Sunday, July 07, 2013

A "Problem" shared

I visited the Children Development Centre (CDC) and the Modupe Cole Memorial Child Care Centre (MDCMC) recently. At the CDC, I discovered great cookies, meat pies and affordable scented candles; at MDCMC I met a lady who painted with her legs.Teenagers and adults that suffer different stages of autism, mental retardation and learning disabilities made the cookies, pies and candles.
I left both centres impressed because in spite of their mental disabilities these students have found a purpose and are useful. However, that visit exposed me to an issue I did not know existed. As a people we hide under the everything-is-fine-banner. The Yoruba adage that “all lizards lie flat on their belly, you don’t know which one has an ache” is true. I learned that parents hid their children who suffered from these conditions from others because they are ashamed they birthed these children. At the center, I met a 38-year old who stepped outside her house for first time when she started at the Center. She was not the only one. That’s the story of most of the kids. At MDCMC, some of the kids have been abandoned there by their parents or guardians. Consequently, these kids are deprived of education and interactions outside their immediate family- who view them as a burden- or  emasculate them thereby increasing their dependency.
 The challenge with keeping up appearances is that it is emotionally, socially and financially draining. Conditions that may be ameliorated if parents and guardians spoke up and sought help are worsened. If therapy begins early, some children are able to catch up and live semi- normal lives. For instance, there is much hope for the year old baby at the center who has begun treatment. Even the 38 year old has been able to develop the mental abilities of a 4 year old.
 Coming out on these issues helps parents and guardians know that they are not alone and provides support from others who share the same conditions. Speaking up also helps  some of the kids with less severe cases while children that suffer more serious cases learn to become useful.
Parents and guardians should realize that they would not always be there for these kids and the kids may not get the kind of care they (parents) would give. Thus, it is in their best interests to plan for the financial and social future of these kids.  Exposing their kids would make others feel comfortable with them and would let the kids know that they are wanted and special.
There is no shame in having a child that has a developmental disability. You did not choose it, wish it or pray for it but like life's other challenges, rather than run or hide it is better to face it.
Kids who suffer disabilities may not live normal lives, nevertheless, they do not deserve to be hid. My visit to the two centers opened my eyes to the possibilities these children have. I am assured that when they close and go home at the end of the day, they go home with a sense of fulfillment. We all deserve to feel that way. 

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