"If you laugh at a child who is different, he will laugh with you because his innocence overcomes your ignorance"
It is estimated that about 150 million children around the world live with some type of disability and 80% of them are in developing countries. In the majority of the cases, this children do not get the treatment they need and many are discriminated.
Photo: Fundación FEL© all rights reserved.The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines this condition as follows: people with disabilities are those who have physical, mental, intelectual or long term sensory deficiencies, that when encountering certain obstacles, may affect their participation, their role in society and equality with others.
Simply saying "children with disabilities" would be a mistake. It is important to be specific about the condition. Someone may suffer from down syndrome, autism, microcephaly, hypotrophy or West syndrome, just to name a few.
Considering the above, in 2014 the FEL Foundation was born, in the center of a family that saw the need of special children and their families to have a place with ample spaces in the middle of nature and a quiet environment./p>
The FEL Special Smiles Foundation (Fundación Sonrisas Especiales) is located in a country setting. With spacious and natural spaces where children have the possibility to feel free to express themselves, dream and develop their personality.Photo: Fundación FEL© all rights reserved.
It is clear that the work of helping others and giving opportunity to disadvantaged people, is not easy for everyone, on the contrary, it is a vocation that requires effort and dedication. With this in mind, I had an interesting conversation with Tatiana Leguizamón, founder and scientific director of Special Smiles.
Solkes: Where does the name of the foundation come from?
Tatiana Leguizamón: My seven-year-old son Felipe has autism and severe developmental delay. He is the inspiration of the foundation. My daughter gave it the name “ Special Smiles” because she says that the nicest thing that her brother has is the special smile.
Solkes: Why focus on helping others?
Tatiana Leguizamón: My parents, German Leguizamón and Lucero Baquero, who are the creators and founders, have always had a very big and kind heart. Photo: Fundación FEL© all rights reserved.They have taught us to give and to be generous. We help families with limited resources who have a special person and they need so many things.
Solkes: What is the work methodology? What is a comprehensive therapeutic treatment?
Tatiana Leguizamón: Basically it is in giving the children therapies in the intensity and quality they need for their development. They include occupational and sensorineural therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy. Also pedagogy and psychology for children, for siblings, parents and caregivers. The goal is to have 45-minute individual therapies with clear goals and goals to achieve, teamwork and therapeutic meetings.
In order to achieve the objectives of the foundation, they have an excellent team of therapists, outstanding specialists in different areas of development. Let's understand a little how they work:Photo: Fundación FEL© all rights reserved.
Speech therapy is the treatment most children with disabilities need in order to develop and improve speech and language learning. It is important to understand that speech disabilities refer to problems with sound production. Now, problems with language learning are difficulties in combining words to express ideas. The purpose of this therapy is the escalation in the pyramid of communication to achieve a way of relating.
Occupational therapy is the set of techniques, methods and actions that, through activities applied for therapeutic purposes, prevents and maintains health, it favors the restoration of function and supplements the incapacitating deficiencies.
Physiotherapy aims to facilitate the development and recovery of the maximum functionality and mobility of the child throughout his life.
Music therapy is the management of music and its musical elements (sound, rhythm, melody and harmony) performed by a qualified music therapist, with an individual patient or a group.
Photo: Fundación FEL© all rights reserved.Neurosensory therapy is essential in many cases, since the physical basis of human development lies in the correct functioning of our central nervous system.
With my interview with Tatiana Leguizamón, I was shocked to learn that society marginalizes children who have some kind of disability. For example, only about 2% of children with disabilities have access to education. In addition, many people feel impressed by being close to or in touch with someone who has a disability. When this happens, children are isolated, rejected and considered untouchable.
Solkes: Why is it important for children to receive a comprehensive therapeutic treatment?
Tatiana Leguizamón: Because children with special conditions need a program where they work as a team. It has a specific, individual intensity, quality and protocol to achieve specific advances, functionality and goals. It requires a perseverance and an intensive program that the health programs do not offer to their users with special conditions or don’t have easy access if they are in towns.
Solkes: Why these types of therapies?Photo: Fundación FEL© all rights reserved.
Tatiana Leguizamón: Each therapy works a specific area and in socialization and therapeutic teams are achieved the proposed goals are the therapies required.
Solkes: What inspires you to continue?
Tatiana Leguizamón: Our children teach us the art of baby steps. Some do not walk but they teach us how to arrive, some do not speak but we understand them with their love filled glances.
On many occasions, due to a lack of infrastructure, means, knowledge and goodwill, most children with disabilities are not able to receive any education. We would think that children with disabilities should be entitled to special treatment but, the truth of the matter is that most of them are deprived of even adequate medical treatment.
Solkes: What are the short-, medium- and long-term objectives?
Tatiana Leguizamón: The objectives are that each child should achieve their maximum potential and development. To prepare them for a school, to offer specialized therapies with the highest levels of quality.
Solkes: What do you want to achieve?
Tatiana Leguizamón: We want to have all the children of low resources of nearby villages attending a therapeutic program that they require.Photo: Fundación FEL© all rights reserved.
Solkes: In your experience, what is the most difficult moment when working with children?
Tatiana Leguizamón: The main challenge is to transmit to the families of the children the importance of acceptance and accompaniment, living day by day and rejoicing in small achievements.
Solkes: How do volunteers and sponsorship plans work?
Tatiana Leguizamón: You can sponsor a child with a monthly contribution in money that covers 30% of the therapeutic program of the child, and the foundation assumes the remaining 70%. Donations of new and used items in good condition for the warehouse are also received. It is an initiative that, besides helping the expenses of the foundation, it obtains that families of the sidewalks can access articles at very good prices.
The word handicapped often contains a pejorative connotation. However, a child with a disability is able to engage in constructive actions and is able to progress. Unfortunately, they seldom have the opportunity to do so.
Obtaining the necessary resources that will enable more children to be part of the foundation has undoubtedly been one of the most difficult challenges. Every day new families come looking for a grain of hope for their children and it is they, the FEL Foundation, who give it.
Photo: Fundación FEL© all rights reserved.The foundation is a place full of magic where hope are reborn, where special children and their families feel accepted, loved and above all accompanied. For them, these children are unique beings who see and feel the world differently. The fact that they have a different circumstance does not shelter them, it emphasizes in them and in the people around them how special they are. The idea of providing an intensive comprehensive rehabilitation program according to the particular needs of each one.