I ABIMPISYEHO SULAITI am the E.D of UMRC (Uganda Mobile Rehabilitation Centre) and above all, I am a trained and experienced specialist in the field of rehabilitation for people with disabilities and chronic diseases. I have experience nationally and internationally in various areas in the field of disability and chronic disease management. I like children and they like me too! They call me uncle and smile when they see me.
I take this opportunity to thank the Almighty God for His provisions and endless blessings to all His creations and me inclusive. I thank all the board members for their efforts and contributions towards the organization and thank all the staff for their wonderful work with interest, love and care for children with special needs/disabilities. I also extend my gratitude to all the parents, guardians and caregivers of children with special needs/disabilities for accepting these children, looking after them and supporting us in various ways and thank friends and well-wishers for their advice and forms of support. It is the efforts of such a team of people that have made UMRC a success.
Though the house may have a strong main pillar, it’s the presence of other pillars, bricks and other materials all joined together that makes a house complete. It’s for this reason that without you, we would not have brightened the lives of children with disabilities to this far.
May the Almighty God to reward everybody among us accordingly and bless all those with a heart of being with us, interest in supporting us and in enabling children with special needs to live a life with a productive smile on their faces. May God make our services blessed, everlasting and of greatest benefit to mankind and bless those who will inherit us and enable them offer continuous service delivery to this group of people/children.
While we have struggled to this far as an organization, we are still facing a number of challenges that are both organizational and parent / patient related in nature. We have a lot to do for our citizens to brighten their future and enable them to live a happy and productive life. We call upon for joined hands of support to reach our destiny. I believe we are at the beginning of the struggle to bring light to this nation in support for children with special needs/disability and the youth of today who are facing overwhelming challenges in a modernized world. Together we can!
Message to all people
Majority of our communities refer disability as a curse, a disease that might be contagious, a condition due to witchcraft, a punishment for a parent or the person from deeds in this or a former life, among others. As a result, some parents with children with disability decide to hide them in their homes and not to be known about for fear of loss of friends, relatives, business partners and a like. This has made most parents and families having children with special needs not to come out for assistance, others are still in states of denial and total rejection.
The public needs to understand that a disability can happen to anyone at any point in his or her life. Disability is a fact of life, a naturally occurring event; it can be temporary or permanent; a person with a disability can participate and/or contribute to an activity when barriers to the individual’s participation in the environment are removed; people with disabilities have special abilities and many talents which when empowered can be productive individuals.
With my knowledge and experience in this sector, I have not found any group of children that are joyful, friendly, loving, cooperative, honest and positive like children with special needs. Unlike people without special needs who may be stressed by a number of issues in their lives, with jealousy and enemity, selective, un cooperative at times and un sincere to themselves, it’s totally the opposite for children with special needs. They like smiling and being happy most of the times, they show love to each other and their caregivers or teachers, are very friendly and social, are open and honest, positive to most instructions and above all, welcoming and entertaining in a special way.
I think it’s not by mistake or accidental that God created them in their own special way for God does what He wills. They add value to nature and creation and this triggers us to study and understand the way they do their own things and calls upon us to be with them in enabling them to live a better life. They need love, care, protection, shelter, sense of belonging and self-worth.
Unlike adults who are selective, children without special needs love interacting with children with disabilities and to help them in different ways. From the psychology of learning, they see them as a different form of creation to be pleased with in sharing opinions, staying with, playing together and providing necessary support. It’s us the adults without special needs who start being selective, don’t want our children without special needs to study in the same schools of those with special needs, eat on the same plates, play together, Come close to them for fear of their conditions being contagious which ideally is not true, want to cage or hide them in non to reach rooms/houses or in chicken and piggery houses leaving them crying, unhygienic, in isolation and in pain. Whoever does this form of discrimination will never escape God’s punishments for mistreating His creations and should seek God’s forgiveness and plan total change of conduct immediately.
It’s for that reason that many parents having children with special needs find difficulties in where to take them for schooling. While there is a great increase in number of schools especially kindergarten, primary and technical schools for students and youth, there are completely very few schools and sometimes none in this country for children with special needs. The majority of the parents I interact with tell me that their children with special needs have been chased or rejected by private schools in this country. While the government advocates for inclusive education, most private schools refuse to take in children with special needs and there are no public special needs schools in very many regions.
I receive many parents from different parts of this country who are very miserable looking for schools of our kind and others asking me to refer them to other schools within their locality. They narrate to me not knowing of any centre or school in their region that can be of help to their children. Majority find difficulties to bring their children to our centre, take them back and may not afford getting for them accommodation facilities.
Having introduced a day care and learning Centre for children without special needs, I have received very many parents from nearby communities interested in bringing in children for day care, baby, middle and top classes then after looking at and moving around our excellent, hygienic and well organized environment only to be surprised by their response. Upon moving in the environment and seeing children with special needs, their facial outlook changes with comments like “ “aaaah you even have these ones, ooooh-haaaa these ones also stay here?, our children learn with these ones also?, wont these ones who are drooling saliva(children with special needs) infect our children?, any way the environment is very ok but now these ones…..?, lets discuss we shall be getting to you!” and other statements of the like. They have failed to turn for such services. This implies that there is still stigma in our societies and discrimination which when not worked upon would affect the future of these children with special needs and the new generations. I believe this must be the same challenge by other centres whom I have not visited that try to integrate children with special needs. We realize other overwhelming challenges when we take our children with special needs for outing and in recreational places in this country. You can see details of this in our events.
It’s our responsibility to come up and save these lovely children of God. There is need to come up together and brighten their lives, offer incentives, give out bursaries, advocate for inclusive education programs in various private and public schools, technical institutions, and integration in recreational and other public places to enable these children grow in a welcoming society.
Message to parents
Our dear parents, children are first and foremost children whether they have special needs or not. Therefore, they should be given equal love, care, protection and a sense of belonging. They should be understood in their special way of creation and assisted accordingly instead of criticizing them in their performances.
There is no need for you to lose hope for there isn’t any condition in life which is permanent and with God everything is possible. Am very optimistic that God who created them in that way has the same ability to change them in another way we think is comfortable for us. Therefore it’s very important to first and foremost thank God who gave these children to us and thereafter ask Him to change their behavior or ways of conduct or forms of creation in other siblings to come we think is comfortable for us. As parents, we should however not forget that with God, everything happens for a reason. If it’s God’s wish am very sure you will tell me of the miracles you have seen God make for you in this life while raising a child or children with special needs. It’s very vital to understand that while prayers are a key to our children’s recovery, seeking medical and rehabilitation services or advice is very paramount. At times God answers our prayers through other people. So don’t keep this child with special needs in a prayer room or church or mosque and you forget to seek medical and rehabilitation support or taking medication. You may kill your child unknowingly so you need to do both accordingly.
Some parents are very impatient with their schools, rehabilitation centers or therapists and end up “shopping for rehabilitation services” here and there which in most cases hinders their children’s level of progress. I advise parents to give their contact therapists or teachers ample time to study and work with their children in understanding the best treatment and training approaches that would work for them. This is because children with special needs are not a homogeneous group where by one solution works for all. Even if children have the same diagnosis and age, you will find out that they are unique in their own way, have different abilities, interests, talents, or challenges. Therefore the treatment approach or technique that worked for this child may not work for the other child with the same condition.
While this is true, it should however not be an over prolonged time of training or rehabilitating the child without a child showing any progress/improvement, claiming that children with special needs learn too slowly. This may also indicate lack of creativity and innovation, inexperience or incompetence or poor diagnosis by the therapist or teacher. If this happens, you may need to try somewhere else for better results.
I have personally worked on very many children with varying conditions but I have watched them surprise me with their miraculous progress and complete change/recovery in many areas. There is no doubt that children with special needs/disability can improve even within a period of two or three months of intensive training. Others can improve within six months, others within one year depending on the nature and severity of their condition.
The truth remains that as long as a right diagnosis is made, underlying child’s abilities identified and built on and then challenges or performance deficits identified and strategies to overcome them put in action and a rehabilitation program made that is client-centered, intensive with a team of other professionals, chances are very high to guarantee the child’s progress or recovery. I stand to defend this!
Message to the professionals
Dear professionals, loving what you do and showing interest when doing it with creativity and innovation is very vital to children’s progress. While you are the technical people with many treatment and training approaches, knowledge, skills and experience, with commitment in what you are doing, it’s God that heals. Begin your services to your clients or these children in the name of almighty God, seek for His guidance and to bless your work for your client’s or child’ recovery.
Continuous learning and professional development is very important within your sector or field of practice. Most professionals think that learning and reading of books stopped while at school or training institution when in actual sense it’s the field of practice that requires more reading to keep you updated and learn more about challenging cases or conditions that were not properly taught at school.
With this in mind and practice you will be regarded as “miracle maker”, a title that I (Abimpisyeho Sulaiti) have been given by most of my clients/children and parents that I treated, trained or worked on.
Thank you for showing interest in this field of special needs/disability, for the care, support and training as a parent or professional for children with disabilities. Together we can make their life better. Let’s join hands aimed at better results than we are able to see now in our societies/communities. Good luck and May God bless us!