I spent several years of my career at Siskin Children’s Institute, an organization focused on improving the lives of small children with developmental disabilities. I worked with a great team of people serving children with diagnoses ranging from autism to cerebral palsy and providing resources to their families, teachers and medical care providers. During those years, I had the privilege of getting to know Dr. Robin McWilliam, a world-renowned leader in early childhood special education. Knowing Robin and gleaning from his tremendous expertise not only helped me understand the positive lifelong effects of high quality early intervention services for young children, but it also made me a better parent to my own kids. The practices used to help children with special needs are also very effective on the behavior of normally developing youngsters. I can tell you the number of temper tantrums we experienced in our household dropped dramatically after I started working with Robin.
Having experienced the importance of early services for children with disabilities, I was very glad our family found a connection to the Pink Crocodile School, a small center on the outskirts of Prague educating children with very complex needs. As we walked through the facility and watched these therapists and educators in action, I saw many similarities to the efforts of Robin and my other former colleagues at Siskin. The children might speak a different language, but the care and attentiveness to their needs remained the same.
The Executive Director, Ulrike Scheidner, is a committed and passionate young woman who spends the majority of her time working to raise the funds necessary to keep the school open. While it does receive a small amount of funding from the Czech government, the Pink Crocodile would not survive without significant donations from corporations and individuals. Because she spends so much time fundraising, Ulrike has little time to address some of the other projects she would like to complete for the school, like the long-awaited raised garden and sand box.
After our quick tour of the facility, we spent the afternoon building the raised garden and finishing the installation of the playground sandbox. Our girls were a huge help as we cleared out mulch, flattened the area, set the bricks, cemented them into place, and filled the box with dirt. The planting of fall flowers and herbs was their favorite part of the day. The sandbox is also now ready for the school’s students, with a new liner, new sand, and many bucketfuls of mulch transferred from the garden box area.
It was a fun day spent outside in beautiful weather. As a reward for their hard work, the girls got to meet one of the most beloved members of the school – the pet rabbit. The Pink Crocodile School is changing the lives of its students and their families, and we were privileged to get to know this organization and its team.