Bringing Vygotsky’s theories to life: A visit to the Center for Curative Pedagogics (центр гечебной педагогики)

 

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The spirit of Lev Vygotsky’s theory about cultural-historical psychology lives on in a vibrant community center for youth with a range of disabilities in Moscow, Russia.  I had the honor of visiting Moscow’s Center for Curative Pedagogics last week.  During my visit, we discussed the history and development of the Center, a community-based organization devoted to the creation of art, sport and music activities for children with disabilities.  I was most impressed with the disability civil rights-oriented mission statement of the Center: “to demand the right for people with disabilities to be educated, rehabilitated and to live a full and productive life in which they are fully accepted within their communities.”

According to Julia Akhtmova, “in 1989 a group of teachers and parents set up the Center for Curative Pedagogics (CCP) in order to help children with different developmental problems.  At this time, Governmental agencies pronounced this group of children ‘unteachable’.

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The result of this was that most of these children were placed in special children’s homes where they had no opportunity to have an education, interact with their peers or find employment.  A much smaller number of children were kept at home with their families, but were often completely isolated.The CCP specialists, led by the speech therapist Anna Bitova, believe that all children deserve the right to be educated, to grow and develop.  The Centre caters for children with autism spectrum disorders, epilepsy, genetic syndromes, mental and physical disabilities, as well as learning difficulties and other issues.  Since 1989, CCP has helped over 15,000 families and in doing so, has given this very large number of children a unique opportunity to learn, develop and live a good and decent life.”

The Center has developed a set of best practices based on Vygotsky’s theories, such as group-based music therapy and musical performance, and the use of sensory boxes for children with autism.  Efforts to evaluate these best practices are currently underway.

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My favorite part of the Center, however, was the Moonberry Jam project.  This music-based project involves group collaborations between adult staff and children with disabilities.  Please check out Moonberry Jam’s Facebook page.  And, be sure to check out the group’s English and Russian version of “Blue Moon” in this priceless and well-produced video.