BRIDGES Approaches 25 Years of Educating Special Needs Students in the Philippines

Bridges Foundation Inc. (BFI) is a nonstock, non-profit institution located in Quezon City in the Philippines that caters to individuals with behavior disorders, neurological impairments. When Bridges reaches its 25th year of existence in 2017, there will certainly be much to celebrate. Starting out with just five students in 1992, the school’s student population increased to 70 in its third year. Today, Bridges will take in up to 85 students, with about seven assigned to a class.

The staff consists of 50 full-time special education teachers and support staff. Each one wears many hats, according to cofounder Barbara Dans Paguia, yet it is clear that despite all the hard work it takes to run the school, the teachers love what they do. “It’s all about small miracles that take place each day,” said Paguia. “Little things matter a lot.” For example, during a tour of the school, she proudly showed off some of the stunningly colorful and imaginative paintings done by their students with ASD that were on display on school walls. She pointed at framed Philippine stamps that depicted Christmas artwork done by Bridges students. Paguia also showed us the school’s self-published Basic Sign Language Guide Book that includes English sign language words, as well as some Tagalog words in sign language.

Bridges was given recognition and accreditation by the country’s Department of Education, Culture & Sports in March of 1997. The school was founded by Barbara Dans Paguia, Grace Reyes and Leah Reyes, with the goal of providing quality education to children with special needs. Barbara had actually been a professor at the University of the Philippines, where Grace was taking her practicum under her at the time. Together the founders envisioned “an educational institution empowered to serve and develop the full potentials of children with special needs in order for them to become functional and self-propelling individuals at home and, if possible, in the community.”

Programs at Bridges include: Activities for Daily Living Skills, Feeding & Nutrition, Family Education & Support, Adult Life Transition and Works-Skills Training. The strategies and approaches for education include: Behavior Modification, Structured Training, Sensory Integration, Augmentative & Alternative Communication, Community Integration, and Individualized Education Plans.

Equally important, Bridges believes in the importance of educating and encouraging the students’ parents, siblings, immediate family members and caregivers “towards knowledgeable and skillful involvement with children, through interaction and specific programs.” Beyond Bridges, teachers assist parents in finding appropriate placement for children who exceed the school age requirement, and children who are candidates for mainstreaming in the regular program.

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