31 for 21: Day 21

Nicole asked: how do Sweden and Austria differ in their approaches to special needs issues (therapies, school, financial support, open-mindedness, etc.). And does your decision to move to Sweden have anything to do with it?

Disclaimer: note to all Austrians (and Swedes), I am not complaining [today] about the systems, I am just simply voicing my opinion on the topic. This is based solely on our experience with our son here in Graz.

I have been thinking about this one for a few days now. It is hard to answer as I have not lived in Sweden since Vince was born. I am in contact daily with other families with kids with DS who live in Sweden though. I also was fortunate enough to spend a week together with some very qualified people in Kristiansand, Norway in February, where one person actually was from Sweden and had great insight to the Swedish school system, therapies, and integration.

I am going to split this one in a few entries or no one will read it through as it will be too long.

A great thing with Austria is all the support you get here from 0-3 years. Excellent. We have had Early Intervention (EI), Physio Therapy (PT), Speech Therapy (ST), Ergo Therapy (ET) and more for Vince. This happened fast. I think Vince was about 6 weeks when we got an EI coming home to us, once a week for 90 minutes. This would most likely not have been the case in Sweden. We would most likely (if I have understood this correctly, please correct me if I am wrong), be sent for an evaluation and have become some therapies assigned less often than here.
Most things have been free or to a low-cost if we have gone to private. Because I am self-employed, I have a good insurance that cover most of the extra costs of going private. ET and ST was private.

But from 3 years old, the support in Austria has been tough to fight for. The system here seems to be set up for you to go to non-integration day care (ie spec ed day care). I am not saying this is not right for some, but I truly believe it is not right for all kids with a disability. In our case it would not be right for Vince. Vince is, like many people with DS, an individual that learns best by observing. He needs to have his peers motivate him and show him what is possible, and you better believe it, he will do it. He learns an incredible amount from his peers. Small things like table manners, routine things, zipping his jacket up, putting his slippers on etc.

Our goal as a family has always been to try to raise Vince and Edgar so they grow up as independent as they can and so they can maximize their possibilities in future. We have often challenged Vince, and I truly believe that is a big reason why he is performing so well as he is.

The system is set up for you to not go to a ‘typical’ day care, and if you do, you should preferably only have your child in there halfday, which in Austria means pick up around 12,30, which in our world translates into a one parent working family. I am not the type to be a stay at home mom. Believe me.
We met a lot of difficulties signing Vince up in his Kindergarten(KiGa), as we needed him to go all day, and for him going in a ‘typical KiGa’. We finally got that approved and it has been working really well. Really well! The problem was actually not from the KiGa itself (we love Wiki) but rather from the state and the city. Later I found out by signing Vince up in a KiGa from the city, the city would get the double funding from the state, plus that we actually had to pay part of Vincent’s Pflegegeld (similar to Vardbidrag/SSI I think?) to the city as they would do the main part of ‘caring’ for our child.

We have been lucky enough to have a great team of supporters. Our Pediatric is amazing, she supports our decisions 110% and helps us fights the battles. She helps us with the necessary paperwork, and gets us in touch with the right people. She also encourages us to do what we believe in is best for Vincent, and she has learned that we ARE educated on the subject and she knows we have done the research for what we are looking for. That is wonderful.

In Sweden, I am not sure if we would have had such a tight relationship with a pediatric, as it is actually not common to go to a Pediatric for your check ups. some places do, but not for all check ups as here, instead you go to a specialized child nurse, who then refers you on to a pediatric if needed.

There would be a lot less, if any paper work. Austria just might be one of the top 10 countries on loving actual paperwork and not having different vital parts of society connected to a social security number or personal number (person number). Literally, everything is happening with the physical movement of papers. Get a paper, sign, go to this office, get a stamp move on to the next place. No kidding.

Back to daycare: In Sweden we most likely would not have the team on therapists come on a weekly basis to Vincent’s day care (IZB). We have that here. On the other hand, the staff at the day cares are, in general, more educated in having children with disabilities around. many day care instructors have taken courses in signing and learned methods how to teach this and the positives of signing. We have to do a lot of fighting to get people to understand signing is good over here.

Like here, it also depends where you are in Sweden. Some cities are better prepared than others.
I definitely do not see Sweden as a Utopia, actually I think in terms of straight therapy, we might get more here right now, but in terms of complete system I think we would be better off in Sweden.

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