By: Natasha Archary
World Cerebral Palsy Day is observed on 6 October. Launched in 2012 by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance in Australia and United Cerebral Palsy, the day is an opportunity for people to celebrate, recognise and raise awareness of the people living with CP.
While there is no accurate prevalence indicator currently in South Africa, the estimated number of people with the disability is over two million. CP is one of the most common and widely misunderstood physical disabilities.
Understanding cerebral palsy
Having to do with the brain and problems or weaknesses in muscles, CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain. Although CP does not progress, the condition does impair mobility, balance and posture.
It can cause the lives of those affected to deteriorate, especially in children as it hampers growth and development. Impairing normal brain function, CP is also related to conditions such as intellectual disability, seizures, problems with vision, speech as well as joint and spinal complications.
Cerebral palsy is the largest cause of childhood disability globally.
The disability in South Africa
For a few years now, Skhumba Hlophe has vowed to deliver wheelchairs to impoverished areas throughout Johannesburg. His initiative, Walk This Way With Skhumba, is a welcome relief to those families who were on waiting lists for a wheelchair for years.
During one of his August wheelchair deliveries,, hundreds of emotional parents were present to receive new wheelchairs in Tembisa for their children with the disability. It was brought to light that despite receiving a disability grant from government, the needs of those affected by disbilities like CP cannot be met with the assistance as this is often the family’s only source of income.
Studies show that less than 30% of children who require rehabilitation for CP in South Africa, actually receive it. With no means of transport to the public hospitals and because of the distances involved, many do not get the care they need. If they do manage to get to the hospitals, it’s only to find there are not enough experienced therapists who work with children who have CP.
A recent video emerging on social media of a caregiver at a daycare for children with special needs abusing a child in her care sparked a warcry around the issue. These children should not be seen as a burden, no life is and if you are caring for children with special needs be the change and spread hope.
Celebrate and affirm your child
Of course you don’t need an article to tell you that your child is one in a million. But being absorbed in the care of a child with the lifelong disability can be overwhelming and you should celebrate your child’s extraordinary spirit, strength and endurance.
Make their lives meaningful. Raise them don’t break them, they’re dealing with obstacles normal children don’t have to.