Shining Star

Together with Shining Star: Our Mission and Vision at Work

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Sophia Guarracino, Speech-Language Lead, LIH Olivia's Place Shanghai

Sophia Guarracino, Speech-Language Lead, LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai

Since the summer of 2016, LIH Olivia’s Place has provided multi-disciplinary speech, occupational, physical, and even behavioral therapy, to children at Shining Star. Shining Star is a program for blind and partially sighted orphans who live in a residential home in Shanghai. It was established in June 2012 for these children to receive one to one care and instruction in basic life skills.

Therapists from each discipline visit Shining Star on a six week rotation, to assist staff, care managers, and volunteers, who work with the children each day, to provide specific therapy targets for each child. Through modeling, demonstration, and feedback, the staff is then able to carryover individual targets in each therapy discipline until the therapist’s next visit. There are also written notes for each child so the caretakers can remember what to work on.

The speech therapy team has been an integral to the program, using speech-language therapists to help these children improve their basic communication needs. On a few occasions, experienced speech-language pathologists from outside of LIH Olivia’s Place have accompanied the team to volunteer their time and expertise at Shining Star, while gaining a fulfilling volunteer experience in China.

One of the more notable aspects of LIH Olivia’s Place’s involvement with Shining Star, however, has been the training opportunities for Chinese-trained therapists. This successful training model has given junior staff members, such as Xieling Zhou, a chance to develop a high standard of clinical skills, specific to children with moderate to severe vision weaknesses and developmental delays, all while receiving supervision from internationally-trained therapists.

Typically, in a speech-language session at Shining Star, Xieling sees approximately 5 children in one day, each individually for about 30 minutes. She starts her sessions by having the staff model what they have been doing with each child in the previous weeks. She is able to gain an idea of what has been worked on and what has been helpful for each child, while also being able to provide more structured guidance in how the staff can improve each activity. Xieling also works with the children and staff in Chinese. Therefore, the children receive intervention in their native language and the staff receive specific and immediate feedback to help them carryover the treatment plan.

Since LIH Olivia’s Place began collaborating with Shining Star, many of the children have gone from being non-verbal, to speaking sounds and words. They are now imitating language more, are saying earlier developing sounds, and seem more motivated to use words and sounds to request their basic needs.

It is hoped and expected that the children will continue to make progress in the future, as the staff and children gain more opportunities to work on all areas of functional living skills. More and more local therapists will also be able to work with these children to gain more clinical experience. Shining Star and LIH Olivia’s Place have a relationship which is mutually beneficial; it is also a perfect example of the LIH Olivia’s Place vision and mission to change how therapy is done in China.

Internship Summary: Memorable Impressions of Shining Star

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Philip Pikus, Shanghai Intern, Summer 2016

Philip Pikus, Shanghai Intern, Summer 2016

My experience at Shining Star was unbelievable, and I will cherish the opportunity to have spent three weeks with an amazing group of boys and girls! Firstly, the adults at Shining Star, Julie, Jingxia and her husband, the ayis, and all visiting therapists/volunteers do an absolutely wonderful job to create this loving and caring environment for the children. My time at the residential home has allowed me to work with both “typically” developing children, as well as children with a wide range of disabilities. I was able to play dinosaur games and build Lego with some of the fully functioning children, but I was also able to go on walks, play music for, and simply hold hands with boys and girls who were learning these basic functions. In the process, I went on an “outing” to a giant playground, observed therapies, and accompanied some of the children on a trip to Shanghai United Family Hospital to visit a world-class neurologist.

A few of my best memories from my time at Shining Star are as follows: On my first day, one of the other workers at the home asked some of the fully functioning children what they’d like to call me. When they couldn’t pronounce “Philip”, one child announced he would call me “gege” (older brother), and that stuck! One boy, Tom, who is blind and has minor learning disabilities, and is the only English speaker, immediately attached to me and asked me to do therapy with him. We became close friends with him somehow guessing where I was from with the hint, “I am from the biggest city in the USA”. New Jersey was the correct answer, although it is certainly not the biggest city in the USA! I promised him I would write him letters in the future. Lastly, I formed the closest bond with LeiLei, a 5 or 6 year old boy who appeared severely disabled. Upon seeing the neurologist, I realized that many of his problems, aside from blindness, are a result of his lack of stimulation and malnutrition prior to arriving at Shining Star. LeiLei attached to me every time I came through the door, wanting to be carried or held constantly. We would go hours hugging, without any words shared, but I could always feel the close bond we were creating. It was quite difficult saying good-bye to the children, but I look forward to receiving updates on their well-being, and hopefully to see the boys and girls again next year!

Philip Pikus interned at LIH Olivia’s Place and volunteered at Shining Star during the summer of 2016. He is studying Biology and Chinese at Bowdoin College (US) and plans to graduate in 2019.

Shining Star is a non-governmental organization (NGO) which provides foster care for visually impaired orphans in Shanghai. Shining Star opened in June 2012 and is part of Mifan Mama, a charity group that provides food, clothing, educational support, medical support and equipment to orphanages throughout China. Shining Star is a residential home for blind and partially sighted orphans. The foster home creates individualized development plans for the children and offers 1:1 and group care. They also collaborate with local and international hospitals to help provide eye and heart surgeries for some of the children. A team of specialists from LIH Olivia’s Place, including physical, occupational and speech therapists, support the children and caregivers weekly.