"The difference is astronomical". Several inspiring stories of child rehabilitation from the "Eva" Center in the Kyiv region

Once, this house, just a few kilometers from Kyiv, was a typical home of an affluent family from the 2000s to 2010s. Red brick, three floors, a spacious garage. Huge living rooms, a kitchen, and multiple bedrooms. A pool in the basement. Signs of luxury and the pride of the owners at the same time.

Children undergoing rehabilitation at the Eva Center

But for the past three years, this house has been a place of hard work and hope. It's rented by the "Eva" Inclusion and Correction Center. The Center's specialists provide free assistance to children recovering after oncology treatments and those with severe diagnoses and developmental disabilities to rehabilitate, adapt to society, and sometimes literally start walking again from scratch. The work of "Eva" is funded by benefactors and "Techiia Foundation".

In September 2023, "Eva" welcomed its 13th group of young patients. We witnessed several sessions and talked to parents about the small yet significant successes of their children.


"Catch it. Again. Once more. Good job!" Karolina, a neurocorrection coach, encourages five-year-old Dima, who is sitting at the table in front of her. His simple task is to stop a bumpy ball pushed towards him by the coach and then push it back. His hands don't obey well, but each new attempt becomes slightly easier for the boy.

Behind Dima sits his support group in the form of his mother, Viktoria. She's fully engaged in the session. When her son gets tired and starts softly saying "ma-ma-ma-ma," she gently encourages him, "Two more times, and then we'll move on. You're doing great."

Dima has cerebral palsy. Viktoria shares that he was born in the 28th week and spent his first month in a coma. When he regained consciousness, he underwent a shunt placement due to third-degree bleeding.

"Doctors said: 'Mom, give up on him; the boy will be a vegetable!' But I didn't even consider that. When we finally left the hospital half a year later, we immediately began activities: massages and exercises. We work non-stop," says his mother.

Initially, the child didn’t react to anything. He smiled for the first time after leaving the hospital upon hearing from his mother, "Dmytryk, you're home." Educators stimulated his hearing with various objects, and gradually, the boy started responding. Other senses started to kick in, too.

Children undergoing rehabilitation at the Eva Center

For a child predicted by doctors to live life as a vegetable, Dima is showing incredible progress. He easily fits differently shaped figures into holes (Karolina comments, "He's already looking where to put them"), connects animal heads to their bodies in drawings ("That's a zebra, Dima saw a zebra at the zoo," his mother is prompting), and places colored rings into a special board ("Previously, he could only hold small objects with his fist, but now he can use his fingers," notes the coach).

According to his mother, Dima was on nasal feeding for a long time. Now, between tasks, he confidently bites crackers. He couldn't walk before, but now he can walk with sticks and ride a tricycle. He's starting to speak in syllables, sometimes spontaneously and sometimes by imitating his mother, but consciously. Diligent work at home and in rehabilitation centers pays off.

After fine motor skills, the boy moves on to relief tracks. Here, he needs to coordinate leg and arm movements and firmly place his feet. Dima's legs bend, and while holding his mother's hands, he walks on his toes but tries to slowly step with his heels.

Children undergoing rehabilitation at the Eva Center

"We've been at 'Eva' since 2021, one course a year. The difference is astronomical. Dima couldn't walk, couldn't do anything on his own. He couldn't stand; you had to hold him from both sides because he was like spaghetti. Now he can walk well holding onto one hand. He swims alone with light support. It's a significant result," Victoria shares.

She assures that the approach here differs from other centers. There, they have a facility where the child moves from one device to another. But for Dima, it's important to do exercises, strengthen his back, and work on movements. That's why his program at 'Eva' includes physical therapy, massage, neurocorrection, and swimming. Maksym, one of the trainers, "prescribed" walking up the stairs for him — the boy is doing really well. And there's mandatory homework: warm-up, stretching, walks. Thanks to this and the fact that they worked on his joints all last year, Dima could walk on his own with a walking stick.

And what do the doctors say now? "We went to our neurosurgeon — and he was surprised, seeing how well Dima walks while holding my hand. The rehab specialists praise him, saying: we like him. I don't remind them what they were saying five years ago," Viktoria shrugs her shoulders.

During the break between sessions, Dima incessantly climbs on the couch, exploring the guests' phones at the Center with unexpectedly strong hands, smiling at those around him. Although regular kindergartens won't accept him, and there's no place in an inclusive one yet, Dima is a bright example that with a loving and caring family and necessary rehabilitation conditions, everything is possible.


Usually, when fair-haired Mark dashes into the neurocorrection room, he immediately starts looking for his favorite plush shark. If he finds it, the session is at risk of disruption: detaching the boy from the toy is not easy.

Today, Karolina has hidden the shark thoroughly. So, after scanning the Center's guests, the little boy sits at the table and, under the confident commands of his trainer, begins the exercises. Every few minutes, the room fills with his demanding cry, "Phoooone, enooouugh!!" He's denied the phone. The session continues.

Children undergoing rehabilitation at the Eva Center

Mark is seven, and he's on the autism spectrum with attention deficit. New, unfamiliar people in the room immediately distract him — it's hard for the child to adapt to changes in his environment. However, Karolina and Mark's mother, who stands beside her son, redirect his attention to the task at hand.

"Mark started speaking at 1.5 years, but after an infection and treatment, he regressed in development. At 2.5 years, doctors diagnosed ASD, and we started working on it," explains Mark's mom.

Again, the boy began to speak hesitantly only at the age of 4. His mother took him to specialists and worked intensively at home. She recalls seeking advice from speech therapists, studying the materials in the room herself, and taking notes on objects and exercises. Until he was 5, she pulled him along herself, and then she started taking him to centers and specialized kindergartens.

Her goal is to help Mark learn to concentrate and adapt to society. She says the boy manipulates strangers well but needs to develop respect for himself and others, their belongings, and discipline. By next year, Valentyna wants to enroll her son in school, but he needs to acquire socialization skills before that.

"It's our first time at 'Eva.' I had to withdraw Mark from kindergarten due to regression; he returned to cyclic actions and fixations on one thing," explains the mother. "But here, they know how to deal with such children: take them and work with them. And Mark works pretty well because he loves strict discipline. I'm learning too — where to give leeway and where to push harder without paying attention to manipulations."

Karolina indeed demonstrates remarkable patience. Constantly grabbing Mark's attention, praising his achievements, jokingly warning. When the boy performs a complex coordination exercise with moving balls and squats, the trainer speaks firmly, not allowing shortcuts and missed movements. "Think about what you're doing," she encourages. "Doooctooor, enoouuhg!" Mark rings out, but he continues the exercise.

Children undergoing rehabilitation at the Eva Center

Working with children with ASD requires careful attention and tracking progress. Regression is highly undesirable because it leads to a decline in pronunciation quality, vocabulary, and some acquired skills. A lot of effort is needed for recovery.

However, overloading Mark isn't an option, as he becomes indifferent to everything. Therefore, the neurocorrection session ends after about forty minutes. For a few more minutes, the boy dreamily lies under the "jellyfish" — an artificial LED shower. Then, he moves on to the next session.

"I was prepared for things to be worse," admits Karolina with a smile as the door closes behind Mark. "Sometimes I come out all sweaty after a session — there's so much tension. Everything new is stressful for such kids — it's a protest. But little by little, we're developing attention and concentration."

Heorhii and Sofiia

The pool inside the building is small, only about 15 meters long. Standing beside it for long is impossible — the warm humidity penetrates clothing thoroughly within minutes. However, for the wards of "Eva," it's perhaps their favorite place, as parents of the little patients confess. Together with the young and energetic trainer, Maksym, the children learn to float in the water, simultaneously developing and strengthening their muscle corset.

Children undergoing rehabilitation at the Eva Center

Currently, two kids are splashing around with the trainer — twins, Heorhii and Sofiia. Amidst the water's noise, Maksym shouts, "Do it beautifully once again! Oh, that was superb just now! Oh, what was that? Come on, let's do it again!"

Mother Tetiana watches the children with a smile. "This is our third course here," she says. "The first was prior to the big war, the second — right before it started. The kids worked really hard then. And here we are again. To think that before 'Eva,' the kids couldn't swim at all."

Children undergoing rehabilitation at the Eva Center

From the looks of it, you wouldn't say so. Heorhii swims quickly from one end of the pool to the other, while Sofiia confidently, like a little penguin sliding off an iceberg, descends into the water from the soft, slippery bench. It's hard to believe that these kids have a bouquet of neurological diagnoses from birth.

But that was precisely the case. The mother shares that the children were born at 26 weeks, each weighing only 800 grams. For the first three months of their lives, they lay in the ICU on artificial lung ventilation. Heorhii has muscle tone imbalances and a curved spine. Until he was three, he had a tracheostomy because he couldn't breathe independently. Sofiia has hearing impairment and developmental delay. She took her first steps only at the age of two, and even now, walking isn't easy for her.

However, rehabilitation from an early age yields results. Even across various courses at "Eva," Tetiana notices progress in the twins. Thanks to massages, physical therapy, and the pool, the children's spines are starting to align, and their shoulders straighten. Neurocorrection exercises have improved Sofiya's fine motor skills, her handwriting has become smoother, and she enjoys drawing, although even coloring was a significant challenge before. The pool is a significant achievement for both: children who were once afraid of water now swim and dive without any support.

Maksym is demonstrating how to stretch the body during a dive. He tosses Heorhii in on "three-two-one," and with a spirited cry, the boy enters the water — when did he even have time to close his mouth?

Children undergoing rehabilitation at the Eva Center

The children are in an inclusive class in an ordinary middle school. Tetiana admits that making friends with peers is challenging due to communication because Heorhii and Sofiia still speak fairly indistinctly. Therefore, the current focus in rehabilitation is on speech and their spines. The family considers transferring the twins to a specialized boarding school as a last resort.

"We're fighting," the mother smiles.

Along with her, all the specialists and benefactors at "Eva" work for her children's health. Just like for the health of every child from the Center's 14 groups.

ua en