Sixth international “Every Child Deserves a Family” forum attracts hundreds of child development specialists

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The sixth international “Every Child Deserves a Family” forum, which is organised on an annual basis by the Naked Heart Foundation for leading child development experts, NGO workers, families raising children with disabilities and foster/adoptive families, took place in Moscow from 2 to 5 October 2017.

This year’s forum focused on the incredibly important but rarely discussed topic of evidence-based support methods. Over the course of four days, the participants and leading international specialists discussed what kind of support programmes exist for people with special needs, which ones are truly effective and which are not useful, or even do harm. There are a huge number of support programmes in existence, but in order for them to be implemented and certified, their effectiveness must be proven through serious scientific research. Otherwise, it is very difficult to establish whether a programme will be worth the time and resources spent on it.

Asya Zalogina, President of the Naked Heart Foundation: “This year, the entire forum programme met a single criterion – we only presented support programmes that focused on evidence-based methods. The demand for new, up-to-date knowledge from our community of child development professionals, parents of children with special needs and foster/adoptive families is huge and is growing year on year. And we want to satisfy that demand. The use of evidence-based practices guarantees that only proven, modern methods of working with children with special needs will be used, thus allowing us to avoid repeating other people’s mistakes and “reinventing the wheel”, and ultimately enables the development of a modern, effective support programme with minimal costs and maximum benefit for children and parents.”

As usual, Naked Heart founder Natalia Vodianova participated in the forum, leading a round table event on the popularity of myths surrounding developmental disabilities that took place alongside the main programme. The participants in the discussion, who included both international child development experts and various media representatives, discussed the problem of objectively covering issues relating to people with special needs, considered the most common myths in that regard and tried to establish who was responsible for disseminating pseudoscientific information about physical, mental and sensory disabilities. Once again, Marianna Maksimovskaya moderated the discussion.

The main objective of the forum is to provide a platform for communication and exchange of experience, not only between Russian and international specialists and NGO representatives but also with members of parents’ organisations. The forum takes place on an annual basis, giving participants the opportunity to regularly find out about the work of their Russian and foreign colleagues and facilitating the creation of a professional community in Russia.

The topics covered this year in the presentations and master classes included: modern support programmes for children with autism who have behavioural disorders; the “Summer with Purpose” integrative camps for children and young people with autism; children with attention deficit disorder, anxiety disorders, dyslexia and Tourette’s syndrome – diagnosis and support programmes; evidence-based support programmes for children with foetal alcohol syndrome; and modern, family-centred rehabilitation programmes for children with motor disabilities.

Over 700 participants from more than 80 towns and cities and nine countries – Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, South Africa, Chechnya, USA, Finland, Estonia and Kazakhstan – attended the forum over the course of the four days. The forum speakers included: Dana Johnson, professor in the faculty of neonatology and paediatrics at the University of Minnesota; Kathleen Taylor, occupational therapist at the Center for Development and Disability, University of New Mexico; Dr Thomas Higbee, professor of special education and rehabilitation at Utah State University and director of the ASSERT support service; professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Jeffrey Wozniak; Director of the Marcus Autism Centre and professor of paediatrics at Emory University Nathan Call; and other specialists from Russia and beyond. All the experts, including those from overseas, travelled to Moscow and spoke at the event on a completely pro-bono basis, at the invitation of the Naked Heart Foundation.

Media partners:
ТАSS, Meduza, Izvestia, Kommersant Style, KPMG

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