People with disabilities face challenges no matter where they live, but it is especially difficult to live with a disability in developing countries such as the Dominican Republic. Geographic and economic barriers make it difficult for most Dominicans to access rehabilitation services, which tend to be institution-based and only affordable to wealthier families. Parents are at a loss and do not know how to help their child or what to do with him/her.
International Child Care’s Community Inclusion program sends trained rehabilitation workers, called promotoras, into the homes of children with disabilities who live in and around the city of Santiago, Dominican Republic. The promotoras teach the child’s parents simple exercises that will help the child grow and develop. This grassroots approach empowers families to give their children the chance to be fully included in their own families and communities.
Rehabilitation at Home
The Portage Guide to Early Education, originally developed for use in rural areas of the USA, is the base method for ICC’s home visiting program. This method allows Community Rehabilitation Workers, known as promotoras, to collaborate with families to design a developmental program appropriate to each individual child.
- The ICC-trained promotora meets with the child’s parents and assesses the child’s condition.
- The promotora demonstrates exercises appropriate to that child and watches as the parent practices them. The exercises utilize materials already found in the home.
- The promotora notes the child’s progress for her own files and leaves the parents with an activity card reminding them of what to do with the child in the coming week before her next visit.
The Adolescent Program
Once children graduate from the home rehabilitation program, they can be a part of an adolescent group that meets for two hours twice a week. This allows the individuals to gain valuable social skills by working with, playing with, and talking to their peers. Part of the class time is also centered on further developing their own development skills as assessed when the student enters the program. For many, this group is the closest thing to schooling they are able to receive, and many are overwhelmingly happy to just be there. The program develops their skills to allow them to become more active members of society and eventually find a job in the workplace.
International Child Care works in partnership with other governmental and non-governmental agencies that provide services to the disabled. An Association of Mothers of Disabled Children (in Spanish, abbreviated MANIDI) and a Cooperative of Family and Friends of Disabled Children (COFANIDI) are both organizations that have formed as a result of International Child Care’s work in the Dominican Republic. The Center of Integral Attention for the Disabled often gives referrals to the program.
The program also partners with several medical specialists who attend to the children at low cost and make referrals to local, private special education schools for the intellectually challenged and the hearing impaired.