Occupational therapy in the lives of young people with special needs in the Center “Wonderful hands”

Occupational therapy in the lives of young people with special needs in the Center “Wonderful hands”

Day-care center for social rehabilitation and adaptation for youth with intellectual disabilities “Wonderful hands” has been successfully operating and developing on the basis of Charitable Foundation “Caritas of Sambir-Drohobych Diocese of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church” for more than 13 years. The main aim of this project is to prevent all-day home isolation of 20 young persons aged from 20 to 45 years with mild and moderate intellectual disabilities, and, also, to prevent and minimize the consequences of difficult life circumstances for such persons and their families with help of educational and agogic programs.

In their childhood, these young persons with developmental disabilities were isolated from the society by their parents and guardians who were not taught how to bring up such children in a proper way, and, in some cases, did not want to do that. Families with children with developmental disabilities live under the burden of many problems, not every parent is able to accept the child's illness, adequately respond to ongoing problems. It is known that prolonged traumatic situation has a negative impact on the psyche of parents and complicates their relationship with the child. Some parents are broken by the tragic situation. After graduating from special boarding schools, with a rather dubious reputation of inclusive education in the Soviet era, the life of such young persons "stops", they return to the four walls of their apartment where they spend time alone with illness, without occupation and without independent living skills. Most often, young people with disabilities understand that they are radically different from their peers and are very ashamed to visit any public places. They were simply unlucky to be born with a developmental disability. A person with disabilities in psychophysical development is not a passive member of society, but a person who has the right to meet their own social needs: a full special education, recreation, work, possibly starting a family, retirement, access to cultural values. Therefore, the issue of personal development of our apprentices with disabilities in psychophysical development is a priority of social educators, employees, psychologists of the center "Wonderful hands".

The aim of all services, provided by our center “Wonderful hands” is to prevent home isolation of family and child with special needs, make their life more meaningful to prevent their closing up with fears, exclusion and misunderstanding from the society. Together with qualified staff, our clients form and develop daily social skills, abilities, social competence. Particular attention and most time is paid to the formation of self-care skills and work in a creative workshop. This is due to theoretical classes and daily workshops that form regular habits - alternating group in the kitchen (self-cooking dinner, setting the tableware, washing dishes, learning to use electrical kitchen equipment), cleaning group (using a vacuum cleaner, household chemicals, laundry machine, ironing), the formation of skills of choosing the right clothes, self-service in the shower and toilet, etc. Our center specializes in making bead pictures, greeting cards and coral neckless. Young people work on this with great joy and perseverance, especially knowing that selling their own products provide themselves with an annual vacation in a health camp. All these small actions, for you and us, make our youth happy, develop their motor skills and attention, raise self-esteem and make them understand themselves and feel like full members of the community. Now we can safely say that in our current work we use the principle of occupational therapy, namely occupation as a fundamental human need, which is biologically determined and unique and which offers a special person the opportunity to do something new and meaningful in every situation of his or her life.

These are our plans for the future. In the field of day care activities, the work is now general-based. Within the further development of occupational therapy, the approach to clients must be individual. By using assessment, the individual needs and preferences of clients can be inventoried for all the activities of daily living. The occupational therapist guides clients in making their own choices. Activities are only meaningful if they are experienced as such by the person carrying them out. From a demand-driven approach, a new and more varied range of activities can be developed organized in individual activity schedules. The holistic view on people can also be developed in the future. Therefore, the occupational therapist focuses on the emotional wellbeing of the clients from the perspective of ‘quality of life’. Performing activities related to daily living contributes to good health, but there’s a need to implement physical activities such as sports in the activity program. Occupational therapy works not only with the client and activities, but also with the context. For example, clients can learn to do their shopping in function of a cooking activity. Parents may be contacted, e.g. to learn about the client's life story or to apply skills learned in "Wonderful Hands" in the home situation. The development of occupational therapy in ‘Wonderful Hands’ still faces a lot of  challenges.