THE next time you encounter a child who is disabled, remember no one ever asks for sickness or infirmity to befall them, and if they had a choice, there is no doubt they would choose to be the same as everyone else. We do not live in a perfect world, so it is time we faced and embraced the fact that some children are born with disabilities.
Initially, families can be heartbroken when this happens; they enter a whole new world. How do they care for their disabled child, and what does the future hold? If families are not strong, blame, accusations, embarrassment, neglect, abandonment and separation could follow. However, even the strongest of families despair at the whispers, sneers, and stares from insensitive people who fail to offer genuine compassion or give a helping hand. A wise man once said, ‘if you can’t say something helpful, say nothing’.
Healthy babies are born every day, and even with the best of care, an illness could develop, bringing about permanent physical or mental change in the child at any stage of his/her life -thankfully, this does not often happen. Severe or freak accidents can also leave children or grown-ups in life-altering conditions, rendering them unable to perform everyday functions without assistance. This misfortune could occur in any household in the world – unplanned, unwanted and the effects of which touch each family member in some way.
In bygone days, when walking past someone who was differently abled, grown-ups would tell children to keep their heads straight and don’t look. It could be that adults thought it wrong and impolite to stare at someone who looked different, or maybe they thought that by looking, some ill-fate, or the same unfortunate fate, might strike the onlooker.
On the contrary, many disabled children endured segregation in the past, locked up and out of sight. They were not allowed to interact with children or partake in edifying activity. It seemed as if their disability made them not less of a person but a non-person. Even the word invalid (which means in valid) is a particularly harsh way of describing someone unwell or infirm.
Treating disabled people with scorn affirms their feelings of worthlessness and lack of esteem – no one likes to feel unwanted or cast aside by loved ones; everyone wants to feel good about themselves.
Over the years, some things have improved, albeit slowly. As information becomes accessible and shared in the public domain, more people are learning that some differently-abled people can live productive and valuable lives. Disabled people feature in movies and advertising -some (autistic children) have exceptional unique qualities and abilities.
When the emphasis highlights what a disabled person can do, learn, master and control, instead of stressing and promoting their disability, they can achieve a more fulfilling life. However, advice and guidance from a trained doctor or physician should be sought and followed at all times.
Health complications and adjustments to everyday life surround caring for differently-abled persons. It can be exhausting, even overwhelming, at times for some parents and carers. Those who learn to manage this lifestyle understand what the process entails and cultivate strategies along the way to help them cope. While others never come to grips with the idea that differently-abled people still need to have a life – so they keep them hidden and pay them no mind.
Sometimes approaching a disabled person and deciding what to say can be awkward, especially for those (adults and children) who have never encountered physically or mentally challenged people. More advertisements and books should be provided to help children understand – differently-abled people should be embraced rather than made fun of or shunned. Some are able-bodied, and some are not. Some look and sound normal, but they have mental health issues – disabilities are not always apparent.
Children tend to be more accepting of those with disabilities – they appreciate explanations and understand our existence’s trials and tribulations.
It is easier for some people to pretend they did not see the disabled person rather than interact with him/her. Not because they want to be rude, they are just unsure how to react, although showing courtesy and consideration is the civilised thing to do. It stands to reason that a disabled person would prefer to be acknowledged rather than ignored or talked about as if they were not there.
Doctors and nurses who work with disabled children understand the background and reasons behind various types of disabilities. They can advise the best care and activities to help differently-abled people get the best out of life.
In some cases, keeping the disabled person clean, safe and comfortable is all loved ones can do. But even then, carers should perform these duties with thoughtfulness, attention, dignity and respect for the person. Extra consideration and improvised methods of communication may be necessary if a disabled person cannot speak.
To conclude, the best way to work out how to behave, act, acknowledge, befriend or help a disabled person is to put yourself in their shoes. How would you like to be greeted? With love, enthusiasm and care? Or with doubt, curiosity and scorn? Never assume that disabled people see their lives as a misfortune and offer them pity – bring some understanding, love and knowledge to the table.
The Ministry of Human Services & Social Security is giving special assistance to all children and adults living with a permanent disability.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY,
MINISTRY OF HUMAN SERVICES AND SOCIAL SECURITY