Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Russia, UK team up to help people with Down syndrome integrate into society

From Prime Time Russia:

Moscow and London officials have organized a multimedia teleconference to draw public attention to the problems of children with Down syndrome and to discuss possible ways to help them integrate into society.

The issues on the agenda have always been highly heated in Russia, where 85% of about 2,500 babies with Down syndrome born every year are given to foster homes. These abandoned kids often spend the rest of their lives in the state’s care and are not given a chance at a normal upbringing.

The reason is that there is a huge prejudice against children born with Down syndrome and against people with disabilities in general.

Therefore, the main goal of the event was to raise public awareness and understanding of the problems.

“Here in Russia we have certain so-called journalists and writers who urge us to kill children with Down syndrome and who want parents to have the right to choose whether to kill these kids or keep them alive,” Aleksandr Lysenko, from the Coordinating Council for Disabled Persons, told RT. “It’s barbaric! These journalists have free access to key media: newspapers, radio channels and TV. We must debate this issue!”

The charities and the government representatives at the conference did their best to come up with a way to persuade parents to keep hold of their children if they are born with Down syndrome and give them a normal upbringing, engaging the kinds in intervention schemes and educational processes.

Last year about 600 children were involved in educational schemes run by a Moscow charity called Downside Up.

What is more, places are now being given to such kids in nursery schools in the capital and there is even a theater group dedicated to people with Down syndrome.

“I was playing an angel at Igor's Theater and was wearing an angel’s white costume,” Nikita Panichev, an actor who suffers from Down syndrome, told RT. “One can learn lots acting in the theater. I love theater myself and like studying with Igor because he's kind to people.”

However, many people still do not recognize that children and adults with Down syndrome have enormous learning potential. In fact, they can do all that a normal child can – provided they have dedicated care.