The Support Center for Disabled Children and their Families (EÇADEM) is a center developed by Koç University Faculty of Nursing Faculty Member  Prof. Dr. Ayşe Ferda Ocakçı and Assoc. Dr. Ayfer Aydin, and in which Sarıyer Municipality is a project partner. It was established with the financial support of the Istanbul Development Agency (ISTKA). The sustainability of the EÇADEM project, which was selected among 700 applications by İSTKA, has been ensured by a special protocol signed between Koç University and Sarıyer Municipality in 2015.

EÇADEM aims to protect family integrity and improve the quality of life by providing care and counseling services to disabled children and their families. EÇADEM is the first and only model project in Turkey that deals with the family as a whole, with services for individuals with mental disabilities and their caregivers. It provides guidance to family members affected by this situation by enabling individuals with mental disabilities to participate in social life. In this way, the Istanbul Regional Plan aims to contribute to a “fair, sharing, inclusive and learning society”, which is one of the development axes.

In addition to meeting the daily care and needs of individuals with mental disabilities, the center supports the development of social and emotional skills in a safe environment with psychological counseling. It provides training that facilitates daily life activities, and self-care workshops that provide a space for expression through art and sports. Thus, it is intended to help both disabled people  adapt to society and society accomodate disabled people more easily with the projects it initiates and carries out. Individuals, who are introduced to life outside the home environment at regular intervals, are provided the experience of being a part of society, and have their individual characteristics and skills taken into account.

Another focus of the center is to protect the mental health of family members with mental disabilities and to ensure their social participation. With the consultancy, services and activities developed for family members, it is aimed to alleviate the burden of care, to encourage participation in social life and to make the relations between all family members more sustainable. The aim of this support is to reduce the psychosocial problems, such as burnout, stress, depression, and social isolation of caregiver family members.

Furthermore, the psychosocial support and guidance services EÇADEM provides to siblings with disabilities, and the protection of other children and young people in the family from the risks that this period may bring, is intended to ensure happy, productive and creative individuals of today and the future.

All services provided by EÇADEM to individuals with mental disabilities and their families are free of charge.

At the same time, EÇADEM, in addition to the care and consultancy services it provides to mentally disabled individuals and their families, has implemented the “If There is a Hope, It is Worth a Try” project in order to reach out to young mentally disabled children and provides sensory integration sessions to mentally disabled individuals between the ages of 3-15. The aim of this project is to provide occupational therapy-based sensory integration sessions at an early age so that the sensory problems of children do not turn into behavioral problems in their future lives, to prevent these behavioral problems and to ensure their integration into social life. At the same time, the goals include providing training to ensure that the cognitive, physical and social development of disadvantaged children is supported by their families, including in-home planning in order to direct the process correctly, and improving their skills in coping with the disadvantaged situations they are in and managing situational crises.

The center also offers internship opportunities to university students. EÇADEM also serves as a laboratory that provides interns from many universities, especially Koç University, with the opportunity to practice and observe in fields such as psychology, nursing, occupational therapy, language and speech therapy.

Mentally disabled children between the ages of 18-35, residing in Sarıyer district, are accepted to the center, which provides service 5 days a week, and each child can benefit from this center for a maximum of 2 full days a week. As of 2022, an average of 95 families, 102 disabled children and 191 siblings have been served.