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Serbia: A newly founded practice gives children a future

In her new practice, Jelena is giving children the chance to lead a normal life, thus fostering inclusion.

35-year-old Jelena is very familiar with the needs of autistic children and their parents. The physiotherapist’s own son was diagnosed as autistic at the age of two. Autism is a developmental disorder that can affect children’s language skills and their physical development. ‘Doctors warned me that my son would never be able to lead a normal life. But I refused to accept that,’ she recalls.

In Serbia there are very few practices geared to the needs of autistic children. So in 2020, Jelena founded her own practice.

She had the support of the German Federal Development Ministry and a programme designed to improve professional opportunities – Returning to New Opportunities. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is implementing the programme in a total of 12 countries. Advice centres provide information on training and job offers and job opportunities. In Serbia, these services have attracted a great deal of interest. Since 2017 some 143,000 individual support measures have been taken up; about 93,000 people have found work.

A future for her own son and for others

Jelena herself got support and inspiration from the advice centre. ‘When I heard the presentation of the programme, I already had a vision of my future practice.’ Experienced businesspeople were on hand to help with business development and with the founding of her practice. ‘The advisory and mentoring programme was extremely helpful - this is the first time I have managed a business.’

In her practice, Jelena helps children with disabilities. She does exercises with them to train fine motor skills and improve their coordination. ‘The work I have done with my own son makes it easier for me to understand children with autistic spectrum disorder. I have learned to treat children as equals,’ she says. To further improve the support she can offer patients, she plans to expand her practice and to cooperate with experts from the fields of speech therapy and special education. ‘I’m proud of what I do. Now I want to do more.’

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