A group of teachers and psychologists from the Interventional Boarding School Four in Moscow, Russia, traveled thousands of miles to learn about the latest methods of helping children with disabilities. Their journey ended at the in Lynbrook.
Alexander (Sasha) Komanovsky and his wife, Natasha, both psychologists, arrived with teachers Elena Koshechkina, Olga Sidorova, Nina Lisitziny and Galina Chernyavaskay, and philanthropists Natasha Khasanova and Maria Eliseeva. Kim Wepler of Cleveland, Ohio, who founded the non-profit organization, Petrova's Promise, after adopting from Russia, joined them.
It was Wepler who led the group to Spark Development Center in search of ways to help the many children in Russian orphanages who suffer from learning, attentional, behavioral, speech and gross/fine motor disabilities. Wepler has four children, three of whom were adopted from Russia. Ironically, both her adopted son and her biological son struggle with difficulties in attention and auditory processing.
After listening to an overview from Rob Stevens, founder of Spark Development, the group toured the facility and watched as children engaged in physical and mental exercises designed to build foundational skills needed for learning. One boy, Chad, stood on a balance board and demonstrated an exercise called "Pendulum Ball", designed to build balance, hand-eye coordination and visual tracking.
Stevens explained how another student, Dylan, who has attended Spark for five months, is already progressing. Dylan's dad, Michael Mcquoid, concurred. "He's doing great in school, focused on projects," he said.
Spark Development Center provides cognitive and sensory integration programs, as well as nutritional counseling, to children with attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, speech and language issues and even mild forms of autism. Stevens started the program, along with his wife, Catherine, after dealing with a string of diagnoses given their own child, Robert. Through programs similar to what the Stevens' provide at Spark, their son Robert overcame his difficulties and, at 21, is successfully completing college, dating and enjoying life.
"That's why we do what we do here," said Stevens.
The group hopes to forge an ongoing relationship with Spark, possibly through a grant, to replicate the program in Russia.
"They need all support and training ... they are in our hands," Eliseeva said, speaking of the children in the orphanage and her desire to help them.