“Hello everyone! My name is Oksana Zhivchyn and I am a second-year master student majoring in Psychology. In December 2022 I completed my program “Inclusive Education” and In February 2023, together with Maria Raschupkina, I had a month-long practice in the city of Oradea (Romania) in three schools of inclusive education: CSEI Cristal, CSEI Bonitas and Pyramid Learning Center.

I am very glad that I had an opportunity to see how European countries provide assistance to children with special needs, what activities inclusive institutions implement in their work to develop and educate the children, what kind of specialists work there etc. and compare it with my experience of working in Ukraine

I will start from the first institution in our practice – CSEI Cristal. It houses children with special needs of different ages and severity of illness. During the practice, we saw a lot of corrective and developmental classes and activities, such as dancing and music therapy. I attended Snoezelen multi-sensory therapy, where various sensations are stimulated with the help of light, color, smell, sound and music effects. We had the opportunity to see how specialists perform their work with quality and love. It was very interesting to watch the music therapy classes because my master’s thesis on “Inclusive Education” relates to this issue. I was delighted to see how children with various disabilities respond to the sounds of musical instruments.

We also attended an individual correctional and developmental class for a boy with autism spectrum disorder, where the teachers helped develop the child’s cognitive skills using various techniques, using audio material with bird singing and animal sounds.

The next school centre for inclusive education we visited was CSEI Bonitas. Preschoolers and students aged 3 to 18 with various diseases: mental, sensory, neuromotor and related (autism spectrum disorders, Down’s syndrome) study at the centre. There we participated in various types of music therapy. Carl Orff’s multisensory therapy occupies an important place among the rehabilitation measures of this centre. It has a noticeable effect both physically and psychologically: it stimulates interest in the surrounding world, promotes cognition and self-discovery, helps self-expression, develops creativity, promotes coordination of movements, develops muscle tone, and forms interpersonal relationships.

The application of Ulville’s model in the centre is unique. This model is aimed at developing children’s skills in playing keyboard musical instruments. The model is based on a special portable system and colored musical notes that children with special needs can easily decipher.

We were also actively involved in dance therapy with preschool children. It was very gratifying to see the children getting used to us after only a week. At the end of the therapy, there was always a relaxing moment when the children lay down on their beds and the teachers helped them relax after the active program.

Another kind of therapy is canis therapy. It is a method of positive psychosocial and physical rehabilitation influence on children and people in general who need it, through specially managed and trained dogs. And I want to say that it made the biggest impression on me, because I myself had had a fear of big dogs since childhood but this therapy gave me the impetus to overcome it. It was incredibly pleasant, such sincere and positive therapy not only for children with special needs, but also for teachers of the institution and for Maria and me.

In general, we were involved in many activities with children of both preschool age and teenagers. There was a lot of group work with art therapy techniques, various exercises on logic, memory and thinking development and various educational activities where children improved their communication skills with their peers.

The last center that was part of our practice program is the amazing Pyramid Learning Center. It specializes in children with autism spectrum disorder. All our work in this center was with children of preschool age. The institution implements the PECS method, the most common method of alternative and complementary communication at the international level. Their approach is based on the individual and personal needs of each child. Therapy and the pace of work are adapted to the needs of the children, not the other way around. And it was very interesting to observe the methods of correction and diagnosis that I studied in theory, and in this center I saw how it was all used in practice.

Together with psychologists and defectologists, we conducted sports, art therapy, and music classes. We had the most contact with children there. And it is this institution, with its specialists, attitude and love for children, atmosphere and warmth, that motivates me to further study. There I saw that I could work with such children, and most importantly, it was comfortable and joyful for me.

It is also worth mentioning that we visited the wonderful “Caritas” institution, where immigrants from Ukraine stay and study. The place was a piece of our native home, where we mentally rested. They also spent a lot of time there with the children, did homework with them, conducted activities for them, involved them in learning the Ukrainian and English languages through various games, and by March 8th they made tulips and origami together. It was extremely valuable to hear that every child we asked, every teacher (they are also Ukrainian), were willing to return home and had it in their plans.

Also, I cannot help but mention the person who was by our side throughout our practice – Herman Shabolts (for us – Sobi). He is a professional in his field, a specialist with many years of experience and just a wonderful person. Sobi showed us all the inclusive institutions where we practiced for a month, gave us a tour of the city sights, and helped us with the everyday aspects of our stay in Oradea without any problems – always ready to share his experience. Thanks to Sobi, our trip was even more colorful with positive memories. Therefore, I show great respect and gratitude to this person!

Summing up our trip, I am filled with many emotions: both positive and negative. If we talk about the not-so-pleasant things, it saddens me to realize that our country, which is actively developing in the field of inclusive education, especially today suffers from the moscow invaders who stand in the way of our active development and the introduction of the latest forms of support for people with special needs, hindering education future young specialists who really want to put their soul into working with such children. But, if we turn to the positives, then by my example I want to convey to my peers, students of social sphere specialties, future colleagues that if you have motivation and desire, many doors will be open for you. Our university opens these doors very actively, the main thing is not to miss these opportunities. Talking with the teachers and administration of Drohobych University, the main conclusion emerges – you need to learn languages. Without it, your goal will not be realized so effectively.

I would like to thank everyone who participated in my practice: Ihor Hrynyk, Vice-rector for international relations and Orest Huk, Dean of the Faculty of History, Pedagogy and Psychology, as well as the teachers of my faculty. It was an extremely valuable and motivating experience for me. I would like to express special words of gratitude to the president of the non-profit organization “Oradea” (Belgium), the honorary doctor of our university, Patrick Belink, for his support and the opportunity to implement this mobility. Finally, I would like to note that no matter how good and interesting things are in Romania and other European countries, Ukraine is the best. This experience gives an opportunity and a desire to do something useful here, in one’s native land.

So I wish all of us prosperity, productivity in work and a speedy victory. Glory to Ukraine!”


By vmp