Supporting the development of vulnerable preschool children

“My name is Edhira. I am 31 years old. I have been with Association „DUGA“ for the last three months in a role of Special Educator. I also work in a special school for children with intellectual disabilities. So far I worked with children with different difficulties, often combined and rather complex. However, these children do not have a chance to learn from their peers. This is the first time I have an opportunity to support the development and learning of children in a mainstream environment. I am glad I can try towards supporting children in their natural environment so that they can later thrive in the challenging world of mainstream primary schools.

Together with DUGA, we are here to open the doors for younger children and invite them in the zone of early learning, create the opportunities to join their peers and experience all that the organised preschool education has to offer.

There is a boy with an impressive behaviour, a delitescent sweet smile, and a lost gaze. I cannot help noticing him in the group. It is difficult for him to follow the activities, he does not listen to what I am saying, screams often, does not communicate verbally and does not play with other children.

Our first encounter seemed to go imperceptible for the boy. He did not seem to care for any of the introductory intentions from my side. And he was special to me from the very first day. I longed to get to know him, to discover what is behind that blank gaze and shy smile.

A considerable time was spent planning with preschool educators and deciding on the best possible approach in order to see positive changes in the boy. Part of the work with him was on one-to-one basis, and the rest was in the group setting. It is important to work in a group setting, particularly with younger children.

It was challenging to work with individually as he was not responding to any of the activities. He was often complaining by exhibiting negative behaviour. On the other hand, it was almost impossible to establish contact with him in the group setting. The boy was always outside the group, in his own world. A lot of patience and persistence in the activities was needed, I realised that I had to learn to praise every tiny accomplishment and wait for the next.

Gradually the boy started to pay the attention to what was happening around him. He began exploring the didactic materials prepared for him, eager to complete a task at hand to see what the next one would be. He even started engaging in the group activities, he was observing other children, trying to imitate them and wait for his turn.

I noticed that the boy was improving in many different aspects, becoming more independent, more reactive to the stimuli around him. I felt there was a way to reach for him. He found the way to ask for what he wanted, sometimes by pointing, less often verbally, certainly with less negative behaviour.

A lot of work is still ahead of us. This is just the beginning for this boy and other children that I work with. It is seeing the world in a different light, starting to participate and use the opportunity to learn, play and communicate with others. It is important that we follow children’s abilities and needs, offering them support at the right moment in the most appropriate way. I hope I can be a part of this new world for many children, helping them to find their place and joy in everyday life.”

 

Preschool education for social justice project within The Regional Program of Local Democracy in the Western Balkans – ReLOaD, financed by European Union and carried out by UNDP, provides the conditions for 36 preschool with developmental difficulties to be included in various individual and group activities. Special educator and speech therapist support children at the “Children of Sarajevo” preschool institution facilities. DUGA aims to improve the quality of preparation of children for the transition to the primary school system, thus nurturing the inclusive community whereby every individual develops and acts according to personal abilities, interests and desires. 

 

This project is funded by the European Union