Jun 29, 2020

Our Autism Program Takes a Step Forward!

A teacher visit to Gabi's home
A teacher visit to Gabi's home

While Covid-19’s impact has challenged us, it also has brought us closer to the community we serve. It has inspired our team in Romania, the U.S. and UK to find creative ways to provide support to the children who attend our day program and their foster parents/parents. Our staff has communicated through individual Facetime and phone call “sessions” to interact with the kids, provide instruction on activities and “check in”. As many of our kids have medical issues, we want to help if assistance is needed. With the warmer weather, we have met children in local parks or outside at their homes.  

Some of our families live in the villages and do not have running water. We were concerned as this makes hygiene more difficult when we are instructed to wash our hands to prevent the spread of the virus. We were also concerned about food insecurity and, in fact, assisted our partner Good News for Romania, by purchasing and delivering emergency food just as the country was being locked down.

While in many ways daily life has seemed at a stand still these past few months, our Autism Program has taken a step forward!  One of our teachers, Gabriela, completed her introductory course in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), hosted by Autism Voice Romania and accredited by the Romanian College of Psychologists. We were excited that the course was still being taught and it was delivered in a live, on-line format for three days in April and three days in May. Gabriela has told us that the class introduced her to communication techniques and methods of working with autistic children that she knows will be life changing. She can’t wait to get back into the classroom to implement new ideas and share her knowledge with other staff.  Our psychologist, Lidia, will be attending the ABA course the next time it is given. In March, Lidia completed her Masters degree in Psychology and Educational Services (which encompasses primary education and instructing people with special needs). 

Prior to Covid-19, we had planned for all three of our full-time staff to be trained in the Picture Exchange System, a common tool used to help children with autism communicate. Our research led us to a consulting firm in Bucharest (5 hours by train) that offers both group workshop training and private instruction. We were hoping to have sent our team to Bucharest this summer for initial training but, of course, there are no workshops.

As always we are grateful for your support, which has enabled us to offer our services to children in need, free of charge.  We look forward to providing updates on the autism program but please reach out if you would like more information. On a separate note, we have changed the name of our Center to Delia’s Friends Learning Center in order to clearly state that we offer a program focused on learning and to better coincide with the name of our Romanian NGO and foundations in the US and UK.

We wish you and your family good health.

All best,

Laura Larkin, CEO, The Delia Foundation

Lauren Fishbach, U.S. Board President, Delia’s Friends Learning Center

David Conway, Trustee, Delia's Friends UK

Oana-Elana Codreanu, President, NGO Fundatia Delia Barlad 

Mario & Valentina meet a teacher in the park
Mario & Valentina meet a teacher in the park
Siblings Valentina & Mario outdoors with a teacher
Siblings Valentina & Mario outdoors with a teacher
Miruna with her Easter gift bag
Miruna with her Easter gift bag
Madelina: Happy to meet her teacher in the park!
Madelina: Happy to meet her teacher in the park!
Sharing plant-care during a teacher home visit!
Sharing plant-care during a teacher home visit!

Links:

Mar 2, 2020

We Did It! Autism Program Underway at Vibrant Kids

New headphones support focus & calm anxiety
New headphones support focus & calm anxiety

We did it! Autism Program is Underway at Vibrant Kids Thanks to You!

One of our teachers, Gabriela I., felt powerless. She was at a loss for how to help her students with autism. "Could I possibly get training?," Gabriela asked us. It was so imperative to her that Gabriela offered to contribute to the financial cost, if needed. 

This conversation, in December, gave us the impetus to launch our GlobalGiving fundraiser. Three months later, Gabriela is now enrolled for classes to start this spring!  Thanks to you, Gabriela will be the first of our staff to take an introductory course in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), hosted by Autism Voice Romania and accredited by the Romanian College of Psychologists. Gabriela will travel to the university town of Iasi for this training, about two hours from Vibrant Kids. She will have three full days of training in April and another three days in May to learn about developing communication, social skills and guiding appropriate behaviors in autistic children. This course will be followed with instruction in the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), which teaches kids to communicate. There are no words to express Gabriela’s gratitude! 

Some of our donors made direct requests to purchase head phones which are used by the children when the classroom stimulus becomes too much. These are really helping to calm anxiety and to enhance focus during learning activities. We have also introduced sensory kits containing fun items with different textures for the kids to touch. These provide an emotional and creative outlet while also developing critical skills such as motor skills and sensory development. Improving our students' communication abilities is a top priority and we have been interviewing speech pathologists. In this small town, surrounded by rural villages, it is not easy to find the expertise we need or a specialist able to commit to the hours. We expect evaluations of the kids to begin in the spring when our #1 choice for a therapist frees up some time. We will continue to report back to you as the autism program moves forward.  

The first two months of 2020 have been all about CHANGE at The Delia Foundation’s Vibrant Kids program in rural Romania.  CHANGING lives of special needs orphans through experiential educational opportunities, improving physical wellness, and an emphasis on emotional well being as nearly all of our kids have faced incomprehensible personal tragedies. 85% of autistic children in Romania are not enrolled in schools due to lack of teacher training. With your help we can CHANGE this statistic in the town of Barlad.

Thank you,

Laura Larkin, CEO, The Delia Foundation

Lauren Fishbach, U.S. Board President, Vibrant Kids

David Conway, Trustee, Delia's Friends UK

Oana-Elana Codreanu, President, NGO Fundatia Delia Barlad 

Our program incorporates movement & body awareness
Our program incorporates movement & body awareness
New sensory kits are a big hit !
New sensory kits are a big hit !
Individualized plans; low student:teacher ratio!
Individualized plans; low student:teacher ratio!
We encourage cooperative play and learning
We encourage cooperative play and learning
Creating art is fun... and also therapeutic!
Creating art is fun... and also therapeutic!
 
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