IU’s “International Comparative Exchange: Services for Children with Disabilities” course was born out of a combination of Bryan P. McCormick‘s work in the Balkans as a Fulbright Scholar and my passion for creating programs to support youth impacted by various health conditions.
This three-credit summer intensive class, now entering its second year, is offered through the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington’s recreational therapy program in partnership with Bradford Woods.
Bryan and I have both gained valuable experience traveling internationally, and we wanted to expose our students to a new culture while facilitating an experience for students from both countries to see how pediatric disability is handled across cultures. The start of a new Pediatric Health Institute in the School of Public Health and the expertise of Bradford Woods in offering medical camps helped us to place a structure around our idea.
The program includes a student exchange program with Serbian partners from the University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Special Education and Rehabilitation and with professionals from the Milan Petrovic School and
University of Novi Sad.
The program prepares and places IU students in Serbian children’s homes and into school-based programs in the cities of Novi Sad and Belgrade, with cultural experiences in Hungary and Romania. Following placement in Serbia, IU and University of Belgrade students travel to the U.S. to stay at Bradford Woods and observe children with disabilities taking part in medical camps. The IU students also plan cultural trips to Bloomington and Indianapolis for their Serbian peers.
The program has been a success, with six undergraduate students traveling to Serbia in 2016 and 11 in 2017. Ten University of Belgrade students have made the trip to Bradford Woods, while one special education and
rehabilitation teacher from the Milan Petrovic School, Cedomir Stauojević, is working the full summer at Bradford Woods. Research and scholarly activities are beginning to form with this new partnership as
We are currently working on a joint research project to develop a 15-week, evidence-based, equine-assisted therapy program for teens and emerging adults with autism through the newly formed Pediatric Health Institute. The program will be tested in 2018 at the Milan Petrovic School program in Serbia and at Agape Therapeutic Riding, Inc. at Bradford Woods. This project includes three recreational therapy graduate students from the School of Public Health as well as faculty from the University of Novi Sad. Once completed, the evidence-based curriculum will be translated both into Serbian and English. The equine-assisted therapy program will be one of the first to be offered in Serbia as well as to be tested across cultures. There is also discussion on pilot testing a pediatric medical camp in Serbia in the future.
It has been rewarding to observe the IU and University of Belgrade students experiencing a culture and social service approach that is very different from their own. By stretching out of their comfort zones, both student groups have begun to problem-solve how they may address pediatric disability with a new international lens-together. By doing this in partnership with students and therapists from both cultures, we have all grown to see that professionals and kids with health conditions are more similar than they are different. The passion for helping others is a unifying theme that transcends cultural differences.