Harbouring Children With Disabilities : Families Going Through An Unplanned Journey

Despite baffling views from society, families are doing their best to make these children comfortable.

Situated at the Biyem-Assi neighbourhood in Yaounde is the home of Mama Rosa, mother of many children. Amongst them is a little girl living with special needs. From a distance, a stranger cannot notice the difference. She freely interacts with everybody at home and goes about her daily chores at her pace. With devotedness and training, Mama Rosa has gotten her daughter to adapt freely in the family and be loved by all. Because of the challenges faced by the child, Mama Rosa did not focus on her weaknesses but on her strength. She developed a special love for her daughter and treated her like any other member of the family. She never forced her to do what she could not do. Mama Rosa is not alone in this situation. In effect, many families are going through various challenges and commitments to succeed in an unplanned journey with similar children living with disabilities. 


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The birth of a child with a disability, or the discovery that a child has a disability, can have profound effects on the family. “Growth is endless and our lives changed and change us beyond anticipation,” says the mother of an autistic six-year-old boy with difficulties in walking. “I cannot forget the pain; it aches when I look at my son’s friends, and allows myself for a moment to think of all he cannot be. But we cannot sift experience and take only the part that hurts us”, she underscores. Adding that, she had to learn about her son’s disability in a bid to know how to manage him at home. Another mother of a son with special needs says no parent wants his or her child disabled, for it is not an experience anyone expects to have, rather, it is a journey that is unplanned. 


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The terrain is indeed rough. But majority of families are able to find the strength within themselves and among their circles of support to adapt to and handle the stress and challenges that may accompany their child’s illness or disability. One of such mothers is Sandy N. When it was diagnosed her son was a child with special needs, she began follow up with a speech therapist. Besides attending a normal school, Sandy has to create time thrice a week to take her son for his speech therapy sessions. Sandy’s son is on a special diet, something which is costly to the family. Sandy says it is not easy dealing with his son, but believe every parent will do everything they can to help their child in a difficult situation.


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Just as Mama Rosa said, Sandy also reiterates that patience is needed when managing children with disabilities. “They need help with things which can be very obvious for 'normal' children. I assist my son to eat, use the restroom or even sleep”, Sandy explains. She underlined that to care for children with disabilities, one needs energy to carry them at times, and someone has to be alert so that they do not harm themselves. Most of these children have gained social skills and can interact with others in the society. However, not without the help of a family member who is always near to inform strangers of their disabilities when the public seem not to understand their actions. 


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