Lilo Fromm and I, Tjitske de Boer, were invited to go to Saint Petersburg to work with children with special needs with the Child’Space Method. Two high educated parents – both with a child with special needs – built a centre there and will invite specialists in working with special needs children from different places in Europe or maybe from over the whole world. We were the first specialists who worked there.

We agreed on a schedule with 3 children in the morning and 3 in the afternoon and 10 working days. Most children came for 5 or 10 lessons. When the 10 lessons were scheduled in one week, they had a morning session with Lilo and an afternoon session with me or vice versa. When they had 10 lessons over 2 weeks either they were planned for 5 lessons with me and the next week 5 lessons with Lilo or they stayed 10 days with the same person. We had a translator for the communication when the parents didn’t speak enough English.

We had children with different kinds of spasticity or floppiness, different severity and of different age. They also came sometimes from far away from Saint Petersburg. Some were really bright kids and some less talented. My oldest child was a boy of 5 years old, my youngest was a girl of 14 months.
For us it was really a nice experience to do this together. In the breaks we talked about what we did, especially about the children with whom we both worked. Also after the lessons we talked a lot about our experiences and found new ideas to work within the next lessons.

The Russian healthcare system is free for all treatment in hospital. For the parents with children with special needs there is no extra care. That means that parents have to pay for everything: physiotherapy, speech therapy, etc. The physiotherapy is mainly Bobath and Vojta. Therefor it is for them very interesting to bring good specialists to their city instead of travelling with their child to the specialist. Most parents already had experiences with the Feldenkrais Method and the Anat Baniel Method. They all had their first experience with Child’Space except from Lidia, who is in the present International Child’Space Training Amsterdam. Before she went with her child Irina to Helsinki to work with a Feldenkrais practitioner there.

We could really make a change for the children and could empower the parents to go on working with their kids in the playful Child’Space way. They filmed the interesting parts of the lessons to review on them at home. Our aim was always: what is the next step needed to get the brain activated into change.

I worked with a boy of 5 years old with hemiplegia who could walk but in a very spastic pattern with the leg and arm of his hemiplegian side. He walked very quick and with his spastic foot extremely on the toes. That made him not so balanced. Therefor he walked so quick: he couldn’t stand still because of lack of balance. I worked much lying on the floor on getting his pelvis more free to take part in the movement, tapped arms and legs, and tried to make his leg and ankle joint softer and more movable. At the end of the five sessions I gave, he stood still bended over the toy box holding it with his good hand and searched for his cars with his spastic hand what was so much more free! He was totally unaware of this great achievement he did. I was very happy to see his success and the mother too. I learned the mother what she could do with him at home – also on the level of behaviour.

When we finished our work after 10 days a team of specialists from Czechia arrived, a speech therapist and an eye sight therapists. They started a series of 6 days of treatment. It is great to see this parent-initiative grow into a real health centre for children with special needs.