Catholic sisters from St. Antony primary school sponsored by the Franciscan Missionary parish in Awasi, Kisumu County are appealing to society to embrace, love and support children living with cerebral palsy and autism.
The call comes as the learning institution joined the world to mark this year’s Cerebral Palsy Day celebrated on the 6 October.
The special needs school which is serving as both a day and boarding institution is home to 37 children living with different kinds of disabilities ranging from autism, deaf, and dumb with the majority being cerebral palsy cases.
Cerebral palsy is a developmental disability that causes brain damage during, before or after birth according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
It remains one of the most misunderstood and neglected forms of disability not only in Kenya but the world.
The nuns who are caring for the children at the facility have heightened awareness campaigns on the condition to dispel this notion.
Sister Marcella Auma, a nun at the institution, explained that many children living with disabilities were often isolated from society and this inhibits them from getting the regular education set aside for special needs children, which may come in handy in helping them depend on themselves.
Juddy Momanyi, a single mother of three children, two of them living with cerebral palsy and pupils at the same institution said that taking care of children with this form of disability is a tall order as it drains socially and financially.
“I gave birth to my first son when I was 15 years old,” said Momanyi, “I didn’t realize that my baby had cerebral palsy and when I came to find out three years later, I was heartbroken and I didn’t know what to do.”
She adds, “People called me names citing that it was a curse to have a cerebral palsy baby. I went through depression but after months of therapy I learnt to accept him the way he was,” stated Momanyi.
“When I gave birth to my second born, I learnt about her condition earlier and at that time, I had more knowledge on how to handle a baby with such a condition but despite all that, it still wasn’t easy since taking care of them is very expensive. Apart from that, it limits one from engaging in other activities since the children need constant care,” noted Momanyi.
She confirms that she has learnt to embrace her children despite facing stigmatization every single day.
Due to her experience with the way society treats these children, she rallied mothers with children living with disabilities to teach them about how to provide love, care and hope for their children and debunk stigmatization.
“The children need daily therapy from an occupational therapist to help them with exercises which aid in small movements of their limbs. Without this, their limbs tend to go stiff hence making it difficult for them to sit, dress and even feed,” added Momanyi.
She further highlighted that cerebral palsy has not been given the much attention it deserves. It is expensive to maintain and children coming from humble backgrounds tend to go without medication thus making them in a vegetative state throughout their life.
“I urge society to learn to embrace and offer support to parents who have children with different kinds of disabilities. It may not be much but it will surely ease the life of the young child one way or another,” explained Momanyi.
Robert Kipkorir, an occupational therapist from the same institution explained the big role the caregivers and doctors played in nurturing children into independent people within society.
“We usually work hand in hand with the caregivers to facilitate development and train the children on being independent by helping them to position themselves properly in order to prevent deformities on joints, upper and lower limbs,” said Kipkorir.
He explained that a child might acquire cerebral palsy in different ways such as the mother undergoing prolonged labour, injury during pregnancy, exposure to chemicals and genetic factors among others which may lead to damage to the developing brain of the child.
By Becky Galyns