It is often said that ignorance is bliss. Perhaps the maxim is a typical truism with the perception many of us have about the unheralded world of people living with disabilities and the untold stories of their caring families. We will seldom realise the value what we have and its worth until the time it is lost. In a sort of systemic ignorance, life is being taken for granted daily.
A lot of us have our classical biological senses (sight and hearing especially) working optimally. We are also ambulatory enough to move about freely and function independently. Since we do not have issues of learning disorders or autism, we acquire education in mainstream schools without much hassle. We hold lucrative and cushiony jobs. Those of us who have ‘normal’ children free of developmental disability issues also begin to take the relative independence of such children for granted. We nurse lofty hopes for them with abandon, secured in our assurance of their almost certain great futures. These are all good but we will do well to never take these ‘gifts’ for granted and erroneously perceive them to be as a result of us being better, smarter or more special than the rest of humanity whose stories might not be that straightforward.
There are other sides of life and many a sobering facet is not being acknowledged. There are other kinds of heroes but the silent symphony of people in these genres is lost daily in the cacophony of ‘normal existence’. In finding needed perspective, the existence of children and young adults living with disabilities should be rightfully appreciated as being part of humanity, first and foremost, like the rest of us. A human life with developmental disability is more than just a compromised physical body or impaired mental health as the case might be. Beyond the transience of that fragile human body lays an eternal and wonderfully made spirit within, albeit trapped away within a facade of developmental disability. We will need a bigger picture perspective to appreciate this truism.
I have nothing but great admiration for wonderful parents of our special-needs kids and young adults at CDC, who come in daily to access services for their children. Caring for a child, any child at all, is work. Caring devotedly on long term basis for a child with special support requirements can be really tasking emotionally, physically and financially especially in a disability-unfriendly society like Nigeria. When I subconsciously try to estimate the ages of some of the older students I see at our centre and the obviously unwavering commitment of their parents who come in with them daily, I imagine the long and arduous journey they must have walked over the years, their untold stories of courage and unheard voices for a more supportive societal apparatus. Who holds their hands and help them to psychologically process their questions, anxieties and even emotional traumas in those occasional periods when things get overwhelming as they are likely to do? Who re-assures them and help them keep hope alive for their children or wards? What tangible corporate shoulder is government providing by way of constitutionally appropriate support platforms to help these parents access needed developmental services of their children? These are their silent questions. These are their stories not told.
They have come a long way; we must appreciate their resilience and courage. Indeed, we must extol their fortitude, character and uncommon genre of hope in these deep circumstances. The least that government and society can do is to create a more inclusive atmosphere and supportive social platforms that will enhance the cause of people in this demography. Empathy is not the same as sympathy and the former is what is direly needed in this scenario. Genuine understanding. A supportive social shoulder. Solid intervention efforts by government, corporate organisations and even big-hearted individuals towards making positive differences on these matters are the ways forward.
This change we seek for a more inclusive society begins with each of us and our dispositions on issues of disabilities. What if it was you? The Children’s Developmental Centre is a Not-for-Profit organisation committed to driving positive social change in this area especially via its passionate advocacy and awareness programmes (such as the yearly ‘Finding normal’, Ride for Life and Dance-A-Thon events among other road-show programmes) on matters of disabilities. More hands need to be on deck for sustainability and success of the initiative. Support the vision. Let the change be effected. From this page, let the word go forth.