I went to Centro Educativo Basica Especial Carlos A. Mannucci, a school for children, adolescents and young adults with mental disabilities. The principal and students welcomed our NAU group with open arms, literally. We got a tour of the school which was divided into classrooms according to age groups. The first room was for children who were not of school age yet, anywhere from 1 to 4 years of age. This section provided the children diagnosed at an early age with the initial stimulation in order to improve basic gross motor functions and communication. The next several classrooms had about 15 students each with only two teachers. The children were delighted to see us and approached us to hug us and introduce them. The teachers also seemed really happy that we were there to help. I cannot imagine how hard it is for them to keep order and teach at the same time. They were thrilled to have the extra hands. Children with mental disabilities require much more attention than normal children. It is in the best interest of their development that they receive one on one attention. Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen. The last two classrooms were for young adults who were receiving training in order to be placed in jobs. Some of them painted and made things to sell in order to pay for their tuition. They also participated in recreational activities such as dancing, choir and drama classes. One boy showed me a picture of a Christmas play he had been in the previous year and another picture in which he was dressed up as a wizard. They showed us how to dance the Marinera, a traditional Peruvian dance. A mother came in with her daughter, it was her first time there and when she saw us she was overwhelmed and started crying. She was so happy that we were taking an interest in her daughter, who was yet to be diagnosed but was 7 years old and could not walk nor speak. Our professor did some basic tests on her daughter to see where she was at and what we could do to help. Surprisingly, the teachers had not been formally trained in psychology except for one woman who was a student at the municipal university. Still, they did their best and helped the students substantially. We extended our resources to them offering them advice so that they could find different ways of treating the children and improving their programs.
I am so glad that we went, these children deserve so much love and attention and I know that if they had more resources and funding the school will be able to treat the children more effectively. By adopting a few new techniques they will be able help the children and young adults reach their full potential. When I sat down in a classroom and talked to the kids I realized how much we could help them. One boy insisted on combing my hair. Another built towers out of legos and every time I showed any of them attention they got really excited. It was so much fun watching them draw and cut out vegetables and fruits. It was really sweet to be around kids that were so genuine and happy. I can’t wait to go back.