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e-Sense – the Software for the Education of Children with Deafblindness

PRESS RELEASE

Bucharest. November 24th. The Foundation Sense International Romania, Code for Romania and Orange Foundation are launching the platform www.esense.ro during the International Conference “Deafblindness during the Pandemic”, organised online.

The platform is founded on the professional expertise of the specialists in the field of deafblindness from the Sense International Romania and partner schools: School Centre for Inclusive Education Cristal Oradea, School Centre for Inclusive Education Constantin Pufan Timisoara and Special Technological Highschool Vasile Pavelcu Iași, combined with the expertise of professional and enthusiastic community of young people from Code for Romania, who develop IT solutions to respond to various issues related to people and society.

The project e-Sense is funded by Orange Foundation with the amount of 414 804 lei, through the programme “The World through Colour and Sound”, the largest fund dedicated to people with hearing / visual impairments in Romania.

This project appeared as a response to the concrete needs of children with deafblindness. The work with the child in this context, the games created through these digital instruments, are benefit when educating special children, ensuring a high level of communication, socialisation, cognitive and psychological development, a support for the parents and/or the teacher”. Loredana Prisecaru, Special Technological Highschool Vasile Pavelcu Iași

“We are a handful of people trying to do all that we can to change the life of others for the better. At the same time, the feeling of being a part of this change, transforms us too into better people.” Eva Oprea, School Centre for Inclusive Education Cristal Oradea

Digital technology is increasingly prevalent in the education system and everyday life, but not for children with deafblindness. In order for them to have access to quality education and not to "fall behind", software is needed to adapt to their specific needs given by the combination of visual and hearing impairments.

In the absence of vision and/or hearing, access to knowledge is more limited, which is why specific sensory stimulation activities are necessary, supporting the child to be in contact with the world. The main aim of e-Sense is to transpose into the digital technology realm exercises that lead to the development of perceptive skills to detects sensory stimuli and to become aware of their presence, the development of attention to sensory stimuli, to localise them. Explore and manipulate, recognise and discriminate.

“e-Sense is the solution that schools had needed for a very long time. A customisable solution that allows teachers to utilise, in an adapted manner, the specific situation of each child, because each child has very specific requirements.  We succeeded to build a system that will support teachers in early intervention and not only, with flexible exercises and games that follow the curriculum in force and that is open to everyone, it is open-source, replicable and reusable all around the world.” Olivia Vereha, Chief Operations Officer and co-founder Code for Romania

After registering an account on the platform www.esense.ro, the specialist will have access to a series of exercises that can be made together with the child. The specialist will have an increased level of control upon the exercises features such as shapes, colours, contrast, size, objects direction of movement – all in order to personalise the exercises depending on the child’s development level. The specialist will be able to record, monitor and assess the child’s progress, and therefore having a better initial and on-going assessment process.

The exercises are created in accordance with the National Curriculum for the Education of Children with Deafblindness/Multisensory Impairments (Ministry of Education, Research and Innovation Order no. 5243/01.09.2008) and the Educational Content for Ante-pre-school Early Intervention for with Deafblindness/Multisensory Impairments (Ministry of Education Order no. 3071/18.01.2013).

 

About Sense International Romania

Sense International Romania is a Romanian organisation established in 2001 with the aim to improve the life of people with deafblindness and multisensory impairments in our country. SIR is the only organisation in Romania actively fighting for the rights of people with deafblindness. Through national level programmes that promote the early intervention foe babies born with sensory impairments, the education of children with deafblindness/MSI and the provision of vocational services, SIR manages to brig a change for the better in the life of hundreds of people with this type of disability. Our field of interest is represented  by 4 major strategic directions: promoting the rights of people with deafblindness, health, education and social inclusion.

www.surdocecitate.ro/en/

About Code for Romania

Code for Romania is the second largest organisation in the field of civic technology in the world. The association develops pro-bono software solution, in open-source system, to solve social issues, with the support of more than 1800 volunteers from Romania and Abroad. In 2020 alone, the solutions in the Covid-19 ecosystem (stirioficiale.ro, rohelp.ro, datelazi.ro etc) and the voting ecosystem (Vot Diaspora, Rezultate Vot etc.) have been used by over 8 million Romanians.

www.code4.ro/en/

About Orange Foundation

Orange Foundation is a non-for-profit organisation involved in the life of the community, through the implementation of philanthropic projects meant to bring positive changes in the life of disadvantaged people. In more than 8 years of activity, Orange Foundation invested over 6.5 million Euro in digital education projects for disadvantaged people and in health, education and cultural projects for the benefit of people with visual or hearing impairments, aiming at their social integration. For more details, visit www.fundatiaorange.ro.

The conference: We turned the pandemic challenge into an opportunity

Bucharest. November 23rd 2020. The Foundation Sense International Romania is organising online The International Conference ”Deafblindness during the Pandemic”, between November 23 – 25, 2020.

After more than half a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world in which we live has changed and is still changing. People with deafblindness - children, adults or elderly - as well as their families, have found themselves facing more marginalisation and neglect, they are more vulnerable and more exposed to isolation than ever, during the crisis.

Deafblindness refers to a situation where a person is confronted with both visual and hearing impairments. It may be about children born this way, young people and adults acquiring it due to disease or accidents, or elderly people who gradually lose their sight and hearing because of old age. Regardless of the cause, we are convinced you agree that deafblindness is a severe disability, causing great challenges in communication, in the way people make friends and live their every day life.

Together with 25 international and national speakers from Great Britain, India, The Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russia and Scotland we want to learn how the pandemic influences the process of communication for people with deafblindness, in what way can technology be of support, what are the challenges but also the opportunities during this time.

We had planned a conference in the field of deafblindness for this autumn. We had planned it at the request of special education teachers working with children and young people with deafblindness, so as to learn from each other and to learn the latest news. But the pandemic came. Obviously, a face to face conference became impossible. We turned the pandemic challenge into an opportunity, by holding an international conference, to answer together to questions like: what is it like not to see or hear very well during the pandemic? How do you learn? How do you communicate? Can technology be of help? What are the opportunities, how about the challenges?” Etelka Czondi, Director Sense International Romania.

An important moment of the conference will be the launch of the platform e-Sense together with Code for Romania and Orange Foundation. Digital technology is increasingly prevalent in the education system and everyday life, but not for children with deafblindness. In order for them to have access to quality education and not to "fall behind", software is needed to adapt to their specific needs given by the combination of visual and hearing impairments.

On the internet page dedicated to the conference, there is more information about this event, including the Abstracts Book with summaries of all presentations and information about the speakers.

We thank the over 200 registered participants: parents, teachers, special education teachers, educators, psychologists, social workers, physiotherapists, doctors, students, other specialists, for their interest. The conference attendance is free of charge. However, any donation received from participants is welcomed and will contribute towards supporting children and young people with deafblindness, as well as towards organising future similar events.

Conference webpage: https://surdocecitate.ro/en/deafblindness-in-pandemic/

For Children and Young People – Deafblindness during the Pandemic

In a time when physical and social distancing has an influence on every aspect of our life, it is our responsibility to make sure that people with deafblindness are able to deal with these challenges, so that the risk of marginalisation, neglect and double isolation is as reduced as possible.

Why double isolation? Deafblindness represents a combination of both hearing and visual impairments, leading to great difficulties in communication, access to information, orientation and mobility. When these difficulties are overlapped by those caused by the pandemic, the risk of isolation becomes major.

ACCESS TO INFORMATION

In order to make the information on the COVID-19 pandemic accessible, we have produced a series of videos that address the major themes of the current life context, which are accessible to people with sensory impairments (in Romanian sign language, with contrast, subtitles and text, also in Romanian). In addition, in order to support the families of children with deafblindness, we have produced and translated materials containing activities ideas that can be done at home with the children, in order to continue the sensory stimulation that took place in schools.

Working in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the special schools for visually impaired and hearing impaired children from all over the country, we have come to their aid during this period. We have donated materials to 16 schools across the country – transparent masks for better communication with hearing impaired people, disinfectants and other protective equipment against SARS-COV-2 virus.

"The transparent masks were a very pleasant surprise for our children," said the director of one of the partner kindergartens where children with deafblindness, multiple sensory impairments and hearing and vision impairments are enrolled. "It's difficult for them to understand what we're saying to them with surgical masks on our faces, but the fact that they can now see the mouth and read the lips of the interlocutor has turned the safety of wearing the mask into a fun play for them."

TECHNOLOGY

A big part of our lives happens online these days. Because we believe that children with deafblindness must also have access to quality education and not be "left behind", we have channeled much of our efforts in this area.

Thus, we are in the midst of implementing the project "e-Sense – using digital technology, we are revolutionizing the education of children with deafblindness". We are working on this project together with Code for Romania, a community of young professionals and enthusiasts who develop IT solutions with the aim of solving society's problems, as well as with three schools providing educational services to children and young people with deafblindness. We develop, test and we will approve e-Sense – a package of open source, free and accessible educational software for over 335 children with deafblindness in Romania, for their parents and their teachers. Intensive work is being done on this project and partner schools are receiving laptops for the teachers involved in the project and tablets for children to use. This project is funded by the Orange Foundation under the World through Color and Sound Funding Program, 2019 edition.

In 2021 we will start a new project, funded also by the Orange Foundation under the World through Color and Sound Funding Program, 2020 edition. The project is called "Sensi" and aims to create tools to protect children and young people with sensory impairments online, so as to diminish the risks of online abuse.

For Specialists – Deafblindness during the Pandemic

ONLINE COURSES

During this period we are developing an online course in the field of deafblindness. Over the years, we have organized many such courses for specialists working with children and young people with deafblindness. However, in order to reach as many professionals as possible, we decided last year  to develop an online initiation course and a specialization course in this field. With financial support from Sense International UK and the Nelumbo Foundation, we hope to start the course in 2021.

CONFERENCE

Another good news for those interested is an event that will be held online from 23 to 25 November 2020, when we  organize the International Conference "Deafblindness during the Pandemic".

With the input of international and national speakers, we want to know how the pandemic has influenced the communication process for people with deafblindness, how technology can support them, what are the challenges but also the opportunities during this period. The conference is aimed at a wide variety of public, those who in their work or in their daily lives interact with people with deafblindness: parents, teachers, special education teachers, psychologists, educators, doctors, social workers, physiotherapists, students, NGO representatives, other specialists in related fields.

The participation is free of charge for a limited number of participants. However, any donation received from participants is welcomed and will have a decisive contribution to supporting children and young people with deafblindness and to organizing similar events in the future. For more details, please access https://surdocecitate.ro/en/deafblindness-in-pandemic/

 

Vasile Adamescu – You cannot live without love

Today, professor Vasile Adamescu would have turned 76 years old. Please read below a few words written with warmth by his friend and interpreter, Viorel Micu.

On September 5th 1944, in the vilage Borcea, Ialomița County, on the left shore of the Danube river, Vasile Adamescu is born, the second child of Zamfir and Voica, a family of poor, but hard working peasants. Vasilică, as he was called by those close to him, was to go through a terrible misfortune: following meningitis, he loses both his hearing and his sight, when he was only 2 years old. He remains like that, silent and sad, spending an unhappy childhood on the dirt roads of his village until the age of 11. Then, he is taken to the School for Visually Impaired in Cluj, where he meets his teacher, Florica Sandu, a kindhearted and skilled special education teacher, who sees his potential and succeeds in bringing him out of darkness and silence.

Gifted with a will of iron and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge, Adamescu quickly absorbs every information and succeeds the impossible. He acquires speech, manages to learn a communication system easy to use by all those around him (The Block Alphabet, the writing of capital letters on the palm or other parts of the body), goes through 18 years of school and then becomes a university student studying Special Education.

One must take into account though the relentless work of his teachers, who had the advantage of being able to work with him individually, due to the fact that the Ministry of Education approved the establishment of a class where he was the only student.

If in the beginning he only knew a few signs to ask for water or food, over the years, the child who did not seem to have any chance of leading a relatively normal life, becomes a man useful to society, as he always liked to say. After graduating university, he returns to the school where he once studies, making his teachers proud. He teaches children with multisensory impairments for more than 30 years. Many generations went through his hands, and for them, Vasile Adamescu was the calm and loving teacher, that you go to with love.

Throughout his life, he fought for the rights of people with disabilities, particularly people with deafblindness, towards a better life for them, access to education and social life.

Passionate about arts and sculpture, he graduates the School of Arts, where he polishes his native talent. He worked on thousands of clay works, from birds and animals to cars and busts of great personalities.

He wrote his memoirs, publishing a series of volumes called Confronting Life, a book showing that nothing is impossible.

He receives countless awards and decorations, the most important of them – the National Order of Merit with the High Rank of Knight, given by the Romanian President, the title Senior Citizen of the City given by the Cluj Napoca town-hall, Promoter of the Rights of People with Deafblindness given by Sense International Romania.

”Love is a peculiar feeling, hard to express in words… i don’t even know if there is a clear definition. I believe that love is like air. You cannot live without love” says Vasile Adamescu.

At the end of year 2018, Vasile Adamescu passes away, going to a better world. He was not afraid of death, because he trusted God. Still, he had dreams, plans, hopes. It is our duty to never forget Vasile Adamescu the teacher, the mentor, the writer, the artist, the person who always surrounded us with warmth, smiling to us, giving us advice, loving us and using all his skills to educate children with disabilities in our country.

#thursdayplay – Playing Seasons

Today we present Playing Seasons, as it described by colleagues from Vasile Pavelcu Special Technological High School in Iaşi, through Prof. Coca Marlena Vasiliu, Prof. Daniela Anton, Prof. Elena Macovei, Prof. Mihaela Aionesa and Prof. Loredana Prisecaru, to whom we thank from the bottom of our hearts for answering our call.

PLAYING SEASONS

In a relaxing atmosphere, children embark on a sensory journey through the four seasons, discovering the magic of the sound of rain, experiencing the pleasant sensation of raindrops, snowflakes, exploring with their hands and feet the grass, earth, water, raw and dried leaves, chestnuts, pine cones, feeling, in a chromatic game, the fresh and fragrant smell of spring flowers, tasting grapes, apples, nuts, strawberries and in a happy ending of the journey dancing.

SPRING

What do we need?

Spring flowers - tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, flower branches, grass, snails, soil, fruit - strawberries.

How we do it?

On a relaxing musical background "Frédéric Chopin - Spring Waltz" children will smell spring flowers - hyacinths, daffodils, lilies of the valley and flower branches. Children can touch the grass, the soil and snails with their hands and feet, parents can sing "Melc, melc codobelc" to allow the child to observe the moment when snails remove their cornices. Children can taste strawberries. In the end, children and parents and dance together on the song “The colours of the flowers”.

SUMMER

What do we need?

Bowl full with water in which we insert sand or gel balls, seashells, stones, coloured jellies beans, coloured balloons.

How we do it?

Listening to Vivaldi’s Summer, children will insert their little hands into the bowls of water to explore by touch the gel balls (these will be inserted into water 48 hours before so as to increase their volume) and the sand. Also, children can touch the stones, hit one stone with another to produce weaker or stronger sounds and they can listen to the sound of waves inside seashells. Children can taste coloured jelly beans and drink lemonade. In the end, children and parents can dance together on „Baloane colorate” (Colourfull baloons).

AUTUMN

What do we need?

Leaves, twigs, pine cones, chestnuts, tree bark, sprinklers and umbrella, nuts, grapes, apples, pears.

How we do it?

Listening to Vivaldi’s Autumn, children will explore through touch and small green and dried leaves, pine cones, chestnut, tree barks and branches. Using a sprinkler, parents can sprinkle tiny drops of water on their children and then use umbrellas for protection. Children can taste slices of apple, walnut and grapes. In the end, children and parents can dance together on „Ploaia” (The Rain).

WINTER

What do we need?

Paper bolts made with the help of the perforator to mimic snow, artificial snow (made from baking soda and shaving foam), sensory bags to mimic the snowstorm (plastic zipp bags in which we inserted paper balls made using the perforator and a straw; we blow to mimic the storm), pine twigs and cones, candles and cinnamon essential oil, oranges and gingerbread.

How we do it?

Listening to Chopin’s Winter Waltz, parents can sift over their children tiny paper bolts made with the paper perforator. Using artificial snow, children can make snow balls. The sound of the blizzard can be simulated using sensory plastic bags filled with the paper bolts and straws. Children will blow (alone or with their parents’ help) through the straw and notice what happens: paper bolts will starts dancing inside the bag, leaving the impression of a snow blizzard. Children will touch and smell the pine cones and branches, can taste gingerbread and oranges. All this can happen while smelling the scent of candles sprayed with cinnamon essential oil. In the end, children and parents can dance together on „Fulgișori pe obrăjori” (Tiny Snowflakes on Cheeks).

To support children with deafblindness (and not only), but also their families, during this period when staying at home has become synonymous with safety, we propose a series of sensory play activities that can be carried out with materials and objects that do not require special investments or expenditure, but can make a huge difference in children's lives and , why not, offers the opportunity to do something new and fun at home in the family.

We receive ideas for #thursdayplay at email: alina.boagiu@senseint.org.ro

Tactile Printer One – from dream to reality

Taliking with Dan Patzelt

Today we are talking with Dan Patzelt about Tactile Printer One and more.

We met Dan in 2019 when we became partners in the Tactile Printer One project, a project funded by the Orange Foundation through the World through Color and Sound Program 2019. A project initiated by the Association for Urban Development in partnership with the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, Lions Club Arad, Tandem Association, Sense International Romania and the National Library of Romania, which comes to the aid of people with visual and multisensory impairments and aims to make their information accessible.

 

Who is Dan Patzelt and what motivates him?

Dan Patzel is a stubborn person. Which if he believes in something, he holds on with his teeth until he succeeds. Falls are successful, right? (laughs)

When you’ve been working with visually impaired people for 10 years, you’re forced into introspection every day. You learn to look at yourself with other eyes. You learn to measure each action in such a way that you do not trample on each other’s space, freedoms and rights.

Some people would say I’m nosy by nature, but I like to help if I’m not asked. I get involved because I think of humanity as a part of us. And I think that’s exactly my motivation. I have a crazy thirst to help (change) people.

 

Tell us about the projects you are working on (including the one we are partners in).

The project I’m working on now is a story that started 10 years ago. Back then, I did advocacy projects, made museums accessible, organized tactile exhibitions. When I realized that a blind child can’t enjoy a painting unless he has a specialist by his side to guide his hand and patiently explain what he’s touching, I thought that we need a change. That even these children should be able to enjoy the art at any time.

And that’s how I turned the idea that blind people should be able to discover the world, concepts or objects that they can’t touch on their own, into my mission.

After a decade of work, blind children can now independently explore images using a mobile app, enjoy the presence of the specialist at the museum or at their home.

Although I started from an experience in the museum, the desire is to change for the better the education of children with special needs. On the tactile Images e-learning platform, teachers and parents have free access to drawings that describe audio, the chance to create their own materials and install the assistant app on their children’s phone. Thus, they can give children access to homeschooling and remote teaching, vital in the context of the pandemic.

When we created the app that describes audio drawings, we were thinking about visually impaired children. But there are other categories of children with special educational needs who are dependent on a specialist when they want to explore drawings and need personalized materials. That is why we have joined several partners in the “Tactile Printer One” project, funded by the Orange Foundation. To create drawings tailored to the needs of as many children as possible. With the Tandem Association, we will create maps of cities where there are large communities of blind people, and with Sense International Romania and the National Library we will create educational content that can be used in any classroom.

In addition to expanding to other special needs, “Tactile Printer One” also means the development of a tactile printer that will greatly reduce the costs of embossing drawings. This is where specialists from the Polytechnic University of Bucharest come to the scenes, who are working at its production.

Now we are also working on a new tactile catalogue, with which children with special needs will be able to discover the fascinating world of electricity on their own. This is where Electrica SA came to support us.

To help as many children with special needs to study on their own, the next project would be to make the assistant app for Android (it is currently only available for iOS). But for that we need support. If those who read us want to help, they can do it here: www.tactileimages.org  

 

How can deafblind children benefit from these projects?

I think the best example is the tactile catalogues that I mentioned above. Let’s talk a little bit about “Urban Landscapes”, the first self-described tactile catalogue, which we created in collaboration with ING Bank and which anyone can download for free here: bit.ly/UrbanLandscapes-Page. 

Simplified drawings contain not only audio descriptions, but also Braille descriptions, to allow children with deafblindness to independently explore intangible objects. They can find out for themselves what animals, traffic signs, public transportation or buildings look like.

“Urban Landscapes” and “Electric Network” are just two of the tactile catalogues created, we have also worked on catalogues with portraits of historical figures, with descriptions signed by the Center for Historical Consulting, catalogues with vehicles, biology or geography, made with the help of OMV Petrom. They will be free to be downloaded to allow children with deafblindness to discover new things and deepen school subjects.

We invite parents of children with deafblindness to join the Tactile Images platform to create their own self-described drawings, to which they can also add descriptions in Braille. Only together can we help children with special needs enjoy a fulfilled life through easy access to education!

10 Things to Know About Deafblindness

Article signed by Tracy Stines, a person with deafblindness, a writer and a promoter of the rights of people with deafblindness.

Busting the Stereotypes of Deafblindness

I was born deaf and legally blind. Throughout the years, I’ve had to explain and correct so many misconceptions out there.

For many people, when hearing the word “deafblind,” they instantly think of Helen Keller, the deafblind author.

People need to know that deafblindness is not “totally deaf and totally blind,” but actually a spectrum. Some may have low vision and be hard of hearing, others may be deaf and have limited vision, or be totally blind but hard of hearing.

I label myself as a Deafblind person, yet I wear glasses with limited correction and use a white cane. I also have a Cochlear Implant and can identify environmental sounds, but cannot understand speech without close lipreading.

Other Deafblind may hear and speak very well and can carry a conversation on a cellphone or not use a white cane regularly but have trouble navigating in dark areas and at night.

Whatever our variation in hearing or vision loss, here are 10 things you need to know about Deafblindness:

1) Please do not question our ability to see or hear.

A while back all across social media there was a viral picture of a woman with a white cane looking at a smartphone. There were many negative comments and doubts about her “blindness.”

As I already mentioned, deafness, blindness, and deafblindness are all on a spectrum of limitations. No two people will have the same degree of loss or even the same level of coping and independence.

We do not need to prove anything to you.

2) If you’re in our space, please do not move things around.

If you’re visiting someone with Deafblindness, do not move things around. We need things exactly where we’ve placed them so we can quickly find them again.

There’s no “scanning” visually for it, so if something’s moved, it takes us a long time to find it by touch. Even moving something a foot away, it is still “lost” to me.

This still applies in public spaces such as a restaurant. If we placed our fold-up cane, phone, or purse on a table or chair, please ask permission to move those before touching them.

If you do move something, tell us exactly where you put it.

To read the full article, please go HERE.

June is about deafblindness

June is about deafblindness

Every year, in June, we have celebrated Helen Keller alongside children and young people with deafblindness and multisensory impairments from our partner schools, their parents, siblings and teachers. We asked a few questions on this from our colleague, Ramona Antonie, Programmes Manager with Sense International Romania, responsible with this wonderful activity in the organization. Here are her answers.

 

1.  What does June of each year mean for Sense International Romania?

One word: Awareness!

Many years ago, more than 10 years ago, Sense International Romania began to celebrate Helen Keller, a person recognized internationally as the first person with deafblindness, which means someone who has both visual and hearing impairments.

In order to raise awareness of this category of people, it was necessary to find a person who is representative among the population, who was born with or acquired deafblindness throughout her life and had exceptional achievements, and then to promote her among our partners, our acquaintances, on media channels and online to the local and national community.

Why Helen Keller? Because if you look at Helen Keller and study her life, you realize that every child with deafblindness is able to achieve something meaningful in life.

Going on the same pattern, we chose this month, June, because Helen Keller was born on June 27th 1880.

A few words about Helen Keller: Helen was a strong person and extremely determined to study, and with the support from dedicated people, as was her teacher Anne Sullivan, managed to change her destiny and become a symbol recognized throughout the world.

She studied and received the Magna cum laude as the first person with both impairments to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree, and then obtained a Ph.D. from Harvard. She traveled extensively and campaigned for the rights of people with disabilities and for access to equal opportunities for disadvantaged groups.

It’s important to point out that this disability is recognized in Romania by Law 448/2006 as deafblindness, alongside physical, visual, hearing, associated, rare diseases, so on, that people who have this double hearing and sight impairment can get the deafblindness certificate, although most people with deafblindness in our country have either hearing impairment or sight impairment on their disability certificate, even if they have both senses affected.

The June message we're sending?
Any child with deafblindness can do more than you might think if given the chance and support to reach their potential. 

It's a message of hope focused both on parents of children with deafblindness, on young people and adults with this disability, but especially on educational, social and economic decision-makers.

 

2. You have been involved in the activities organized for the Helen Keller International Week from the beginning. How did these activities evolve over time?

With painter Ovidiu Kloska, Focșani, 2019 © Gabriel Ciribașa

I could say that we started with small steps, from smaller to larger in an increasingly structured, transparent and open way for any school that wanted to carry out such activities. The minimal criterion is that there are children with deafblindness/multisensory impairments in these schools, who are involved in specific activities. Also, we have encouraged collaborative projects between special schools and mainstream schools so as to increase the level of cooperation and acceptance between students, regardless of whether students with disability study or not in those mainstream schools.

Over time, we were surprised by dedicated teachers from our partner schools with a multitude of activities starting from trips and orientation and mobility activities in the mountains, at the seaside, in various cities and museums, modeling, painting and finger painting, horse therapy, saline therapy, pool hours, cooking workshops, preparing various pastries, gardening, painting with light and puppet theatre, pamphlet creation and distribution to other colleagues, surprise parties, huge puzzles, sensory tracks and the list continues.

If we were to estimate a number of children in the 10 years or so of Helen Keller's activities on the basis of the activity reports we have, these activities were attended by over 5000 students, 500 of them with deafblindness.

 

3. What's different this year?

Transparent masks, 2020 © Gabriel Ciribașa

This year was definitely different in a way that we could not have predicted when we did our project planning, respectively the experience of an international pandemic generated by the Sars-Cov-2 virus, which put in front of us the challenge of continuing our activities in a completely different way. Thus, after team consultations within Sense International Romania, as well as with our partners in the education system, we have shifted the funds raised for the Helen Keller project in the acquisition of transparent masks useful to hearing-impaired students that we have directed where we have been asked to, various educational materials for children and parents, but also through the acquisition of hygienic-sanitary materials so that those school activities that take place during this period – national evaluations for students in the final years, be carried out in maximum safety for both pupils and teachers.

Below is the message of Professor Manuela Ionescu, from CSEI 2 Sibiu:

Thank you for the masks! These are very useful to students with hearing impairment because they can read lips and at the same time much of the face remains free so that it is easier to understand the facial expressions, making it easier to dialogue with children.

We hope that next year we will return to the activities we were doing with love with students with deafblindness and multisensory impairments.

I felt the lack of joy of a happy child's smile, a colorful balloon lifted to the sky with Helen Keller's name, photos of students happy with the novelty of some discoveries from a pleasant activity and the happiness of knowing that YOU can do something by your own forces, as well as some hashtags specific to this month that constantly appeared on the organization's Facebook page :

#helenkeller #dincolodesimturi #surdocecitate #numeleșcolii #SenseInternationalRomania

 

4. What is your most beautiful memory of Helen Keller International Week?

Bucharest, 2013 © Sense International Romania Archive

I don't know if it is fair to say that I only have one memory which I consider the most beautiful. I certainly have several memories of celebrating Helen Keller, from the young children in kindergarten who explored with their hands and feet various materials and textures and were extremely happy about it, to planting flowers and shrubs in the school garden or attending a hypotherapy session with them as was the case with  3 of our partners from Bucharest and Iaşi, to raising colored balloons with a group of enthusiastic children from Sibiu, or to accompany young people in their final years on a visit to a printing press or in the framework of a painting workshop with partners from Focşani, or to taste a wonderful cake with our partners from Oradea, and the examples can continue.

I could not choose just one beautiful moment because there is a whole collection of happy moments that resulted in happy smiles and the message that children and young people with deafblindness constantly convey: "I too can!"

 

Making play inclusive: den making

Den Making

Dens provide children with a space where they are able to impact their own environment and create their own worlds. This video highlights how building dens can be a great way to engage siblings, and they offer ideas on how to create themed and unique constructs, using a cardboard box. Den Making can provide an exciting and engaging event for children and is a lovely activity.

 

Video made by Sense - connecting sight, sound and life

Sense Specialist Services for Children & Young People

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