Looking after a child with disability sure is challenging both physically, mentally and socially. Because of the extra care required, extra expenses and extra medical and educational attention required by the differently abled child, they face discrimination by the society. Just because of the little ‘extra’ needs of theirs, they are abandoned and left on streets. They are robbed of all their human rights and treated as some infectious disease.
We are the Homo sapiens. We are human and are considered dominant over among all other species on our planet Earth. The word humanity itself is a synonym of goodness, brotherly love, tolerance, understanding, care, charity, gentleness, generosity, benevolence and many other emotions that make a Human remain humane.
But all of us are different, with having more or less good qualities inside us, we tend to differentiate each other on the basis of our skin, body type, religion, caste, native places, smartness, responses, abilities, etc. The children are considered equal to God according to some mythologies. Then why is that some are not getting the love they deserve and require the most?
A habit of normalizing and not accepting the ‘different’ ones
Normally we humans compete to dominate in the society. It is a natural behavior to have the desire to do well in specifically selected fields. Those who do well by exercising their abilities are rewarded, but those who could not are belittled, and are punished with criticism. Our society knows but tends to forget that NO TWO CHILD IS SAME just like none of the fingers of your hand is of the same length. This topic talks about the levels of social acceptance of those specially-abled children who find it difficult to fit in the society because of the disabilities they have. We are mainly going to talk about our own country India.
Our country, India is a land of customs and valued religions, but at the same time is also the mainland of superstitious beliefs. The children who are differently abled or one can say are special, are more too often discriminated against by our society. The reason for this discrimination various among the people from having a superstitious belief that those differently abled children are somewhat cursed, to equating mental disorders with insanity.
Understanding differently abled children
A specially abled child requires extra care and love, they don’t need our sympathy but empathy from us. It is not their fault that they are different. They are discriminated mostly and often get abandoned by their own family and are left onto the streets with no other option being left apart from begging. Our society expects as well as demands a little too much from the children. They expect good results academically, medals in sports, smartness, and fluency with words. But not every child is able to do som some find it hard to even get a grasp of what alphabet ‘A’ looks like, some find it difficult to distinguish between a pen and a pencil, some with hearing impairments, and some with even walking properly due to medical conditions like cerebral palsy.
You can now guess what is the status of society accepting these specially-abled children already. Our Indian society finds it hard to accept anything other than normal, and so they criticize the ones who are different just because of a pre-existing nature of normalizing everything and everyone. They force the specially-abled children into adjusting to the norms, and if the child fails to do so, the society abandons them.
Understanding the words Impairment and Deprivation
This discrimination and non-acceptance of the special child lead them to deprivation which causes more harm to their body and mental health. Deprivation is the state where the differently abled children face hardships due to the non-availability of materials, goods, food and proper environment for a healthy growth. Deprivation state leads to diseases and more abnormalities in the child.
Impairments and deprivation are different from each other, impairment is the state of the specific body part not coordinating properly and leading to disabilities. Whereas deprivation is caused by social discrimination and depriving the child of its rights.
Challenges faced by families having specially-abled children
Specially-abled children are considered as burdens by many families because their needs are different from normal children. These special children may need extra attention and care, and support both morally and financially. Families in India tend to preplan the expenses beforehand. A family with a differently abled child finds it hard to run a smooth life because of many reasons. Some of the reasons are money, social status, relatives. More money is required for the equipment to reduce the impairments of the special child. Society does not accept the non-normalized behavior of the special child. Many Schools do not accept differently abled children because they consider it as a burden to be taking care of a child with disabilities and so they do not allow those special children to enroll into their prestigious schools. Family and relatives do not cooperate and thus this leads the child to face discrimination within the family.
Not every parent has the heart of abandoning their child, those who still have their sanity, try to cope up with the situation that is brought by the differently abled child. It is observed that a child with a disability not only affects their parents, but siblings and relationship among family members as well, and this causes a stressful situation within the family. To cope up with these kinds of stressful situations parents of specially-abled children develop coping strategies to reduce the stress and anxiety and help them adapt to the new situation. Coping refers to a person’s cognitive or behavioral efforts to manage the demands of a stressful situation. Many research has also shown that many families of disabled children succeed in adapting and functioning well and among various factors studied, the type of disability, parental personality, the age of the child when diagnosed, demographic variables such as parental educational level, gender, and socioeconomic status have been found to be associated with parental coping and adjustment.
The 45-item CHIP is used to assess parents’ coping patterns they were using to manage family life when they had a disabled child.
Parents were asked to record how helpful each coping strategy was in their family situation on a Likert scale of 0–3, with 0 indicating ‘not helpful’ and 3 indicating ‘extremely helpful.’ As stated earlier, the instrument measures three coping patterns via three subscales. The first subscale consists of 19 items and measures “maintaining family integration, co-operation, and an optimistic definition of the situation” that focuses on strengthening family life and relationships and the parents’ outlook on life with a chronically ill child (e.g. ‘trusting my spouse to help support me and my child’). The second subscale consists of 18 items and measures “maintaining social support, self-esteem, and psychological stability” that focuses on parents’ efforts to develop relationships with others, engage in activities that enhance feelings of individual identity and self-worth plus strategies to manage psychological tensions and pressures (e.g. ‘engaging in relationships and friendships which help me feel important and appreciated’). The third subscale consists of eight items that measure “understanding the healthcare situation through communication with other parents and consultation with the healthcare team” and are directed at the parents’ relationships with healthcare professionals and other parents of chronically ill children (e.g. ‘talking with the medical staff when we visit the medical clinic’). Instruments require adaptation and translation for use in another country that has both a different culture and language. Consequently, we used standard guidelines for translation of instruments and performed a forward-backward translation, including a cognitive de-briefing in a representative sample, using a multistage iterative process, prior to adapting it for our local use. Higher subscale scores imply greater help of that particular coping pattern.
Many families are reluctant to accept that their child is differently abled. They refer to it as a treatable condition and try many medical facilities. And when they understand that it’s not treatable, they tend to hide this fact that their child is with disabilities and thus force them to fit into the norms. And this makes it stressful for the special child. Parents who try to cope up with the new situation when they have a special child in their family, suggests that the community of specially or differently abled children requires little extra effort and care. And some of those supportive human and parents understand the needs of altering the environment according to the special child’s requirements.
Requirements to help children with disabilities
Assessing the needs of a child with a disability is very important so as to help him/her with reducing or coming up with the impairments.
Schools for specially-abled children with teachers specially trained for coming up with that student. Providing specially designed syllabus that provides education and helps with the improvement in physical and mental abilities of the special child.
Medical support should be provided through equipment and facilities like hearing aids, wheel trolleys, posters regarding awareness to reduce the disabilities of the children.
Ensure extra protection and care to female children with disabilities as they may get subjected to harassment.
Families, relatives, and the whole society need to work together. Give and take help from health personals, community workers, disabled person’s organizations. There is a need for collaboration between government and NGO’s so as to bring down the discrimination against our specially-abled children.
Lastly, considering the fact that every human being on this planet has the right to participate, education, and equality, and there is no theory to prove that a child with disabilities is not human. So, our world’s differently abled children must not be deprived of their human rights and should be provided with education and social equality.
All they need is that little extra love, care, understanding and support from us. So let us work together to give them that ‘extra’ of everything that they deserve.
Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine by Wolters Kluwer-Medknow Publications