•Experts tell parents at summit
The prayer of all expectant mothers is to give birth to normal children with normal features, but sometimes, nature brings children with physical and developmental challenges to some of them and this leaves majority in despair.
For those who are unable to cope with the stigma of having children with disabilities, stories have been heard of how they end up poisoning such childen or abandoning them in places where they are not known. Others who cannot do that keep the children perpetually locked up in their residences where they will not have contact with friends and neighbours. It is their best way of hiding what they perceive as the shame of their lives.
But a mother saddled with one of such children, Mrs Grace Alexander Abimbola, has advised such parents to look beyond the disabilities of their children and see them as blessings rather than burdens.
Speaking during the parents’ summit for people with disabilities held at the Redeemed Christian Church, Amazing Grace Parish, Felele, Ibadan, Oyo State on August 12, Mrs. Abimbola, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Star Children Development Initiative, disclosed that the summit was convened to encourage parents of children with special needs and who are struggling with what they are faced with.
In her address at the parents’ summit with the theme: “Looking Beyond Your Children’s Disabilities: They Are Blessings”, Mrs Abimbola said that she started the initiative as a way of encouraging parents with disabled children, showcasing herself as a mother who had been caring for her 21-year-old son, Olatunde, who has global developmental delay and learning difficulty.
She said: “We are disability advocates; we promote inclusion. We also promote healthcare services for children living with disability and we support their parents, especially those from poor socio-economic background.”
Stating that there are two categories of such parents, she explained that there are those that are disengaged because there is no support and they have no one to go to. “Some of their children don’t attend special schools and when they do, they are abandoned there and cannot access healthcare services,” she added.
Mrs Abimbola described the second category of people as those that are struggling. “They still want to help their children but don’t know how. So we put together how they can see beyond their children’s disability. How they can enable their children to grow, thrive and flourish in spite of their disabilities. This summit is to help people get advice and information. There is also networking opportunities where parents can interact with professionals that have come to speak.”
She noted that the economic situation in Nigeria is affecting a lot of things, quoting the United Nations to have said that the poorest of the poor are the people living with disabilities. She also pointed out that stigma against disabled children is still rampant within the society, adding that the Star Children Development Initiative recognizes this and is reaching to parents to network with it and ask for support.
She advised such parents to get the right diagnosis for their children and speak out, not bottle up, promising to connect them with other organisations providing different services and having audiologists, speech therapists and educational psychologists, among other experts.
One of the keynote speakers, Mr Oluwatobiloba Oparemi, a special educator from Treasure Delight Centre for children with special needs advised on early intervention and developmental milestone on children with special needs.
Mr Oparemi advised parents who have special needs children that the greatest thing to give such children is love in life. “If we show the children love, they will be able to get to great heights. God said that everything he created was good; disability is not inability. If you care for them, there is nothing you need that you will not get from the. Yes, we may not meet our expectations of them academically, but there are other things they can do to be independent and useful to themselves.
“There must be public enlightenment that keeping them locked indoors or abandoning them will not help. Government should also pay special attention to such children with special needs because of the stigmatisation that they face. They are aware of what you to them and it is what you do to them that they give back,” he stated further.
Also, Reverenrvd Omotosho Enoch, an audiologist running a programme for autistic children and those with hearing impairment, spoke on autism, which he described as a neurological developmental disability in children. But he said that if noticed early, the children could be helped. He encouraged parents to go through right diagnosis, get the right personnel and let them be at the right place of training so that they could achieve great heights.