Escuela Franklin Delano Roosevelt – Montevideo, Uruguay
Center for DanceAbility International in South America
Escuela Franklin Delano Roosevelt School was founded in 1941 in a small house in the center of Montevideo, Uruguay by a dynamic young woman named Marisa Lusiardo de Leon. It was originally called the Primary School of Motor Correction, but the name was change to honor the United States’ president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who himself had severe physical challenges.
Today the school is located on Avenida Millán in the Prado neighborhood of Montevideo on the ample grounds of a beautiful old two-story mansion. There is a dining room, physical and sensory-motor rooms, a hydrotherapy room, administrative offices and the DanceAbility classroom. Adjoining the two-story house are eight newly constructed classrooms, a computer lab, and a large multipurpose room. The grounds surrounding the school buildings are full of lovely old trees, lawns, and a large very productive greenhouse that provides vegetables for the children’s lunches. There is also a covered therapy swimming pool.
The mission of the school is to provide integrated services including educational, medical, psychological, social, and recreational services to people with physical disabilities while searching for equal opportunities, equitable participation, and the betterment in the condition of life for each individual and their families.
The vision is to be recognized at a national level for high quality and performance in the service to people with physical disabilities by way of a system of integrated rehabilitation services.
The school provides free transportation, hot lunches, and afternoon snacks to the students. Four vans transport the students to and from their homes each day. Two creative and energetic cooks prepare delicious and nutritious meals.
All of the students at Escuela Franklin Delano Roosevelt come from low-income families. These families do not have the financial means to provide a quality education for their children. The Uruguayan government provides a small portion of the school’s operating budget. Over the years, many generous gifts and ongoing fundraising efforts on behalf of the school by the Asociacóin Nacional Para El Niño Lisiado (the National Association for Children with Disabilities), which Marisa created when she first began the school, have managed to keep the school open and thriving.
The school provides an integrated interdisciplinary approach for children with disabilities. An Infant Program for children birth to three years of age and an Early Childhood Education program for children three to seven years of age provide stimulation and early intervention. A technical support team works with the families so that they can become informed and educated advocates for their children. The goal of this integrated team is to contribute to the maturity and early development of the child in order to promote the best physical and cognitive development in the first years of life. The team evaluates and establishes the objective for each child and works in reaching the determined goals.
Medical attention is also provided at the school. Children receive a thorough evaluation with special attention given to their developmental and nutritional health. A detailed evaluation of motor deficits requires considerable orthopedic study. Some children exhibit more extensive needs and are sent for consultation or hospitalization to complete the studies. The students are evaluated when they enter the school and there are periodic re-evaluations since many orthopedic conditions become more severe with age and need correction. Dental health services will be added in the near future.
Physical therapy is a vital component of the integrated approach of the school since the majority of the students have motor/physical disabilities. An individualized treatment program of physical therapy is provided to each child in order to achieve maximum mobility. Physical therapy is provided in a variety of ways; in a traditional therapeutic setting such as one-on-one with a physical therapist which also may include hydrotherapy in a whirlpool tank or in the swimming pool, in the Psycho/Motor area which includes games, tunnels, balls, hammocks, and puzzles, as well as in occupational and recreational settings during the different afternoon workshops such as gardening, cooking, crafts, chess, computers, music, and dance.
The staff of the school includes teachers, physical therapists, psychologists, social workers, and a speech pathologist. Professionals teach afternoon enrichment workshops from different fields. At all times a highly dedicated staff of assistants help the children with mobility and personal needs. Ground keepers and maintenance staff constantly work to keep the school grounds in good order and as accessible as possible. Cooks and nutritional consultants plan healthy meals. The administrative staff heads up the team approach of the school, and a dedicated and tireless Board of Directors keeps the doors open and programs underway.
The school and association that Marisa Lusiardo de Leon began more than sixty- seven years ago are still going strong helping to provide an excellent integrated education for hundreds of Uruguayan children with disabilities.