By: Ma. Fernanda Soria @mafersoria
Every day, thousands of parents around the world receive the news that their babies were born with an intellectual disability, one of the most common cases is the Down syndrome. There are different reactions in parents as soon as they know the news, but since the very first minute they find out that they are about to raise a special child they already know that the baby needs a special education.
Nowadays seeing children, teenagers, and adults with intellectual disabilities integrated into society is very common; they have even ventured as actors or models. They appear in magazines, in the big and small screen, such as the character “Becky” on Fox’s “Glee”. However, their inclusion into society is still today an arduous and a permanent task.
In Ecuador, because of recent government orders, there are educational institutions with psychopedagogical attention as part of inclusion programs. But the beginnings of this tireless social integration of children, youth, and adults with Down syndrome in Ecuador, goes back to 1966 with the creation of an educational center called FASINARM.
In 1966, educator Maria Gilbert de Babra along with Martha Salvatierra de Velasco, and Ana Gutiérrez de Garcés created the psychopedagogical center that years later became FASINARM, a nonprofit foundation that supports children and youth with intellectual and hearing disabilities. This center fights for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against people with disabilities and strives to achieve improvements in their quality of life.
This foundation, which provides psychological services, speech therapy, physical therapy, and social work, has three assistance programs: Early Childhood Education Unit for children aged 0 to 5 years, the basic educational unit for children and teens aged 5 to 16 years and CEVE (Vocational Training Center), which seeks to develop vocational training, social, and labor integration of people with disabilities in the community.
“We don’t introduce the young and adults to learn an occupation, but to get used to work habits through various workshops that will always be related to the skills they have,” said Mgs. Master David Vallet, technical coordinator in FASINARM.
As a non-profit organization, FASINARM favors those who are most disadvantaged in socio-economic situations, education funding about 94% of their students. “There are students with 100% scholarships, we have the cooperation of social workers who are responsible for an assessment of the family applying for aid,” says Vallet.
But granting full scholarships requires a budget, this is why this institution has a paid outpatient program and a marketing area that offers the public goods such as calendars, cards and toys, “this is to obtain profit because those funds self-finance the foundation,” he adds.
CEVE also contributes to self-financing through the production of craft workshops, printing, sewing, sub-contracts, orchard and garden, which also serve as a space for vocational training for young and adults with disabilities, with a social inclusion in labor world goal.
Students are not the only ones who receive support through therapeutic programs, FASINARM is also concerned about the parents, they can participate in orientation programs and psycho-emotional support of the foundation, “it’s not just about the students, many parents need support and these programs give them the opportunity to share with other parents in the same situation,” Vallet says.
“Our aim is to have our children, teens and adults integrated seamlessly into social and work situations, because people living with a disability are not so different than the rest. Many people treat them like little children when, for example, a 15 year old boy with Down syndrome has the same impulses as any other at that age,” Vallet concludes.
FASINARM today has 45 years promoting respect for diversity and equal opportunities in the Ecuadorian community that, gradually, is beginning to recognize the effort, commitment, and joy that these people put in society.