Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Wrap Up

Well, the end has come. What a whirlwind of a trip. Today was our final day with the kids and we've parted ways with our host and new friends at the therapy center. The morning started off with each therapist modeling improvements in therapy stations for the team members, while Jenny worked with Alfa, a home hospital kid with Cerebral Palsy that was brought in specifically to see the PT. Amy showed the team how to incorporate a parachute into circle time and nearly all of the kids loved it.
Ronit ran a fine motor station today with play-doh, which the kids loved.
Katie supervised the PECS station, Jenny spent time talking with a mom about her son's physical impairments, and Ediba translated so many documents for us from English to Bosnian.

It also happens to be Ediba's birthday! We celebrated with cake at lunch, dinner at a local brewery, and more cake afterwards. We are thankful she spent her special day work extremely hard for BRIGHT Children International. We did some last minute training and passing off of supplies before taking a deep breath of completion. Ronit and Gali have left for Israel, Amy is flying home in the morning to see her family, and Katie and Jenny are heading to Croatia in the morning for a few days of sight seeing.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Success is in the Air

whew! We are in the home stretch. Amy currently has 4 therapists in her hotel room, two on her bed, brainstorming on what information needs to be printed, translated, and left for the staff at the therapy center. It will be a late evening, and a crunch day tomorrow, but if anyone can do it, it's this team! Today started early for Jenny, Ronit, Gali, and Ediba, who headed over to work with Asja. Jenny discovered that Asja calms and organizes herself well after rolling on her stomach on the yoga ball, and Ronit assisted with self-feeding.
Amy and Katie joined the rest of the team a few hours later, when Amy ran a circle time with the staff as a means of modeling and teaching the multiple learning opportunities that could be addressed in just 15 minutes and 5 songs. The staff were welcome to the suggestions, and implemented some of them immediately!
Jenny, with the help of Ronit, implemented gross motor activities today including scooter boards, the tunnel, the swing, jumping on poly dots, and the balance beam.
Katie worked at the PECS station today, and got a few kids to travel with their icon to request an extremely reinforcing light up toy.
Tomorrow we wrap up loose ends, tie a ribbon around the top, and hopefully hand over a package that will forever impact the lives of the children who attend Dzevida's therapy center. It has truly been a positive experience for all involved.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Back in the Saddle

Today was a long day. The team spent the morning observing children in the adjoining preschool that has a handful of "inclusion kids" that we are working with directly and some kids who have disabilities but are not receiving therapy from the center. Katie wrote up behavior plans, Jenny helped address a boy who most likely has Cerebral Palsy, and Ronit assisted in adapting pencil grips and feeding utensils. Gali made balloon animals for every child, making it quite a special morning.
The team members went through their donations with the staff after a quick lunch, and before we knew it, the first group of kiddos arrived for their therapy sessions. In this group, a young girl named Asja (Ah-see-yah) with some mobility complications worked with Jenny the PT and Amy the MT. Ronit set up a sensory station and exposed all of the kids to the wonders of bean boxes and shaving cream. Katie worked hard at the PECS station, correcting and fine tuning some things.
Highlights were shared over dinner tonight, and the team enjoyed that they felt useful and productive, and that a cutie pie helped lead a song during the departing circle time with Amy (check out our facebook page for the video!). Bonus picture of Katie loving on a sweetie pie, Vedo.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sunday Funday

Today was our day off, so we were able to see much of Sarajevo. Katie, Amy, and Jenny went to mass at the Serbian Orthodox Church in Old Sarajevo, and once service ended Ronit, Gali, and Ediba met up with them and began shopping.
Purchases ranged from Turkish tea sets to pomegranate juice and fresh fruit to jewelry.
Dzevida, our host, made dinner reservations at a lovely restaurant half way up the mountain where we were able to eat while looking out over the city. The evening ended by taking a ski lift tram ride up the remainder of the mountain to the top. The view was spectacular, with a matching sunset.
In addition to the scenery, culture, and souvenirs, we were able to learn about and mourn the historical reality of Sarajevo. Buildings with patched holes, red paint filling in grenade holes (referred to as "Bosnian Roses"), and a sniper shelter built into the mountainside are stark reminders that the 1990's weren't very long ago at all. BRIGHT team members fall in love with every country they visit, and Bosnia is no exception. It brings sadness to our hearts to know our new friends lived through this reality, but seeing Bosnia in 2019 with its incredible coexistence brings us so much joy.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Saturdays are for training

Today was quite the day. The team was picked up from the hotel by Dzevida (the lady who runs the therapy center) and taken to the school. We spent about an hour talking with the preschool teachers who have students with special needs fully included in their program and are struggling with some of the behaviors that come along with Autism. Parents then arrived at the school for a training run by the four therapists. Amy talked about music therapy and how parents can engage their children at home with music, while Katie addressed that "all communication is behavior, and most behaviors are communication." Jenny talked about body awareness and Ronit finished off the three hour presentation with how individuals process sensory information, and how we can assist children on the spectrum to remain regulated throughout their day.
We ate a very late lunch at a local pizzeria, then some took a very long walk to a beautiful park in Sarajevo. Gali and Ronit hit the waterpark located next to the hotel for some cooling off and everyone has found today to be fulfilling, yet exhausting. Tomorrow is our free day in Sarajevo and the possibilities are endless. We are all praying for a good night's sleep and refreshed selves for tomorrow.

Friday, July 26, 2019

What day is it?

The BRIGHT team had their first full day of work today. After a rough nights sleep for some and a great nights sleep for others, we crammed into the back of a small European car (except for Katie who got the front seat and took this awesome photo) and drove the short distance to the school.
We spent the morning meeting and talking with the therapists and teachers that work at the center and hashing out a plan for the day, which basically included observing how things are run and making small suggestions along the way. After lunch, the first group of children started arriving and Gali got to entertain the first little boy until therapy started.
The group started with circle time, and then the children are separated into one of four stations and rotate every 20 minutes. We were able to watch how they implement language centers, academic skills, PECS (picture exchange communication system) and discrete trial training. During the first group, the youngest girl (less than 3 years of age) was very upset and was not actively participating in her stations. It was suggested that Amy, the music therapist, pull out her guitar and "do her magic." It was, in fact, effective and she calmed down and stopped crying while engaging in what was requested of her.
Observing the first group gave us ideas for the second group, including using the balance beam as foot support for chairs that were just a little too tall.
Many other ideas were floated around and will be discussed and implemented further as our time here continues. We are looking forward to the parent training we are providing in the morning; especially for Ronit to address what sensory needs are and how they affect children on the spectrum. We are also very grateful for our new friend and translator, Ediba, who selflessly joined our team as a means of supporting and helping our mission. Ediba is a Sacramento State University student from Bosnia!