A person is said to have special needs when he or she needs assistance to carry out basic daily activities such as the use of toilets, eating, playing among others due to mental, psychological or medical associated disabilities.
There are common terminologies used in reference to persons with special needs. These terms include disability, impairments and handicapped.
Disability is taken to be any loss or inability to function or to perform an activity in a manner or within a range considered normal for a human being or to interact with the world. These could be the inability to communicate normally through speech, or listening and hearing.
Impairment on the other hand is any loss, damage, or problem with a structure or organ or part of the body through genetic factors, disease or an accident. And because of the damages or loss of these important structures, a person may, therefore, develop hearing problems, or an inability to learn concepts such as solving mathematical problems among others.
Finally, handicapped can be defined as a disadvantage or restriction of an activity that results from a disability or from the social attitude towards a disability that prevents the ability to function socially, physically or mentally.
Causes of disabilities
A disability can result from the following:
Firstly, there is an acquired disability, which develops while a child is developing and is acquired either through an injury or through an accident.
Secondly, there is a congenital disability, which occurs mostly during the birth of a baby. It can be as a result of prolonged labour or careless handling by the mid-wives.
Lastly, disability can be inherited (hereditary) passed on from the parents to the baby through genetics.
There are categories of children with special needs and these include visual impairment, physical impairment, hearing impairment, and gifted and talented, among others. (I will be discussing these categories in my next article.)
Challenges in taking Care of Children Special Needs
Children with special needs, because of their status, constantly need monitoring and help, whether in schools, at home or when playing with others. And because of this, it is always advisable to assign such a child a caregiver who should be trained in a particular set of skills and develop a positive attitude to take of such children.
These caregivers of children with special needs may face a number of challenges while performing their duties. Some of the challenges may include the following:
Moving around with children with specific disabilities may sometimes be difficult because the facilities they need to visit might not be adapted to their needs.
In a case where the child has a physical impairment and therefore uses a wheelchair to ease his or her movements, their parents may want to go with them for example to worship places like the mosques, but maybe such places may have no ramps that such a child can use. Thankfully, many of such places have erected ramps where those in a wheelchair may use.
Another case is the toilets. Some facilities do not set up toilets suitable for children living with disabilities. Most toilets are always raised thus hindering children who are physically handicapped from using them.
Narrow or uneven paths that the wheelchair cannot use also makes it difficult for caregivers to move around with children who are physically handicapped.
In regard to what has been discussed above, most caregivers of children living with disabilities prefer isolating them or leaving them because their accessibility sometimes prove to be difficult.
Children living with disabilities might have selective mutism, completely non-verbal, behavioural or sensory issues that might affect their communication.
In a case where the child has a hearing impairment and the caregiver is not well conversant with Kenyan Sign Language KSL) communication becomes difficult because both cannot understand each other since the only language the child knows and understands is KSL. The other alternative the caregiver may use is writing down on paper whatever information he or she wants to pass to the child, and the child writes back. This, as it seems, is also tiring.
The caregivers may also find it difficult to guess what their child wants. For example the type of clothes they want for Christmas or what they want to have for dinner. It is also difficult to know how their day at school was because of the barrier to communication.
Not knowing what is wrong when they are unwell because they cannot pass information correctly.
Empathy and understanding from others
Most people who do not have people living with disabilities around them find it difficult to understand the needs of children living with disabilities.
For example, the caregiver together with his or her child may be invited to a party but the venue is too structured making it not suitable for a child living with a disability most specifically one who is physically handicapped because his or her movements will be limited or affected.
In a case where the child is autistic, loud music may not be suitable for him or her because some of the children who are autistic fear noise. Therefore, the child will not be able to attend the party with the rest.
Adapted clothing and other disability aids
Most adapted clothing for example linen socks are very rare and cannot be found from our local markets. Most are bought online and are very expensive which most caregivers cannot afford.
Hearing aids used by children with hearing impairment are also expensive to purchase and maintain and many caregivers cannot afford that.
These are some of the possible challenges, and there is a cognizant of the fact that these challenges may be many. In the preceding articles, I shall discuss ways of overcoming some of these challenges.