Teachers staying in quake zone for special needs children

Teachers staying in quake zone for special needs children

Teachers staying in quake zone for special needs children

A special education and rehabilitation teacher and a physiotherapist did not leave Kahramanmaraş even though their families have left the city, and they are volunteering tirelessly for children with special needs.

Two close friends, 31-year-old special education teacher Fatma Rabia Derebent and 29-year-old physiotherapist Ferhat Özarslan are providing voluntary training to autistic and disabled quake-stricken children in Kahramanmaraş.

In the container allocated by TODEV, a Turkish support foundation for autistic children, they have one-to-one play sessions with the children during the day and sleep in the same container at night.

Working as a special education and rehabilitation teacher for nine years, Derebent is also an applied behavior analysis therapist and autism specialist.

“We have 12 students who were incredibly stressed and traumatized after the quakes. As they got used to the environment, their emotional well-being has improved. Now we can’t leave them to anyone else they’re not familiar with because their stress levels may rise again if their teachers change,” she said.

Meanwhile, physiotherapist Ferhat Özarslan stated that their house collapsed during the quakes, and he participated in the search and rescue operations for the first ten days after the disaster.

Özarslan stated that they are also trying to care for children with physical disabilities.

“A disabled student of ours was unable to walk due to the emotional trauma the quakes have caused on her. We managed to make her walk again,” he said.

Derebent also emphasized the difficulty of being the parent or the primary caretaker of an individual with special needs, especially during this period.

“Some of these children get restless when they are in a tent or in crowded, unfamiliar places and as such, they tend to become aggressive. They and their families need a separate space,” she said.