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Opinions of Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Columnist: Agbettor, Elizabeth Ladjer Bibi

Raising up a child with disability; my pride

As a result of numerous problems being faced by parents and families who are caring for children with disability, consultants on persons with disability have began rolling out useful information to help them out in Accra Ghana.

This article is part of series of educational tit bits for parents with children with disability.

Beneath the article is the contact address of the consultant specialists for those who need help on disability issues.

Parenting has been around from the days of Adam and Eve. Parenthood brings along a host of responsibilities. This principle holds whether the child is with or without disability.The birth of a child with any form of disability is usually received with disappointment and apprehension in a family.

Parents’ reactions to this type of situation include acceptance of the child and his/her disability, denial of the effects of the disability, over-protection, disguised rejection and overt rejection.

Parents most often are confronted with challenges of accepting or rejecting the situation. Whilst some parents come to terms with the situation and accept the child with full responsibility, others reject the child and shift the responsibility to society.

The trauma and turbulence associated with the acceptance or rejection of a child with disability is to a large extent rooted in the absence of education and systems to support parents and their children with disability.

In Ghana, parents with children who are disabled have limited information about early intervention or referral centers. They battle with the situation until the children are ready for school.Even in this situation; there is usually an information gap between the parent and the teacher/special teacher.

The upbringing of children with disability is a rare uphill task for parents in Ghana. In most cases, the parents lack the requisite skills and knowledge to support the children duringthe pre -school,school and transition stages.

The writers’ motivation is to share knowledge on the role of parents’ at the specific stages of their children’s development. This article focuses on the parent’s role during the early intervention stage/preschool

Early intervention / preschool stage Early intervention refers to various activities designed to serve children with disability from 0 to about 4 years or when such children are ready to begin formal schooling. Human development is rapid in the early years and critical especially for children with defective sensory capabilities.

Therefore early stimulation of all parts of the bodies of such children is essential.Parent’s knowledge in early intervention activities should be focused on the following areas among others:

• Food • Sensory stimulation • Conducive environment • Learning by doing • Mannerism

Food The healthy physical development of every human being depends to a large extent on a balanced diet. Parents should therefore endeavor to acquire knowledge about what constitutes a balanced diet and what specific dietary requirement will be beneficial to their children’s conditions. If possible, parents should seek regular advice or help from a dietician who will guide them to procure cheap but nutritious food items that will aid the development of their child.

Sensory stimulation The provision of adequate sensory stimulations provides the brain with useful energy to develop and integrate its functions. If children are to develop intellectually, socially and physically well, sensory integration is very important.

For instance, in the case where the child has a visual disability, parents should be assisted by specialists to explore, identify and in addition know how to provide sensory stimulation to the various degrees of the child’s response to smells, textures, sounds and tastes.

Conducive environment The parents should create an environment which does not impede the children’s movement or pose danger for injury to them when crawling or walking. When caring for a child with visual impairment, parents should ensure that the child gets used to enriched environment and well-structured space to play in.

Jingles and other sound producing toys should be provided by the parents in the environment to enhance play activities for movements. The articles for play should include those for taste, smell, touch, bang and drop.

Learning by doing Children with disability need to be purposefully shown or taught by their parents concerning how to do things. Unless they are taught, they will not know how to do it because they lack sight, hearing, and the use of arms or legs and so on for incidental learning.

Children with visual loss for example should be taught how to crawl by parents getting on the floor with their children and taking them through the movements until the children know what crawling is, and learn to do it themselves. Parents have to introduce toys to their children and show them how to play with them.

Mannerism The children with visual impairment during the infant stage develop socially negative manners. These are poking of their eyes, walking with their face upwards, swinging the head continuous sideways and body rocking.

This is due to lack of early stimulation. Parents should check that anddevelop activities that will engage their infants and will prevent them from forming bad habits which become difficult to stop when they grow up. Parents should check and constantly correct these types of mannerisms.

The development of every child at the early stages is very critical. Parents with children who have any form of disability must continue to seek knowledge on how best to raise their children without further complicating their situations.

Who is responsible for offering early intervention services to parents with disabled children? It is obvious that there is the need for a multi-sectoral approach in the development of a well- structured information system for parents with disabled children to seek knowledge on the development of their children.

The Ministry of Gender and Social Protection, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education should take a second look at the trainings offered to social workers, community health nurses and nursery/special teachers.

We need to create the system for that purpose; be involved.

For direction to a counselor/specialist of Inclusive consults through Ghana Blind Union, e-mail: lizbettyy@yahoo.com/pobengasamoa@gmail.com/ghanablind@gmail.com