage of being published. The author presented eight monographs of children aged three to ten (3 - 10 years old). Each of these monographs is in fact an accurate report from a challenging and a very successful experiment. The structure of each reveals the following components:
- a precise and accurate diagnosis of a child's overall development, carried on at the beginning of the therapy;
- an individualised vision rehabilitation programme (i.e. a therapy taking into account individual needs and developmental potential of each child);
- actual implementation of the programme;
- evaluation of the programme in reference to its effectiveness in aiding the process of development;
- conclusions and suggestions for further rehabilitation.
From the recently conducted research studies, supervised by Professor Jadwiga Kuczyñska - Kwapisz, the following three issues are worth mentioning:
- Author: Danuta Szymko
Title: The role of media in the process of educating the blind.
This project aims to explore the problem of actual access of the blind to mass media and answer the question of how blind and visually impaired students can benefit by this access.
- Author: Dariusz Rutkowski
Title: Motor activity of blind and visually impaired children involved in outside school extra curricular integration activities conducted with the use of scouts' method.
The author has been in charge of a scout team for six years. The team consists of 35 children, ten of whom are blind. The author's objective is to verify the hypotheses that motor activity of all children involved in integration activities is similar.
- Author: Ma³gorzata Benisz
Title: Basic rehabilitation of deafblind adults in Poland.
All the above projects are at a considerable level of advancement and they will soon come out as complete doctor's dissertations.
The range of subjects of M.A. theses prepared by the students of our university is highly diversified. A considerable number of M.A. theses now in progress focus on the issues pertaining to methods of teaching and rehabilitation process of blind and visually impaired students.
For example, in her thesis, Joanna Witczak, has investigated the vast area of learning problems experienced by visually impaired children and how special teachers can cope with such problems.
Simultaneously with the research studies already referred to, separate case studies of some selected individuals as well as monographs of schools and of other institutions serving the needs of people with impaired vision are being prepared at the moment.
The complex enterprise involving reorganisation of the Polish national education system presents new challenges and encourages researchers to look for new solutions to the existing problems. Magdalena Wa³achowska is one of those addressing the issue of the reform of education and the co-existing problems in her project work entitled: "School textbooks for blind children and adolescents in Europe. Polish experience in the context of the on-going reorganisation of the Polish system of education".
The project in question comprises two parts. The first part addresses some issues involving school textbooks based on the Braille system; eighteen European countries take advantage of this system and apply it to solving their organisational, textbook - related problems.
The second part describes and analyses the local situation in Poland.
We also trust that the academic research that we conduct at The Maria Grzegorzewska University for Special Education as well as our active involvement in rehabilitation procedures and professional training of special teachers and therapists will contribute considerably to raising the standard and actual improvement of the quality of life of blind and visually impaired people around us.
Professor Jadwiga Kuczyñska - Kwapisz
The Maria Grzegorzewska College for Special Education, Warsaw, Poland
The main trends concerning empirical studies conducted by the Special Education Department at Maria Curie - Sklodowska University in Lublin
The rehabilitation of the blind and visually impaired is popular among some specialists employed at Special Education Department of Maria Curie - Sklodowska in Lublin. The Department was established in 1970 by Professor Zofia Sêkowska who had been a leader, manager and a designer of many scientific projects, especially those that concerned the rehabilitation of the blind and visually impaired. Professor Zofia Sêkowska is the author of seven books and many papers about the rehabilitation of blind and visually impaired. She is also the editor of many monographic works devoted to various aspects of social and emotional functioning of the disabled.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the Special Education Department intends to organize a conference in Kazimierz upon Vistula river on 25th - 26th of May about the following subject: Special education in the face of educational system changes
Some presentations will be dedicated to theoretical ground, practical solutions, opportunities as well as dangers that the visually impaired students are confronted with since they are the participants of the school system that is being reformed.
The scientific team of the Special Education Department is engaged in multidimensional empirical studies. The projects worked out by this staff concern educational and psychological factors that contribute to a rehabilitation process of visually impaired persons of all ages coming from various socio-educational backgrounds. The field explored focusses on effectiveness of this educational solution which integrates the blind and visually impaired children and adolescents into schools attended by non- handicapped students as well as on the employment system for the people with visual handicaps. The problem studied is regarded as intrinsic to social adjustment and independent functioning of the blind.
The first trend concerns psychosocial and educational functioning of the visually impaired people who attend both normal and special schools. The aim of this empirical study was to diagnose the factors and determinants of the visually handicapped students integrated and non-integrated into normal schools. The results of the studies conducted among students and teachers indicate that integrating the blind and visually impaired students into normal classes should be regarded as one of the educational solutions. Considering inclusive and non-inclusive education only as co-existing and co-operating systems might be beneficial for both the disabled and normal peers. Inclusive education should be aimed at the selected children with a visual handicap and their parents, taking into consideration psycho- educational and medical diagnosis as well as family monitoring.
Another empirical trend is associated with socio-emotional adjustment of the cross-eyed children. The conducted studies extend the knowledge about functioning of the children suffering from this kind of eye condition. The results revealed that cross-eyed children manifest severe psycho- educational problems. Furthermore, the need for interdisciplinary, individual approach to the medical treatment and visual rehabilitation of these children is suggested.
The other complex studies concern the socio-economic and socio-cultural status of the visually impaired children. The results show that cultural- familial status of the studied children did not make any difference. The cultural familial status was defined with regard to the following factors: functionality, social roles, parental attitudes. The higher the social expectations of familial standards are, the more social support should be provided. The forms of social support used may neither impede family progress nor be coincidental.
Current research is aimed at evaluating social and vocational adaptation, tracing the future of the visually impaired persons graduated from technical, grammar and high schools. The empirical study outlines personal, familial, socio-cultural, financial and vocational situation of the graduates facing political and economic transformation in our country. The results could be applied in order to enhance the model of postgraduate education and to address some primary agents that should be considered while planning employment and social policy.
Assistant Professor, Zofia Palak
Special Education Department Maria Curie - Sklodowska University in Lublin
EARLY INTERVENTION CENTRE FOR BLIND AND PARTIALLY SIGHTED MULTIHANDICAPPED CHILDREN "RAINBOW", WARSAW
ul. Kopiñska 6/10
tel./fax: (+48)(+22) 822 03 44, tel. 658 43 30
Early Intervention Centre (EIC) is one of the services conducted by Association of Parents and Friends of Blind and Partially Sighted Children "Rainbow".
The "Rainbow" is a non profit organisation established in May 1990 in Warsaw, Poland.
The main stream of its activity is the running of three centres in Warsaw for blind multi-handicapped children:
- for infants aged 0-3
- for children aged 3 to13 years
- for young people in the age group 14+.
These centres take care of about 200 children from Warsaw and nearby districts. Some of the children come from other parts of the country for consultations with specialists.
All centres organise complex care including: medical care, psychological assessment and therapy, physiotherapy, educational assessment and programmes adjusted to the child's developmental level and learning possibilities.
EIC is the youngest of these three centres but for the last five years it has undergone dynamic growth. At the moment it provides full service of continuous early intervention to approximately 40 families with small blind children from Warsaw and provides assistance to about 60 families from all over the country on a consultation basis.
How do we proceed
Usually blind and partially sighted infants, most of them with additional handicaps, come to the EIC for the first time when they are 4-8 months old. Our work starts with initial assessment of the child. It helps us diagnose the actual needs of the child and the family. Then the home visits begin, usually made by a psychologist, a physiotherapist and, if necessary, a vision therapist. Functional assessment of the child in its home environment is conducted for some time.
Next, the team of specialists discusses the developmental level of the child, its strengths and problems and also the most important problems of the whole family. The team pays special attention to the emotional problems of parents concerning the disabilities of their child. At this point the Individual Programme of Developmental Support (IPDS) is formulated - by the programme co-ordinator and parents. The family is instructed what they should do with the child, how they should do it and why they should do it, then the stage of Programme realisation begins with the support of visiting specialists.
After about three months the parents come to the Centre for about 2-3 visits to discuss the progress of the IPDS with the programme co-ordinator and to make necessary adjustments.
From the beginning of our work the parents are supported in their emotional problems by the visiting psychologist. He talks to the parents trying to ease their fears and their inner conflicts. He helps them to read their child's signals and constantly works on parent-child relations supporting the growth of emotional ties.
For the older children (aged 1,5 - 3) the Centre organises some educational activities, for instance:
Individual Pre-school Programme; Music-Movement Communication Programme for small groups of parents and children; Sensori-Integrations Activities in very small groups of children, Individual Orientation and Mobility Programme etc.
Parents have their meetings once a month. These meetings give them the opportunity to learn about medical, educational and emotional aspects of blindness and other handicaps. They can also share their experiences in the area of bringing up the disabled child and they can support each other emotionally.
Each year we allow approximately 20 families to participate in a rehabilitation camp. In this way, we can work intensively with the entire family.
Recently, we have started to share our experiences with other practitioners from many parts of the country. We organise seminars and workshops on the subjects of early functional assessment of vision, the methods of vision therapy, early cognitive and social assessment, the methods of supporting the blind child's early cognitive, communicative and social development.
Anna Witarzewska, Monika Orkan-£êcka
Problems of multihandicapped blind people
The Polish Association of The Blind has kept the register of the blind with additional handicaps. By the end of 1998 there were 9,005 on the list. The majority of them
(5,456) are diabetics. The remaining groups include: the deaf-blind, the blind suffering from multiple sclerosis, mentally retarded or with Marfan syndrome. The association has most experience with the deaf-blind, the blind diabetics and those with multiple sclerosis. For many years the association has organised different forms of support for those people who suffer both from blindness and additional handicap. Presenting the above groups we would like to emphasise their specific problems and the actions The Polish Association of the Blind undertakes to help those people.
Due to simultaneous severe malfunction of both hearing and vision a deaf-blind person faces serious problems different from those caused either by the loss of hearing or vision. Such a person, considering his complicated impairment, needs special care in everyday activities, social contacts, education and employment. In Poland we have organised special rehabilitation training camps for this group of people since1985, we train specialists working with the deaf-blind, we also publicise the problems of the deaf-blind in society on radio and TV and in the press. Both independently and with the help of professionals we make films about the deaf-blind, translate, we publish magazines and materials for the deaf-blind and the specialists, ??screen the market and buy prototype equipment which enables them to hear and communicate. Since October 1991 a special Aid Society for The Deaf-Blind has developed its activities. The members of the Society consist of the handicapped themselves, the healthy ones, people of various professions - doctors, psychologists, pedagogues and all the others who are willing and able to act for the benefit of the deaf-blind who are unable to live independently.
In case of the blind or partially sighted diabetics the treatment, mainly self-care, is strictly related to the stage of his/her rehabilitation. A person who cannot deal with the basic daily activities, will not be able to care properly for his health which is affected by the diabetes. It is vital then to rehabilitate such a person in addition to his education and treatment. That is why we consider it important that our medical specialists have specific knowledge while the rehabilitators have knowledge of diabetes, especially those aspects of the disease which can affect the rehabilitation procedure. The Polish Association of The Blind has dealt with this problem since 1989. Every year approximately 500 persons take advantage of the camps organised by the specialised Centre. By the end of 1998 there have been 17 special clinics for the blind and partially sighted diabetics in Poland. We have organised, on a regular basis, special workshops devoted to the problems of rehabilitation, education and treatment of the blind diabetics in which doctors, nurses, rehabilitators and the blind themselves took part. The Self-aid Movement for the blind diabetics is also being propagated - by the end of 1998 there were 20 clubs of the blind and partially sighted diabetics. Special educational materials are also published.
Visual problems are among the symptoms (and often also the first symptoms) of multiple sclerosis. In 1998 PAB (PZN) had 272 registered people suffering from multiple sclerosis.
The Association has kept a separate record of this group since 1995. From this year the Association has tried to take special care of them. We organise special rehabilitation camps the programmes of which ensure overall influence, thus combining the visual and motor rehabilitation together with physiotherapy typical for SM and, in addition, the rehabilitation characteristic for chronic diseases - psychotherapy, occupational therapy, talks and medical support.
In all these forms of rehabilitation for the above group the most essential element is the fact that the affected can count on help with regard to both their visual, hearing, diabetic and SM problems and, vice versa, within hearing, diabetic and motor rehabilitation their visual problems are also taken into account. Moreover, staying in a group of people with similar difficulties allows the sharing of problems and offers the joy of exchanging thoughts and experiences. In brief, these are the specific activities carried out by the Polish Association of The Blind.
El¿bieta Oleksiak, the Polish Association of The Blind
Report of the meeting of the European Committee of ICEVI
On 14-15 April of this year the European Committee met again, this time in the "Centro de Recursos Educativos" (the Educational Resource Centre) of ONCE, hosted by the ONCE. All members of the Committee were present and as usual the meeting was very inspiring and pleasant. Our hostess, Mrs Maria Rosa Villalba Simon, had prepared an excellent social programme.
The most important agenda items were:
- State of art regarding the Cracow Conference;
- Reports and discussion about activities and developments in different countries/subregions;
- Future of ICEVI Europe;
- Proposals for activities in the last two years of the quinquennium
Ad 1: The Committee was extensively informed about the progress of preparations in Poland and about the activities of the programme committee: the committee was impressed by what has been done so far, especially by the activities in the host country. Furthermore, the postconference workshops were discussed at great length. Finally, the agenda for the General Assembly of ICEVI Europe - to be held at the Conference- was decided upon as well as that of the meeting of contact persons which is generally considered as a very important meeting for the further development of ICEVI in Europe.
Ad 2: Many important developments are taking place in Europe in the area of Education of the visually impaired. A general tendency which can be observed throughout Europe is the development of 'specialisation' towards 'generalisation', one of the implications of integration/inclusion. The committee considers it as its task to ensure that the specific knowledge, know-how in the area of Education of the visually impaired will not get lost, which is a real danger. Since this tendency can be observed everywhere, this should be one of the major points of interest of the committee in the years to come.
Ad 3:The meeting on the second day was largely dedicated to a discussion about the future of ICEVI Europe after the present quinquennium (1997-2002) on the basis of a discussion plan prepared by the chairman. Much will depend on creating broad support in Europe, especially from a financial point of view, in order to continue the present level of activities. Approximately 35,000 Euro will be needed for this on an annual basis, apart from the costs for a European Conference and some workshops. Each of the members will make an effort to create the above-mentioned support in his/her own country/subregion.
Ad 4:As far as the plans for 2001/2002 are concerned: the following activities are being considered:
- One or two regional workshops, for example in Central Europe, in the Baltic countries, in the Balkan Countries as a continuation of the Comenius Project on Early Intervention.
- Possibly a third workshop on training of teachers of the visually impaired.
- The development of a webpage on internet
- A visit to countries which, until now, have not been so active within ICEVI: Ukraine, Portugal, Italy, Greece.
The next meeting will be held in the UK, in Condover Hall on 10-13 May 2001 with Tony Best acting as host.
BJVI May 2000
To celebrate the ICEVI meeting in Cracow, the British Journal of Visual Impairment (BJVI) has published a special issue for the conference containing articles about Visual Impairment in Europe. There is a report of ICEVI's work from Herman Gresnigt, and major contributions from Hungary, Poland, Sweden and Greece. There is also a report from the United Kingdom on clothes purchasing problems experienced by blind people and the Issue is rounded off with an extremely controversial speech given by the Journal's editor, Kevin Carey, explaining why independent mobility skills for blind children and adults are vastly overrated.
The Journal is being distributed free of charge to all delegates at the Cracow Conference, together with a subscription form. We hope you will subscribe and strengthen our ability to increase European coverage.
Mr Kevin Carey
EBU in co-operation with the Unione Italiana Ciechi:
"The role of associations and families in the improvement of the status of the education of the blind and partially sighted",
19-23 July 2000,
Grand Hotel Terme Caesar in Montegrotto Terme, Padua, Italy.
School for the Blind and Partially Sighted, Cluj, Rumania:
"One century of special education for the Blind and Partially Sighted: Past, Present, Future",
13-15 October 2000.
Tel/Fax: 00 40 64 431346
First Balkan Conference on Education of visually impaired children:
"Curriculum, strategies and management innovations,
26-29 October 2000.
The year 2000: young visually impaired people:
"Present state and future prospects in France and Europe".
UNESCO - Paris,
30 November - 1 December 2000
Report 2nd workshop on Training of Teachers of the visually impaired in Europe, Bratislava, 23-27 September 1999 (142 pages).
This report can be ordered by transferring 15 Euro to account number 126.96.36.1997 of Theofaan International. Rabo Bank Grave, the Netherlands, clearly stating your name and address.
Edizione Italiana Conferenze Europea, Budapest 1995. Published by: Biblioteca Italiana per I chiechi.
Children with Visual Disorders. Cognitive development, developmental disorders and consequences for treatment and counselling.
PhD thesis, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University.
Tomteboda Resource Centre
S-17125 Solna, Sweden