OPINION: Kenya’s forgotten children; gov’t must be held accountable

OPINION: Kenya’s forgotten children; gov’t must be held accountable

When we are expectant with our young ones, no one ever talks to you about the possibility of having a special needs child.

You are hoping and praying everything is ok. So please the narrative that special needs children are ‘a curse from God or a punishment” needs to die.

Special needs is quite a BROAD term. More often than not most people view disability as physical, rarely do we as a society in Kenya, want to tackle the mental and intellectual side of it.

So in addition to physical disabilities, we have kids with Cerebral Palsy, ranging from stage 1-5; Autism; Aspergers Syndrome; Downs Syndrome; Sensory and perception disorders; Rare genetic and chromosomal disorders; Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)and many others.

Now, in Kenya, finding proper, affordable medical and education for these kids is an astronomical challenge.

Because our sweet little ones are usually sidelined and forgotten. This is mostly due to cultural and societal issues as I earlier explained.

The thing is, it is rare for the special needs kids to have just one disorder. Most will have 1 or 2.

So let’s say your child has Autism, it’s possible the might also be suffering from seizures, and/or have Global Developmental Delay (GDD) and herein lies the costs.

In addition (but not limited) to doctors appointments and consultation fees, there’ll be Physiotherapy; Occupational therapy; Speech therapy; MRIs, EEGs; Anti-convulsants; Supplements; Special items such a wheelchairs, KAFOs and AFOs ( Google them) 🙂

Now to the educational side. We really struggle to find proper education for these children.

The ones that do exist have such exorbitant fee structures that you wonder how one can possibly be able to educate their child: if you’re lucky you’ll get an ‘integrated school’.

Which will tell you they have a special needs program but after a month or so will tell you, your child needs a shadow teacher at the school to attend to them.

AT THE PARENT’S EXPENSE. So some parents opt to home schooling. So as we are dealing with all this, we also deal with the social attitude towards special children.

Let me tell you, nothing will break your heart more than seeing the discrimination these kids face in society; especially from adults.

Maybe one day I’ll write on this. As parents, all we want is our government to provide avenues for these kids.

They are members of society and we cannot sit back and ignore them anymore. We must hold our government and society accountable. I know there’s a Bill currently in the Senate and I hope it’s passed.

Personally, I think ALL schools should have a special needs program alongside the usual one.

This is because if we continue to segregate special needs in one school how will they adjust to normal society? Also this gives normal kids a chance to see this is ok. We are all one.

Parents and guardians of special needs kids need tax rebates. If the PAYE was to be reduced to 10% or even zero this would greatly help in increasing their care.

Also medical care needs to be affordable in all counties. Not just the major towns.

We speak of devolution daily, but you’ll hear parents from Wajir struggling to bring their kids to Nairobi to get assessments and therapy. Imagine that cost.

So governors, please I’m waiting to see you attend to the special needs in your counties.

Finally, let’s learn to be a bit more loving and accepting. Like all other children all they need is real love and care. So next time you encounter a parent with a special needs child please don’t say ‘sorry’

What exactly are you sorry about? Instead see how you can help. It’s the little things that go a long way.

Help a mother carry her groceries as she struggles to calm her child in a public place. Encourage your kids to befriend them.

Keep a look out in the neighborhood incase they might be in danger.

Involve them in all activities, birthday parties, picnics, Sunday school etc. Try and not ask the parent ‘what’s wrong with your child ” (Tabia mbaya hiyo)

Also let the parents have some time to themselves to recharge. Offer to babysit.

Imagine all it takes is genuine kindness. That’s all.

This article is a compilation of a Twitter thread originally published by Micere Nyaga, a special needs activist

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