Breaking Stereotypes. One Step at a Time


Tigran would be an ordinary Armenian young man struggling to find his place in the job market if not for a full list of accomplishments that he’s proud to have achieved. He is a three time Special Olympics winner in freestyle swimming – silver in 2007 in China, gold in 2011 in Athens and another gold from the Los Angeles games in 2015. Swimming has been his passion since childhood and he was able to pursue his interest only after joining Special Olympics activities in Yerevan, which gave him the opportunity to develop and gain new friends.


Tigran is also one of the 17 young people that were invited to give a talk at Armenia’s first licensed TEDxYouth 2015 event in Stepanavan, supported by UNICEF country office in Armenia. He took the stage to talk about his life, combining sports and education, as well as future plans to work as a hairdresser.


In 2015, Tigran also became Armenia’s first person with an intellectual disability to have starred in a telenovela, supported by UNICEF in a framework of a campaign to promote social inclusion of children with disabilities in the country. “It is not easy to appear on the screen with no acting background and represent a person whose adventures were followed by so many in Armenia and the diaspora,” says Tigran of his experience.



While the vast majority (96 per cent) of Armenians support inclusion of children with physical disabilities, 19 percent think children with intellectual disabilities should be isolated[i]

When it comes to education, opinions are more divided. Seventy one per cent of Armenians think children with intellectual disabilities should attend a special school, and only 22 per cent think that children with intellectual disabilities can attend a regular school.


Tigran’s path in education is no different – he was first enrolled in a special boarding school for children with disabilities, due to which he was temporarily separated from his mother and to a degree isolated from his community. At a later stage, he transitioned to an inclusive vocational school, which he soon graduated with a specialization as a hairdresser. His mother says, Tigran acquired so much more in his new school and was quick to make friends and explore new specialties. “I wish he can find a stable job upon graduating and keep on doing what he loves,” says Tigran’s mother Ruzanna.



When properly organized and delivered, inclusive education for both children with or without disability means an opportunity to achieve individual educational goals, develop self-confidence, improve interpersonal communication skills, to continue to be included later on in life, form a positive and prejudice-free outlook on life, make friends and develop mutual trust, as well as lead a full-fledged life in a family and the society.




[i] UNICEF (2015). Armenia: Understanding Attitudes Towards Children with Disabilities.






UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. 

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit 



For more information, please contact:

Zara Sargsyan, UNICEF Armenia, Tel: +37410 580 174,