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Saturday, 22 November 2008 00:00

Special children face hurdles

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Despite the fact that Turkey lags behind the United Kingdom in assisting the special children, like Devrim who was born with Down Syndrome, Devrim’s mother has decided to move to Fethiye with her two sons.

Devrim will continue his education in Fethiye.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine contacted me and asked for help. She was considering moving to Fethiye with her two sons aged nine and seven. Their father is Turkish. The elder boy was born with Down Syndrome. He is a delightful, active child, who brings great pleasure to his parents lives and those of everyone he meets. At present, Devrim attends a special school near his home on the outskirts of Cambridge, England. The facilities and the teaching there are excellent.

Mother and son are very happy with the school and with Devrim’s progress. Devrim will need to be cared for for the rest of his life. Independence is unlikely and any chance of work will almost certainly be low-skilled and poorly paid. His life expectancy will be less than average and although he will never want for anything financially, his life choices and chances are necessarily limited. Hence her request for help. What facilities can Fethiye provide for a boy like him?

Different opportunities

Cultural, political and economic differences between Turkey and the United Kingdom mean children with special needs have different opportunities. But this was not always the case. A few decades ago Devrim would not have had opportunities now afforded to him in the United Kingdom.

In both countries these children were often incarcerated in institutions and occasionally, were rejected by their parents. Individuals with special needs were a taboo; a subject of shame. Thankfully now, many children like Devrim are better integrated into society and often play an active role in their communities.

Attitudes are changing in Turkey albeit more slowly than the United Kingdom. Fethiye has a number of schools and special units that cater for children who cannot enter mainstream education, but these are expensive to run.

All too often, funds are short and facilities are less than adequate, despite there being a willingness on the part of authorities to fulfil their moral and societal obligations. Where once children with special needs and disabilities were isolated in the home or institutionalised, they are now encouraged to enter into, participate and integrate into their community, and other children through various formal and informal programs.

Lagging behind

Despite the fact that Turkey lags behind the United Kingdom in assisting children like Devrim, there are other things here that children like him can benefit from. His education will continue in Fethiye and will be provided for by the municipality, together with his parents and friends. Devrim needs a lot of physical exercise and Fethiye provides a wide range of activities that are perfect for active little boys. Swimming, football, art and creative work can be combined with more structured learning and a social skills education.

A retired special needs teacher, Janet Taylor, now living in Fethiye, confirms Turkey has a long way to go in terms of formal education for boys like Devrim, but agrees with his parents that family and the community have a great deal to contribute toward giving children positive experiences and full and active lives.

What makes Devrim’s family so keen to settle in Turkey is not the education system itself, indeed if this were the case they would almost certainly have stayed in the United Kingdom.

Rather they look at the quality of life available to Devrim and see the love, loyalty and cooperation within extended family and beyond in the village, will not only give him a richness of experience he would otherwise not have, but also the chance to live in a kinship structure that involves not only his large family, but also his village neighbors.

All these are people who accept Devrim for who he is; with all his problems and his charm. He can help with the sheep and goats. He can have his own vegetable patch.

He will learn to cook with his grandmother. He will fish with his father and help with guests on daily boat tours. His life will be very full and very different from that which he could have in Cambridge. But essentially, it is one that suits him for life; boy and man.

SOURCE: HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

Read 1167 times Last modified on Sunday, 21 June 2015 19:45