Munich: Inclusion is lived in the children’s home of the Pfennigparade – Munich

Nora cheers. The wooden ball that pushed her toward the basket actually landed on its target. Now it’s Angelina, Bailey, Jakov and Alan’s turn. Nora’s friends from the children’s home of the Pfennigparade Foundation in Munich’s Prinz-Eugen-Park are also successful: the marble run is designed so that every child can handle it. Regardless of whether they are physically fit or, like Alan, have motor disabilities. They don’t even notice that the little ones are training their motor skills while playing. The fun is so great that the five don’t want to stop. “We try to incorporate support into everyday life,” says therapist Gabriella Gesztesi. “It works very well.”

The day-care center on Ruth-Drexel-Strasse in Bogenhausen is a novelty in the educational landscape. A project started to break down barriers – structural as well as mental: For the first time, a classic kindergarten and a curative education day care center (HPT) are combined under one roof in a children’s home. “The kind of interaction that we’ve been practicing here since the fall doesn’t exist anywhere else,” says Beate Höß-Zenker, director of the Pfennigparade Foundation’s educational department. The road to get there, however, was long – and rocky at times.

At the Pfennigparade, they know that inclusion must be practiced from an early age in order to become a matter of course in adulthood. For more than 70 years, the company has been supporting people with physical disabilities and other impairments – with the aim of social participation. But the rethinking must also take place at the municipal level. “The city had planned a normal day-care center with seven groups for this location. We then added our HPT rooms,” says Höß-Zenker.

Water bed and bubble column: In the children’s house there is also a room for snoezelen, where a calm atmosphere is supposed to create well-being.

(Photo: Stephan Rumpf)

Promotional areas such as a workroom, research laboratory and a room with a water bed and bubble column for rest and relaxation are included. The mere promise to get doors between the two areas required “at least three months” of intensive debates, says Höß-Zenker.

The uncomplicated togetherness can now be experienced everywhere in the house. In the group rooms of the “moss dragons”, “chestnut goblins” or “root gnomes”, for example: With the slatted chairs, girls and boys who would otherwise be dependent on outside help can also move around independently. Or in the research room: While Erikseld from the HPT is trying to understand the principle of a scale, next to him Charlie is exploring the texture of kinetic sand. The two sit peacefully next to each other.

The holistic approach goes back to the Hungarian doctor András Petö

This harmony is possible thanks to the holistic approach of a method developed by the Hungarian doctor András Petö. Conductive support is the name of this education, with which the Pfennigparade has had good experiences for decades. The focus is on the human being, who can grow and develop – ideally with the support of all his motor, but also social, emotional, linguistic and cognitive abilities.

Like six-year-old Emma. The preschooler is lying on a roller board and laughing. The girl is restricted in her movements due to brain damage in her early childhood, but this cerebral palsy does not mean that Emma does not want to exert herself. On the contrary: With the support of a therapist, she pushes herself off with her hands and feet in order to move forward on her own. “We try to encourage the children to create something themselves,” explains conductor Gesztesi.

Emma’s parents are “on fire” because of this support. “The employees help the children with the patience of an angel,” says Katharina Hartmann. “In an inclusive kindergarten, our daughter would have totally drowned, just lying on the floor or parked in a chair.” Simply because there was a lack of resources and staff for animation. Here, on the other hand, she does the therapy “on the side” and enjoys the happy play with the other children. “The nice thing,” says the head of the children’s facility, Lisa Mag, “is the naturalness with which we all treat one another. The healthy children no longer see their friends’ handicaps, wheelchairs or helmets to prevent falls.”

It’s just a pity that due to a lack of staff, only five of the nine possible kindergarten groups are in operation – despite new and inclusively equipped rooms. “It’s not that people wouldn’t like to come to us,” says Beate Höß-Zenker, Head of Education. “There are far too few.” If you are interested: Applicants do not have to have any previous knowledge of curative education, Pfennigparade will take care of the further training.

So far, Höß-Zenker sums up, inclusive cooperation has not yet been taken for granted. “That’s why we now see it as our task to set up an inclusive child care school.” The next innovative project.

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