On 22nd May, 2012, David Bisset and Elitsa Velikova represented Equilibrium during the closing stages of a conference on autism held in the prestigious Tokuda Hospital in Sofia.
The event had actually started on 20th May and was convened by Step Foundation for Bulgaria’s Invisible Children, Tacitus Association and the National Association of Resource Teachers. It was designed to explore international best practice in childcare and special education from a human rights perspective and the key speakers during the first two days were senior representatives of the professions of Occupational Therapy (Maude Le Roux, France) and Special Needs Education (Dr. Diane Fraser, USA).
The audience was drawn from the fields of social services, education and medical practice and representatives of the Bulgarian government gave presentations in the opening sequence of the event and at the start of the closing round-table discussion attended by David and Elitsa.
On the basis of Equilibrium’s direct experience in disability care and our ongoing contribution to childcare and educational policy, David was invited to make a 30 minute presentation on the closing day. The other speakers included the national ombudsman, senior representatives of the Ministry of Education, State Agency of Child Protection, Agency of Social Assistance, UNICEF and NGOs working with or on behalf of disabled children.
David departed from his chosen topic (‘Autism in the Age of Communication. Or is it the Age of Syndromes?’), Instead, by providing an improvised example of ‘messy play’, he showed how carers, acting with the best of intentions, too frequently deprive disabled children of the right to spontaneous self-expression and, in so doing, miss the opportunity to observe and record their capabilities and intelligence.
Occupational Therapy is virtually an unknown profession in Bulgaria and Elitsa’s qualification made her something of a celebrity