Project Therapy, Education and Assimilation of Children with Handicap (TEACH)
Raising children is already hard enough. Raising children with special needs entails sacrifice, tons of patience and deep pockets. Children with special needs pose great challenges to indigent families as the costs of quality therapy and education are often beyond their reach. The shortage of competent developmental pediatricians, special education teachers, and therapists, makes access to these services even more difficult.
To help indigent families who have children with special needs, the local government of Mandaluyong City spearheaded the conceptualization and implementation of Project Therapy, Education and Assimilation of Children with Handicap (TEACH). This is a community-based rehabilitation program that directly benefits children with disabilities in depressed areas. It is a joint project with the Rehabilitation and Empowerment of Adults and Children with Handicap (REACH) Foundation Inc., a non-stock, non-profi t organization based in Mandaluyong City.
The direct beneficiaries of this project are at least 600 children with developmental conditions such as Intellectual Deficiency, Cerebral Palsy, Autism and Down Syndrome. To give priority to the poor, the families of the special children are screened by the DSWD. If eligible, these children are then referred to partner specialists such as developmental pediatricians and psychologists for proper diagnosis. Once a child is diagnosed, proper interventions are provided by the appropriate agencies.
Project TEACH also showcases how a local government unit can collaborate with the private sector and other agencies. For instance, the REACH Foundation, Inc. and the local government of Mandaluyong City collaborate in funding, conceptualizing, planning and implementing the program. Among the other partner organizations involved are the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Mandaluyong Center for Alternative Rehabilitation and Educational Services (Mandaluyong CARES).
Empowerment and transfer of knowledge is emphasized. Experts are hired to teach essential competencies to lay people and local professionals. For example, developmental pediatricians conduct long-term training for the city government’s doctors.
The parents of beneficiaries are expected to render volunteer work as their counterpart to the free services. They enlist in working committees— i.e. housekeeping, programs support, information dissemination, family support—that match their interests and skills.
Playing a crucial role in Project TEACH are 27 lay Community Rehabilitation and Education Workers (CREW) who underwent rigorous training to help professionals implement therapy and educational programs for special children. They receive a PhP4,000 monthly allowance. The CREW are composed of lay women from depressed areas in the city. A third of them are related to special children.
By providing access to a network of free medical, rehabilitative, educational and related services, Project TEACH helps enable special children to become integrated and productive members of society. Numerous community education programs are also conducted to dispel misconceptions. Capability building activities are provided to help government doctors, public school teachers, social workers and barangay health workers become more effective in caring for children with special needs.
To sustain these initiatives, an interagency committee was formed to develop an innovative and cost-effective service delivery framework that effectively streamlined services. This committee meets at least once a month to evaluate Project TEACH’s programs and to discuss ways to enhance the program.
Objective assessments administered by consultant diagnosticians indicate that the program has improved the capacities of beneficiaries. The bulk of the children can now participate more competently in activities related to self-help, home management, school, play, and leisure. In the quality assurance survey conducted by Project TEACH in March 2012, 98% of the parent respondents observed skills improvement in their children and all of them felt that the interventions were appropriate. Moreover, all the parent respondents expressed satisfaction over services delivery. Since it was established in September 2007, Project TEACH has rendered free diagnostic, therapy, SPED tutorial, bridging and pre-vocational training services with the monetary equivalent of about PhP14 million.
Mandaluyong City has placed at least 26 special students in the mainstreaming or inclusion program in five of its public schools. To maintain good standards in mainstreaming and inclusion, Project TEACH has developed implementing rules and guidelines that have been recently taught to guidance teachers of 18 out of the City’s 21 public schools. In the coming years, Project TEACH inclusion and mainstreaming protocols will be fully implemented in all the City’s public schools.