Many people travelling up and down the old Alicante Road or Cortes Valencianas in Torrevieja will never have noticed ALPE (Asociación Comarcal para la Rehabilitación del Discapacitado). It’s on the side of this very popular stretch of road and provides education and life-long learning opportunities for children and adults who have a disability.
The facilities are divided into two. The Centro Educación Especial caters for children from 3 years old and provides education and care. The Centro Ocupacional is aimed at adults who have intellectual disabilities and need continued support within the community to lead a full life.
The Centro Educación
The classes are small and well equipped as many of the children and young people here have very specific and high level needs. Classes require a high staff to pupil ratio and have to provide care as well as education. It caters not only for children with different physical and mental needs but also of different nationalities with different languages and cultures.
What these children do have in common is that they will need support for many years to come, if not throughout their lives. Some of the students here have profound difficulties that will have been identified when they were born. Others have been diagnosed through assessment at later points in their lives.
Psychologists assess the level of need and the information is then analysed and processed. A decision is then made in consultation with parents as to whether the child stays in a mainstream school or whether they are referred to ALPE. The number of children in the school is small, 53 at this moment, and reflects the high level of need and unpredictability of when children might seek admission. Both of these factors can make planning and class organisation difficult.
The school has a similar curriculum to a mainstream school but is adapted to accommodate the children’s needs. An outside area is equipped with resources but the students here also use other local facilities such as the town’s swimming pool and sports grounds. Keeping physically active is an important part of their education.
ALPE relies on the Special Education Center of the Ministry of Education and the Occupational Center of the Conselleria of Equality and Inclusive Policies, and to some extent for resources on money donated to it by a number of charities and through fund raising. ALPE is an official ONG – a registered non-profit association, but this kind of funding isn’t sufficient when it comes to financing some of the larger projects for the school. For example, a crowd funding campaign was launched to help them raise money for a specially adapted play area, a total of €9,500 was fundend altogether and was supported by CaixaBank, other private companies and other private funders.
Some of the money raised is used to buy extras such as additional equipment for the school. The school is financed in part by the government but, like most state funding in Spain, as in other countries, this does not usually stretch as far as it should.
The Centro Ocupacional
This part of ALPE is focussed on people between the ages of 18 and 65 who have an intellectual disability. It helps to support them in becoming more independent and increasing their quality of life. There are different workshops catering for 43 people altogether.
The aims include supporting their inter personal development and helping them to develop socially. Each person is provided with the assistance that they need and therapy where appropriate. The users here come from across the Vega Baja and many of them are collected on buses. They can attend their occupational center every day between September and July.
Again, the group sizes are small and workshops and activities include practising basic language skills, art work, gardening, carpentry, handicrafts and computers. There are opportunities for family and friends to see what they are making and their involvement is a crucial part of the programme.
Between them these two centres provide an essential hub for the children and adults who attend them. The staff are very special too in the level of patience and expertise that is required of them. Altogether this is a vital facility that deserves all the financial help and support that it can get.