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Love without Boundaries with Bukola Ayinde: Learn About Disability & Help Reduce the Ignorance

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A few weeks ago, a school proprietress called me to speak with a parent. The woman had withdrawn her son from school because someone had insulted her by referring to her son who had cerebral palsy in a cruel and demeaning manner. Last month, I met a proprietress who lost eighty percent of her students because she admitted a child with special needs. A parent who has a child living with cerebral palsy said the parents of the other children in his son’s class were grumbling about their children staying in the same class with his son.

One of my daughter’s therapists told me about one of her clients who locked herself at home and didn’t go out any more because she was being referred to as a mother of an imbecile. This woman went into depression and started gaining weight. Another friend told me about her experience with a boy who was attending school for the first time at the age of eight. He stood right there on the school field and stared at the blue sky. He was fascinated with the sky because that was the first time he was seeing it. His parents had kept him at home, away from questioning eyes.

I can go on and on….people living with disabilities suffer unduly because of the prevalence of ignorance in my society.

Some parents due to fear of rejection by their friends and the society, hide their children who have special needs. The children may not get access to medical care on time and therefore lose the opportunity for early intervention. When there is early intervention in any medical condition, it gives children a greater chance to correct their disabilities.

On the other hand, our society has a major role to play in disability management. Like I love to say, neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome are medical conditions and they are not contagious in any way.

People are usually afraid of what they don’t understand. To make our world a better place, some people dedicated their lives to studying the earth, the galaxies and they made some discoveries which served as a basis for numerous inventions that benefitted mankind. For a long time, people thought the earth was flat until it was disputed by early Greek Philosophers who asserted that the earth was round. Some people studied medicine and provided a cure for deadly diseases that could have wiped out mankind. If these people had allowed fear and superstitions to hold them back, mankind would still be in the Stone Age.

Until we begin to look at neuro developmental disorders as medical conditions which need to be treated or managed, we may not see much advancement in disability management in Nigeria.

According to Professor Afolabi Lesi, a neurologist with the University of Lagos, based on a research conducted by the university, out of ninety babies born in Nigeria, at least one is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. This does not take into cognizance children whose delivery was done by traditional birth attendants (TBAs), or mothers who gave birth in the church or those done at home. He also said that there are currently six hundred million persons with disabilities throughout the world, out of whom four hundred million live in developing countries and eighty million in Africa.
According to the world report on disability published in 2011, about twenty-five million Nigerians had at least one disability or the other. It is also estimated that over a million children living in Nigeria have autism. I visited a public primary school in Lagos State that admits children with disabilities. There were over seventy students with disabilities there.

It is also a fact that a good number of these children live to adulthood. This means that we have a society that has a large number of children with disabilities yet we are still denying or ignoring their existence.

The one thing we are yet to understand is that every living human being is a potential disabled person. Loss of limbs (caused by accident or diseases such diabetes), mental illness which includes loss of memory (common to old people) or damaged organs (resulting in kidney or heart disease) can make a person fall into that category. Not everyone was born with a disability. When people grow old, they begin to depend on others. They are not as strong as they used to be and cannot meet most of their needs. Sadly, there is little or no plan for these old people, usually called senior citizens, in Nigeria. No wonder we have very few old people’s homes in my country. No wonder the pensioners are not treated fairly by the government.

If we do not intentionally ensure that we teach people, especially children about disability, if we do not ensure that we promote laws that will benefit people living with disabilities; if we do not provide facilities or infrastructures to make life easier for people with disabilities, then we must pray fervently that we or our families do not eventually require these services.

Those who want to make life easy for people living with disabilities can take the following steps:

As an individual, what can you do differently today? Check Google and learn about different disabilities, (Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Learning Disability, Physical Disability etc.) how they can be prevented and how to get help (in case you see a helpless first-time mum).
Teach your children about disability; teach them to show empathy to people who have disabilities.
If you run a school, have a disability awareness day. Let the children understand that there are people with different medical conditions and appearances that may be different from theirs. Teach them to show empathy to others and stand against bullying.
If you own a company, reserve some positions for people living with disabilities.
If you are a teacher, learn about the best ways to teach children with disabilities.
Family members and family friends who relate with such children should be kind and show support.
Remember, evil prevails when good people keep quiet and do nothing.

Make a change in your world today.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Bukola Ayinde is the Founder of Diary of a Special Needs Mum Initiative; www.diaryofaspecialneedsmum.orgShe holds a bachelor's degree in Law. Based on her experience as a mother of a special needs child, Bukola has become an advocate for families who have children living with special needs in Nigeria. Bukola is the author of the following books: My Name is Nimi My Name is Nimi- Colouring Book My Sister is Special Peter is Different The books are available in bookshops in Lagos: Glendora Bookshop, City Mall Ikeja, Bookworm Bookshop at Illupeju, by Oshodi Apapa Expway, Ebano supermarket, chevon road. For home and office delivery kindly contact 08035754038; [email protected]. The books will be available on Amazon in August, 2018.

20 Comments

  1. SoniaPaloma

    March 5, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    Africa has a long way to go when it comes to providing for disabled. After leaving Nigeria, was when i realised how respected the disabled are in developed countries. The government sees it as a priority that the disabled are taken care of and provision are made to assist their needs. I pray God gives me the strength to build a facility specifically for the disabled in Nigeria to learn some form of skills. I have a sibling who is deaf and seeing how she is practically independent and does everything herself and also in school learning about child health, Seeing her grow in so many aspects and seeing some of her friends back home in Nigeria, most who resort to begging on the streets breaks my heart. I know being deaf is no way in comparison to cerebral palsy, i do believe it is high time the government starts including the disabled as humans and making sure adequate need is in place to cater for them because sincerely, in most cases they are overlooked by the African society.

  2. Lateefah

    March 5, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    This post reminds of the day my Eight year old son saw a baby with cleft palette at the Health center. He couldn’t stop staring, his stare attracted a ‘face front yell’ from the baby’s mum, I was infuriated with her but kept my calm, I had to explain my son, to the hearing of the mum, that the baby was special. I agree that most parents of special needs kids needs counselling.

    • memebaby

      March 5, 2018 at 4:11 pm

      not really.. your child should not have stared that long..making her child uncomfortable..so its up to you to educate your child about gazing (too long) at people who look….different

    • Bukola Ayinde

      March 10, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      Most mums of children with special needs children are often self conscious because of stares in the public so may be that mum felt really uncomfortable and reacted out of frustration.

      At the same time, children will be children. Your son had probably not seen anyone like that before. Let me give you an instance, when i started taking Nimmy to Sunday school at our local church, the children in her class will gather and stare at her. When the teacher sees them she would shoo them away. The right approach is to tell the children what exactly is different about Nimmy. The moment the children understand, the easier it is for them to relate with the child with disability and stop staring.

      Even adults stare, it’s just that they are more diplomatic.

  3. Juwon

    March 5, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    My younger brother has autism, I can remember my reluctance and sadness before accepting him, but I grew to love him so much, bobo is a fighter, he walked and talked after several therapies, I put down the money to start a special needs school when there was no school for him as he grew older. I intend to support him as long as I’m alive to make sure he lives an independent life like everybody else.

    • Bukola Ayinde

      March 10, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      Love to you and your brother Juwon.

  4. Chima

    March 5, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Nigeria has a long way to go but I really don’t understand the mind set of adults who take their children out of a school because of disabled classmates. What is that about? I am sure these adults read their bibles daily and think they are Christians.

    • molarah

      March 10, 2018 at 7:49 pm

      I’m guessing its from that mindset that lumps
      physical disabilities with mental illness (which certain traditions believe are contagious). That doesn’t mean it’s not ridiculous though. Like the author has said, awareness will go a long way in correcting these odd reactions to disability.

  5. Chioma

    March 5, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    Great piece. Everyone should strive to make life easy for people living mental and physical disabilities.

    • Chioma

      March 5, 2018 at 7:40 pm

      “living with”…i mean

  6. Temi

    March 11, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    Fantastic article Bukky. But why should parents take their kids out of school because a child with a disability is in the same school. Quite pathetic. If parents act like this, what do you expect from the kids??

  7. Daisy Jonathan

    March 11, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    My eldest son once asked me why everyone in church kept staring at his younger brother who has an autism diagnosis . “Don’t they know it’s rude to stare, can’t they see it’s not his fault?”. I was pained deeply in my heart that day and sick to my stomach . “They don’t know”, I responded. “ that’s why we have to keep teaching them”.
    Awareness must spread and only then can we get acceptance. I keep wondering why educated people will treat a child with special needs like it’s contagious.
    We have to keep saying it. We have to keep preaching it and we have to teach it! Our children can’t help looking or acting the way they do but the public can help their own attitudes towards them.
    Bukky, you are one strong warrior Mum and this article, well written , sums it up for me.
    Well done !

  8. Dotun

    March 12, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    Well said Buki. We salute you and your quest to support families with CP.

  9. Blessing Akpan

    March 12, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Thank you Ms. Bukky for your write ups, Your strength waxes stronger everyday, I know if more educated people start doing the right thing, it will create a ripple effect that will change our country for the better, I remember one hot afternoon at ojota, Lagos I noticed a blind man trying to find his way, I walked up to him and asked him, sir where are you going to? How may I help you, the man smiled with so much joy like one who just had a breath of fresh air, he said please I am going to ogba , I can hear the bus conductor calling my destination but I can’t find my way there, so immediately I held his hand and walked with him to where the bus was, which was on the other side of the road, people were staring at us as If I did something bad, but knowing I did the right thing, I slayed away in style hosting with my new found friend till he sat in the bus. I told the bus conductor totaled very good care of him, this man couldn’t stop praying for me.

    Let’s all try and make the world a better place, I thought my niece the act of kindness. When she got admitted into a boarding school, few years after she was asked to pick a school daughter , she picked a girl who is autistic, I asked her why, her response was because no one wanted to be known as the school mother of an autistic child, but she knew it was not good to treat other people the way they treated this girl, today she and her school daughter have inspired other children.

    Let’s start teaching our children how to love everyone. Charity begins from home.

    • Bukola Ayinde

      March 13, 2018 at 7:16 am

      Wow! Beautiful write up @ Blessing Akpan. God bless you always. Truly, a little kindness makes the world a better place.

  10. Blessing Akpan

    March 12, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Told the conductor to take very good care……

  11. Adeola Olanrewaju

    March 13, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    This is a very beautiful, inspiring, educative and uplifting write up.
    Please, keep the flag flying.
    God will continue to back you up and crown your efforts with outstanding success and breakthrough.

  12. Arinola Sururah Bello

    March 14, 2018 at 7:30 am

    It’s interesting we live in a society where people still view disabilities as a taboo. I resonate with what you are saying because I was the only one in a family of several children; some adopted who lived with mild epilepsy. Had several episodes way back in the boarding house in secondary school. Some students fled during such episodes,while I still got help from the few brave ones. Somehow, by the grace of God and supportive family, I survived. Still alive, married and with kids. It’s scary sometimes even stepping out of my house to function daily, but I try to live one day at a time. A lot needs to be done to continually create awareness in our society starting from our homes, schools, places of worship, office, etc. Those parents who keep their children at bay need more education because they are ignorant. Well done Bukky and stay strong.

  13. Abimbola Ayodele

    June 9, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    I really want to commend what you are doing.Thank you for bringing to the consciousness of people that people living with disabilities are still “people” only with a lil bit of set backs which can be overcome with the right dose of love from people.
    As a mother of one myself,my case is a bit different because my daughter has a contagious burst of energy and it’s difficult for you not to laugh or just like her because of the things she does that is not to say she doesn’t have her days but all in all, it’s been great mothering this child.
    When I see special needs children, I don’t pass the opportunity to tell the mother what a terrific job she’s doing.
    I especially loved the part where you talked about ways to incorporate them in the society so they can have their own normal lives.
    Well done to you once again.

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