Resources, Resources, Resources

These three words – well, one actually – really makes you think when you step into a situation that you are entirely used to, such as working with individuals with disabilities. Now, take that situation and subtract almost all of the resources you are used to using and see how well it works. That in a nutshell is our experience at the Special Education Center. The people are willing and the facility is clean enough, but when the only therapy tools you have are your two hands, a half-broken weight machine, a too-short walking ramp, and a few half deflated balls, the situation becomes interesting.


Some of the simple resources that we use everyday in the States do not even translate in Spanish… for example, sensory toy. Things like Therabands and weighted therapy balls are not in the therapy vocabulary. The mats they use to lay the kids on for physical therapy are no less than a decade old and full of mildew, with no cover. Can you imagine your child lying on something that has never been washed and has had literally hundreds of other children on it? Saliva, feces, dirt, spilled food, just to name a few things that have been previously wiped on the mats. Did I mention that EVERY child in the center has stomach parasites?


We both had a day today that really opened our eyes. First, we began the day with our host mother providing us with breakfast only to find out that she has not even slept because she has been working through the night. I should preface that with the fact that I am pretty sure they cannot consistently afford to keep toilet paper and dish soap in the house, yet they are gracious enough to feed strangers on top of their own five children. Really makes you think about your own situation, doesn´t it?


The next realization came when I was working with one of my students/patients in physical therapy. I took off his shoes and his feet were so contorted and his big toes were so smashed that I don´t  know how he manages to walk, even with his walker. This could have all been prevented with simple medical braces that are very common in the States. His family has no means of purchasing such a device and does not even know of its exsistence. He is such a blast to work with and is very intelligent. If only he had half the resources we have in the States, he could probably walk with only a cane and maybe with no assistance at all! As it is though, he can barely pull his feet through to walk with his walker, because they are so contorted.


Third wake up call of the day came with one of Ashley´s more difficult patients…behaviorally. He is a small child that is very cute and fun to work with, but will throw some outrageous tantrums to seek attention. Today though, he did not even have enough energy to act excited (or to throw a tantrum for that matter). When Ashley greeted him outside, he simply slipped his hand into hers and weakly pulled her towards the therapy room. Upon sitting down on a mat (in Ashley´s lap) he began to half draw, half sleep. You could see the fresh wounds on the top of his head (mostly likely from being beaten) and his perma-scars by his eyes. He had obviously had a very bad night and was so tired from it that he fell asleep in Ashley´s arms.


As over 50% of Peru is below poverty line, it only exacerbates the risk for an already highly-abused population of people with disabilities. This is, however, precisely the reason we chose the special education project in Peru. We are currently trying to implement a behavioral plan for the students at the center by teaching the teachers and therapists techniques to promote positive behavior. In the long run, the plan will allow the students to function in a more structured environment and will maybe, just maybe, keep them off the streets (or out of jail) in a few years. This is proving to be quite a challenge.


Our other large initiative we are currently working on is trying to get resources for this desperately under-resourced center. Luckily, we have help! The great people at the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association in Carol Stream, IL and my former physical therapist Mike Zublick of Athletico in Hoffman Estates, IL have made contributions of much needed supplies, information, and money. Both of our parents have made generous contributions of supplies and money as have various friends.


With this support, we will be providing the center with new (and clean) therapy mats, sensory toys, therapy bands/balls, basic medical supplies, and other much-needed items. If you would like to find out how you can help with this project, simply leave a comment with your contact info or email us directly!

– Jason

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