If you’re like most, you probably assumed that the first image is some sort of school. It has all the usual markings of a school after all; long hallways, clocks, art on the walls, those horrible fluorescent lights found nowhere besides office buildings and schools..
Now what about the hallway in the second picture? Many people’s first impression of this photo leads them to think hospital, psych ward, abandoned building…but would you believe that that paintless hallway is a school as well?
My initial desire for my practicum was to intern at a mental hospital, but due to safety concerns I was reassigned to Klaipeda Special School #2, which is approximately two minutes from LCC by foot. Every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I make the short trek through the ice and snow towards a building that sits in the shadow of a concrete Catholic church, which I can see through my dorm room window. Though a full functioning school, it is truly not far off from being a hospital.
Unlike the American model of integration, Klaipeda Special School is a public, government-run school designed specifically for students who are in some way categorized as “special”. Within the confines of the hallways holds a broad range of students including the most severe cases of autism, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia etc. as well as less severe (and even otherwise normal children) such as Gypsy kids and those with mild to moderate learning disabilities. Classes start at 8:45 and stretch until 2pm though many children stay in the on-site dormitories which are open from Monday to Friday.
So far, it has been a wonderful, albeit challenging experience but I have learned a lot, even from just being forced to communicate in a language and in a culture I don’t understand.
|Robert and Alexis. Photo by Kelli|