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“The First Step”


This exhibition was initially created to increase awareness of mental health in Eastern Kazakhstan.

The idea was to take pictures of children with special needs and then ask their mothers to write a paragraph about their child’s favorite past-time.

We wanted to make people see that these children are children too. These children are special, but equally as special as every single one of us.

This project has led to the formation of an association of mothers of children with special needs. We called the association “The Step”

All pictures are taken with film.


Mariya Levitanus 2013


Ruslan 8 years old, Children’s Autism Ruslan does not speak, but he does write with magnets on the fridge or with chalk on the board. He attends the correcting school number 21, where there are kids similar to him. He is able to read and really loves playing and learning new things on the computer. He always impatiently waits for the summer,so he can go to the lake and swim. Ruslan also loves children’s play parks, where he loves to swing and simply observe his peers playing. He doesn’t really like to join the other children, choosing to spend his time mostly alone. My son really loves cartoons and can spend hours watching them with eagerness and joy. Ruslan adores horses and always looks forward to the equine therapy sessions which he has been attending for more than one year.


Aigerim 6 years old, children’s Autism Aigerim is like a forever smiling angel - our little sunshine. When I hug her, it warms my soul and makes me tranquil. She is in her element when in water, like a fish, forgetting everything else and just enjoying herself. She loves bright colours, drawings, patterns; she can flick through bright books and magazines for hours and hours. She also loves computer games. She really loves to communicate, but she can’t and doesn’t know how to. And one more thing, Aigirim really loves to go to visit someone in their houses, seeing new places makes her happy.


Zalina 6 years old, early children’s Autism Like any other child, Zalina loves drawing and painting. She tries to make figures from plasticine. In the evenings she loves watching the cartoon “Smeshariki� and she already has the whole collection of toys of the characters of this cartoon. Zalina loves water, we often go for walks together by the river. She loves learning to use the computer: she draws and listens to music also. She also loves playgrounds, where her favorite thing to do is to go on the swings and the slides. Zalina is very kind and open, but prefers communication with adults: it is with adults she feels comfortable.


Batyrchan 6 years old, Down syndrome Batyrchan is always laughing and is a very good child. He calls himself Bota. He finds it very easy to communicate with both children and adults. He loves playing ball, listening to stories and fairy tales, drawing and riding a bicycle. He is really inquisitive and really enjoys working with the education specialists. Bota also very much loves musical instruments, listening to music and dancing. In the evenings he watches cartoons, his favorite heroes are –Penguin Pororo, Super-Tom and Dasha.


Ratmir 6 years old, early children’s Autism Ratmir has been going to equine therapy for one year and because of this he really loves horses. Most of all Ratmir loves books, he can look through them forever, discovering new details and examining every single picture. His favorite toys are horses and cars. Ratmir learns with the aid of a computer, he loves completing all the tasks on development of logic and thinking, he also enjoys learning the electronic alphabet. He enjoys swimming, which he is gradually learning to do on his own, as well as diving. Just recently he has made a new friend, a boy with a similar condition. Both boys don’t talk, yet they understand each other. In the evenings Ratmir likes watching cartoons; one of his favorite ones is “Madagascar”.


Masha 11 years old, children’s Autism Our Masha is a very active girl; she finds it difficult to stay in one place. She loves watching cartoons and jumping on the bouncy ball. Masha goes to equine therapy and horses and dogs are her favorite animals. Above all Masha loves walking in nature. We often go for small trips to the mountains or walks in the forest. Masha has an older brother and despite the fact that Masha does not talk, they understand each other perfectly.


Faik 15 years old, atypical Autism Faik attends a special school. He is very sensitive and vulnerable; sometimes he can only be understood by those who are close to him. Faik is also very driven and motivated; he is diligent and easily reaches his goals, especially in his favorite hobby-horse-riding. He truly loves animals, and that is what helps him to succeed.


Danil 9 years old, Autism Danil really loves listening to music and watching cartoons like Sponge Bob Squarepants and other children’s programs. When we go to the playground, he spends all the time on the swings. Danil really enjoys spending time with his father, especially, when he sits him on his lap and lets him drive the car. He attends equine therapy and adores horses. In the evening all our family goes roller skating on the river-side. Danil is making great progress in roller skating, he can keep the balance well and tries to skate by himself.


Diana 4 years old, children’s Autism She is in her element in water-she could swim forever! When she hears the sound of water, she runs towards it with all the cups and jars she can find –she loves to pour the water and watch how it streams. She is a kinaesthetic learner–she loves smelling and touching objects. Her favorite things to do are listening to music, watching music videos and watching the cartoon “Masha and the Bear”. She also loves looking at photographs, books, and catalogues. Her favorite toys are – dolls (she always kisses them), her interactive poster for learning the alphabet, photographs, glasses, toy dishes, decorative fruits and vegetables. In the world of animals – she loves riding and feeding horses. She loves dogs however she is very scared of them. When a dog walks behind her, Diana turns and walks backwards facing the dog. She has a great perception of whats in the world around her – she loves beauty, she notices every little detail – nail polish, eyelashes, hairstyles. She has high sensitivity to even minor sounds, and she cannot stand changes in her life. She has a special attraction to movement – she can walk for a long time, go on the car, run or walk. Her special attribute is her incredible endurance.


Saken 3.5 years old Saken is a very active child, he loves jumping, running and climbing. Going to the swimming pool, playgrounds and parks – he loves it all. Maybe it appears to be a minor thing, but for us it is a real achievement. Saken is an incredible child. My boy has changed me. He gave so much love and tenderness. Thanks to him I started to be interested in other children, their problems and their achievements. Now I have a desire to help special children and, of course, continue to help him. From all my heart I want to tell everyone who helps our children: Step out and you will touch lives, you will help our children.


Veronique 4 years old Veronique is a cheerful girl, she loves moving and exploringshe is very inquisitive. She adores her brother: she is always interested in where he is and what he is doing. She loves swimming and just playing by the river. She is also very stubborn and brave. She is not afraid of anything.

"The First Step"  
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