The year has flown by, and we are delighted to share with you our achievements over the past 12 months. We continued to support children and young people with special needs, by providing training to the adults who assist them – not just family members, but all the people they come across during their life, including medical professionals, school and preschool teachers, specialists from social services and decision-makers. It is particularly important that our family and child support programmes use only up-to-date, internationally-recognised, evidence-based support methods. This ensures not only that the child develops well and the family enjoys a good quality of life, but also that the funds invested are used effectively.
Our projects can be divided into three categories:
1) Support for children and their families
- providing the necessary social and legal support and assistance programmes for families raising children with autism, cerebral palsy and other special needs.
2) Creation of a professional community
- training qualified specialists to support people with developmental disabilities, creating a platform for the exchange of knowledge and experience among professionals and parents, and informing government officials about the benefits of inclusion.
– developing an inclusive society by raising awareness. This work is aimed at changing social and state attitudes towards children and adults with mental, physical and sensory disabilities and their families.
Support for children and their families:
• Under the Early Intervention project for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and motor disorders, more than 2800 children have benefitted from, and continue to benefit from, free early intervention services at 26 locations in Nizhny Novgorod, Tula, Saint Petersburg and Moscow. The project is being implemented using funds raised through the Running Hearts Green Marathon, organised in cooperation with Sberbank. Read more
• Thanks to our School project in Nizhny Novgorod and Saint Petersburg, more than 520 children with ASD and other special needs continued to receive education at 11 special schools, along with their peers. Many of these kids were previously considered “unteachable” and were written off by the system, dooming them to a life of home-schooling and isolation. They are now attending school, learning new things, making friends and becoming a part of society.
• Already in its 8th year, our Summer with Purpose project to run inclusive camps for children with autism and other special needs is continuing. In the Nizhny Novgorod region, the Naked Heart Family Support Centre ran a camp for 27 children with autism and other disabilities this year. Our experts trained 30 specialists from 16 organisations in methods of working with such children, which will allow them to conduct similar camps in their home regions. Read more.
• We provided financial assistance to six organisations that support 2500 children and young people with special needs around Russia.
• Specialists at our Early Intervention Centre in Moscow accepted the first group of parents of infants with autism in the EarlyBird programme.
• And, of course, we continued to establish inclusive play facilities for children of all mental, physical and sensory abilities. This year we created five facilities, two of which were built in Moscow
and Samara as part of a joint project with Coca-Cola Russia. In Ulan-Ude, a playground was established with the support of Russian Helicopters, and a further two facilities were opened in Saint Petersburg and Yurievo, in Novgorod region. This year we increased the number of our play facilities to 206! They can be found in 157 towns and villages not only in Russia, but also in other countries.
Creation of a professional community:
• Thanks to the charity programme #RightToHappiness
and Russian baby food brand Agusha, we launched the Naked Heart online platform
, which is designed to provide informational support to parents, teachers and all those who support children with ASD, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and other disorders . On the platform you can find materials from leading foreign experts and our own Naked Heart experts. All of the materials, which include video interviews, books, lectures and podcasts, are free of charge and will be regularly updated.
• More than 500 people from 66 cities in Russia and neighbouring countries attended our annual international “Every Child Deserves a Family”
forum in Moscow. The three days of lectures and master classes were devoted to the overarching theme of quality of life of people with special needs. A list of topics and videos of presentations by leading experts can be found on the forum website
• Our conference in Tula on modern, evidence-based rehabilitation programmes for young children with developmental disabilities attracted more than 200 participants, including specialists from various medical institutions and schools, and parents of children with developmental disabilities. International and Russian experts discussed the rehabilitation of children with multiple disabilities, including motor disorders.
• The world's leading experts in working with children with special needs held 16 free seminars and training sessions for specialists from Russian organisations that support children with disabilities. The event was attended by 450 specialists from dozens of Russian regions.
Despite all of the progress achieved, none of our work will be effective unless social attitudes towards people with disabilities and their families change. That is why one of the Foundation’s key focuses is advocacy:
• Naked Heart founder Natalia Vodianova, together with other charity directors, called on the government to expedite the adoption of a draft law on distributed custody, which will help closed institutions for children with special needs to become more open and will offer people with mental disabilities an alternative to living in such facilities. The bill introduces an external guardianship mechanism, which will enable parents, relatives, friends, charitable organisations and other individuals and legal entities to act as a guardian or trustee, along with the institution.
• The Foundation has released
a Russian translation of the book “Romania’s Abandoned Children: Deprivation, Brain Development, and the Struggle for Recovery”, published by Harvard University Press. The book is aimed at specialists working in the field of child development, adoption and the system of closed child-care institutions. The book has been published in a limited edition of 1,500 copies and will be distributed free of charge among specialists working in relevant fields.
• Within the framework of the Foundation’s mission to help establish an inclusive society that is open to people with special needs, Naked Heart experts clinical psychologist Tatyana Morozova and child neurologist Svyatoslav Dovbnya created a training programme on guidelines for communicating with people with developmental disabilities, which aims to raise awareness about that issue. Moscow leisure and tourism agency Mosgortur was the first institution to test the material. The Naked Heart experts ran fact-finding exercises for employees of museums and exhibition halls run by the Moscow City Department of Culture, including the State Darwin Museum, the Moscow Zoo, the Tsaritsyno Museum-Reserve, the Moscow Museum, the Tropinin Museum and the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics.
• Lastly, in keeping with tradition, the Naked Heart Foundation held a series of events to mark Autism Awareness Month
. In April, together with the project “Hello, Moscow!” we launched a social campaign in the Moscow metro, during which posters featuring the stories of people with autism appeared in trains on the Filyovskaya line. A video about the most common autism-related myths and facts was shown on all screens in the metro system. A flash mob was launched on Russian social network VKontakte, where users talked about their own disabilities on their profile pages, using the hashtag #Iamspecial. At Premier League matches in April, the Naked Heart Foundation spread the message that “autism is not a disease.” With the participation of a number of Russian football teams, activities were carried out to draw attention to the issues faced by people with autism. The players came onto the pitch in blue T-shirts with the inscription "autism is not a disease" and an informational video on autism-related myths and facts was shown in the stadium.
In total, the Naked Heart Foundation supported over 4,300
children and young people with developmental disabilities in 2019.