Several months ago Nelly Sargsyan started working as a speech therapist in Aparan Community kindergarten, “When Nelly started working with the children parents accepted her work with somewhat reservation. In this area people used to hide their children’s speech impairments as if that is something shameful”, - says Mary Hovhannissyan the director of the kindergarten in Aparan community.
Nelly worked in the kindergarten for three months; during these period she revealed speech disorders among 30 children out of 80 in the kindergarten. Nelly also revealed behavioral issues among children including communications issues and aggression.
“It was very interesting to notice how parent’s behavior was changing when they were realizing that I was a professional and I knew what needs to be done to correct the issue. I explained in details how I was going to work with their child. They were very enthusiastic to get involved, exercise with the child at home and ensure successful result,” says Nelly.
“Now we see how the parents’ attitude has changed; now they come to thank Nelly for the change,” – says Mary Hovhannissyan.
Before starting her job as a speech theriapist Nelly received training on inclusive education organized by World Vision Armenia and during these three-month period World Vision paid Nelly’s salary.
Nelly also started working with other children in need of professional services living in Aparan Community free of charge.
“There used to be no speech therapist in the area previously, and children in need for professional services used to either receive no services whatsoever, or their parents had to take them to capital Yerevan and pay both for the service and the transportation. And that would be no small amount hard to be paid by many of the parents living in the area”, - says Lilit Movsisyan, who coordinates World Vision’s Early Childhood Development initiatives in Aparan area.
Next to individual work with the children Nelly also works with the groups in the kindergarten; she supports the teacher by organizing various games and learning activities. This helps her identify hidden issues with the children, as children usually more freely articulate in the group than during individual work.
When the three months were over World Vision set up a meeting with local authorities in Aparan Community to present the results of the speech therapists’ work as well as letters of gratitude written by parents.
“Our aim was to bring evidence on the impact of the speech therapists’ work and convince that it is crucial to have a state-paid position for this specialist because early identification and treatment can solve serious speech impairments. To our big excitement the community authorities accepted our arguments and inserted that position. Today the salaries of the two speech therapists in Aparan Community kindergartens are being paid by the community budget”, - says Lilit Movsisyan.
This means that 410 pre-school-aged children are in constant control by the qualified speech therapists, while children in need of professional assistance receive services right in the kindergarten.
These specialists also provide professional services to other children living in the area free of charge.
“We understand that only by inserting the position of a speech therapist we will not be able to make our kindergartens inclusive. But this change is crucial as local community authorities thus realize the need of qualified specialists working right in the area”, says Karine Abelyan who manages World Vision Armenia’s Early Childhood Development Programmes.
World Vision is now working closely with the community kindergartens to create local resource centres within where children will receive professional services.
“Communities have very limited resources, and they are not be able to pay for all the specialists in the kindergartens. This is why World Vision initiated the creation of resource centres with one qualified specialist (speech therapist, special educator or psychologist) and a trained teacher. They can work together in the kindergarten groups and address children’s needs for professional services ensuring children’s full integration in the group”, continues Karine.