The third international forum “Every Child Deserves a Family” was held in Moscow from 20th to 23rd October. The event attracted leading child development specialists from all over Russia, as well as international experts from around the world. This year, the forum focused on the topic of education. Four days of lectures, seminars and master-classes, held in the conference halls of the AZIMUT Moscow Olympic Hotel, were dedicated to one overarching theme: “Education with purpose: Children with special needs in the educational environment”.
The main objective of the forum is to provide a platform for dialogue and exchange not only between Russian specialists, but also between representatives of parents’ organisations, civil servants and experts on international practices relating to autism and other disabilities.
This year, the Every Child Deserves a Family forum attracted record numbers of attendees. 880 people from 10 countries and 66 towns contributed to the work. We streamed 64 hours’ worth of video material, which was watched by 5,307 YouTube users. The most popular video was on a round table event for media executives. All the videos are available via this link.
This was the first time that we got media representatives and people with disabilities together around one table. Together, they discussed possibilities for people with conditions such as Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy to get involved in community work, find employment, and take part in creative and collaborative projects. For the first time, people with special needs could talk about the issue themselves. The round table was attended by writer Nikita Medvedev and journalist Maria Zhmuriva, both of whom have autism, television presenter Evgeny Belogolovtsev, who has cerebral palsy, and Nikita Panichev, who is the first Russian person with Down’s syndrome to be officially employed. Click here to watch a video of the round table.
Natalia Vodianova: “We are seeing very positive changes in the media, and therefore in society as well, in terms of attitudes towards people with disabilities. This was evident at the already historic round table event for the media. For the first time in Russian history, we invited people with disabilities to meet with top media executives and take the floor. They had the opportunity to tell their stories themselves. Stories of courage, and of success. There were some wonderful presentations, some very honest and touching conversations, and for many of our colleagues and journalists it was a revelation. We’re now hoping to see more stories like this in the media.”
This was also the first time that the forum included a round table event for government representatives. On 23rd October, the Deputy Minister for Education Beniamin Shaevich Kaganov met with NGO representatives. According to the Mr. Kaganov, the open meeting allowed him not only to present the Ministry of Education’s official position, but also, very importantly, to get feedback from people who worked closely with children with disabilities. Click here to watch a video of the round table.
Yet another first was the meeting on the Naked Heart’s partnership projects, with top executives, managers, analyst and HR, marketing and PR professionals. The projects were presented by Lyubov Arkus (from the “Anton’s Right Here” centre), Natalia Belogolovtseva (“Dream Ski”) and Roman Fishkin (joint project by the Swiss Smile clinic and the Foundation to provide dental services to people with disabilities). During the meeting, the speakers set targets for the business representatives. The meeting also helped the participants to find solutions to specific problems. Click here to watch a video of the meeting.
This year, the topics of the presentation and master-classes included: children with autism in school, foster children and foster families in the educational environment and medical approaches to developmental disorders. Forum participants included Professor Sarah Parsons from the University of Southampton (UK), Professor of child neurology and paediatrics John Phillips from the University of New Mexico (USA), and Professor William Heward from the University of Ohio (USA) and many others.
The most well respected Russian child development experts acted as moderators and were responsible for the content of the Forum. Among them were: director of the Centre of Curative Pedagogy Anna Bitova; director of Perspektivy (“Perspectives”) charity Maria Ostrovskaya; Svyatoslav Dovbnya (child neurologist) and Tatiana Morozova (clinical psychologist), who are Naked Heart experts for the development of support services for families raising children with special needs; teacher, head of the legal team and chairman of the board at the Centre of Curative Pedagogy, Roman Dimenstein; and head of the “Pro-Mama” centre Maria Ternovskaya,
All the experts, including the foreign experts, flew to Moscow and presented on a completely pro-bono basis.
“I want to thank the all experts who have helped us prepare this forum over the past year, all the speakers who agreed to present and all the foreign speakers who made the long trip to come here – I hope it was interesting for you to hear what they had to say – and of course the forum participants as well. You give us the motivation to continue our work. For us, each one of you is a guiding star. Without you, we would not have been able to do what we have done. We hope that your self-respect will be boosted by the work that we do. The work you carry out with your children on a daily basis is worthy only of admiration and respect. I myself know how difficult it is and how hard it was for my mum because she did not have people like you to support her. Thank you.” – Natalia Vodianova at the forum’s closing ceremony.