Early Intervention Centers helps disabled children

Ten years ago the Hilton/Perkins International Program, established to help blind and otherwise handicapped children, turned its attention to Central and Eastern Europe. In all of the post-communist states care for the disabled left a lot to be desired, and since 1992 the Hilton Perkins International Program has provided both financial assistance and know how in order to establish an efficient network of help centers. Mr. Dennis Lolli from the Perkins School for the Blind is a Hilton/Perkins representative who supervises the work of Early Intervention Centers in the Czech Republic. Daniela Lazarova asked him what the situation was like when he first visited the Czech Republic ten years ago:

"There was no networking, there was competition, if anything, between countries, programmes did not have access to information -information that was either from the West or simply different ideas and theories about how to do things. There seemed to be set ways in which activities and education was conducted and certainly the rights and involvement of parents in the education of their children was viewed differently."

What have your priorities been and what progress have you seen in this field?

"Our priorities are to bring technical assistance, teacher exchanges, access to professional literature, regional seminars, training workshops, to provide access to training for individuals in the United States and elsewhere. What we have seen in terms of changes is that as those priorities were implemented barriers broke down relatively quickly between organizations and between countries and there is now a lot of networking and a lot of contact happening at regional level. And that's very encouraging because there is an energy that is produced from within."

I believe you yourself are a teacher at the Perkins School for the Blind . From your own experience what does a blind child need most?

"The first thing that the child needs -and the parents need- is to be accepted as a normal child. To be loved, held and given the same kind of experiences that you would give a child without blindness or additional disabilities. One of the difficult barriers for parents is to accept their child on the terms of their child, to love openly and involve them in a lot of family and community activities. It is also very important for parents of children with disabilities to meet other parents in the same situation because it is very easy to feel isolated and alone and also to feel like there is something you have done wrong in your life that has left you with a blind or disabled child. And I think that is very important for people to have access to other parents and counseling and support services so that they know there are many hundreds of parents in the same situation."