It really pays to have connections and stay connected with people working for a common goal, especially when there are not that many people in this country currently working on services for children with learning disabilities and mild intellectual disabilities. There are more services for children with sensory impairments and more well-known services for children with physical impairments and moderate to severe disabilities. But, since these children tend to blend in at least for some period of time, they go to school and do not succeed. There are not many good options in Tanzania for a child who doesn’t finish primary school and hasn’t learned additional vocational skills. After talking to my friends and colleagues from the Irente Rainbow School, I was referred to Brenda and Anton at the Gabriella Centre, the directors and people who have worked with Rainbow staff for a long time through a community rehabilitation network group.
Today we visited the Gabriella Centre. This center offers various services for children learning disabilities, high functioning autism and intellectual disabilities, including children with Down’s syndrome. Their website states the following as their goals:
Gabriella Children Rehabilitation Centre is a non-governmental organization started in July 2009 to ensure that children with disabilities are identified early, properly assessed, and trained to become acceptable community members. The centre consists of an integrated primary school for both disabled and non-disabled children, as well as full-time boarding for those who need it. The on-site occupational therapists and teachers assist children with autism and learning disabilities, and provide assessment, education, and disability awareness to parents, teachers, and the community at large.
We were very grateful to meet Brenda this morning and some of her staff and see the facilities. We were also very impressed with their services and we think that they are a real possibility for a few of the children we are most concerned about who we do not feel can be successful in the present government primary school system; they need more individualized supports. Our next step is to bring the children to the center with a parent for assessment and evaluation. We will provide our assessment results and notes from our interviews with these families to support the evaluation process.
For the younger children, they offered inclusive classroom instruction with typically developing students and Montessori activities to teach problem solving, functional academics, and self-care skills. In addition, they have rabbits that the children learn to care for to practice responsibility and animal caretaking skills.
As the children get older, they learn various vocational skills such gardening, weaving, beading, and clock building.
They recently started building a chicken and goat area to help the children learn those skills.
They also teach business skills such as selling soda and telephone vouchers.
We heard a story about a young woman who has learned to sell soda and vouchers and in the near future they will help her set up a shop in the area to sell independently.
Teachers from the center will continue to follow her and make sure she is doing okay and being successful. I was most excited to hear that they were not just teaching the skills, but offered concrete plans for how the child will move out of the sheltered environment and be reintegrated into the community. So exciting!!
Because their key staff are trained occupational therapists, they offer occupational and physical therapy (these two types are often combined in my experiences in Tanzania and usually offered by OTs). This a homemade Tanzanian trampoline that they made after the American one broke. The bottom is woven tires. Great recycling of materials.