My name is Margaret, I am Yewande’s mum. My daughter was born 27 weeks old. Eleven weeks premature. The hospital did not discover immediately that there was anything wrong with her. The first thing that I noticed was that her legs were stiff after six weeks when we left the hospital.
The Neonatal consultant called me and asked me to come over to the hospital. When I got there, he told me that my daughter had a brain hemorrhage and she might not be able to see or walk. I was distraught; I was completely devastated. She was my first and only child.
The Neonatal doctor asked me to take my daughter to my community service provider where a physiotherapist would be appointed to conduct therapy sessions with her.
I was in shock; I kept crying for days. Then the numerous hospital appointments began, from one medical office to the other. It was tiring and emotional draining.
I was broken and I wanted to know why this could happen to my baby. I cried a lot; I stopped going to church, I stopped believing.
At a point I tried so many things; different therapies. We went from England to The United States to Poland and Hungary looking for solution to my daughter’s medical condition.
Then after a while I realized I had to go back to God. I learnt to trust him again, I learnt to submit to his will. Through the years, my hope in Christ gave me the courage to go on. Yes, it was not easy. I learnt to take it one day at a time. My daughter is a college graduate today and I am proud of what she has achieved. I often encourage her to have hope for a great life in spite of her disability. I tell her stories of people with challenges who lived their dreams.
My admonition to other mothers:
It is not an easy journey but don’t give up. I realized that no matter the kind of therapy we did, there was no magic cure, everything we achieved came through consistency. You must be ready to stick to therapy consistently to see any form of improvement.
My name is Yewande Omoniyi, I am 26 years old. I am a graduate who is currently volunteering with a Disabled people’s organisation in the UK. I was born prematurely, 11 weeks early. I experienced lack of oxygen to my brain during birth. This caused my Cerebral Palsy. (CP)
CP is a condition that affects muscle control and movement that is caused by a brain injury. The injury occurs before birth, during birth, or after birth. There are 3 types of CP, and even if two people have the same type of CP it will affect them in different ways. Some people have more than one type of CP. CP can also affect speech, motor skills, sight, and hearing. People with CP can also have conditions like epilepsy, and experience behavioural problems or learning difficulties.
I first realised I was a Disabled person at the age of around 3 or 4. Children would come up to me and ask if I had a broken leg, and why I couldn’t walk. They also always used to ask why I used a buggy and a walker, and if they could push it. I started school at age 5. This is the age that we start school in the UK.
Growing up as a Disabled person definitely had its challenges. I would say that I missed out being able to build genuine friendships with non-disabled children and young people. In my opinion, this was due to non-disabled people perceiving me and disabled people in general as “different” in a negative way and not like them.
Throughout my life my mum ensured that she did everything in her power to help me “overcome” my Cerebral Palsy. Making sure I had access to different therapies to aid my development, fighting for me all the time so I had access to the right education, health, and care. However, one of the biggest things she did was ensuring that I accepted myself and my identity as a disabled person. That was the biggest hurdle I had to overcome, being comfortable and happy within myself. She made me see I could still reach my achievements and goals, and I can live life and be happy within myself. I had to learn that being different from others is not a bad thing, it is the ignorance of other people towards me that make things more difficult.
I faced a lot of ignorance during my school days, even at university level. However, it took me a long time to realise that it was nothing to do with what I had done, it was to do with their lack of knowledge and understanding about Disabled people. However, it is still very hurtful. I also experienced bullying in my first year of secondary school.
I believe that education should be fully inclusive, no matter a child’s ability or how severe their condition is. For me all Disabled children should be educated alongside non-disabled children. Even though I attended a mainstream school it was challenging. Especially when it came to forming friendships and not receiving certain academic support. However, I believe that is due to schools not working on things like having an inclusive attitude and non- disabled children not being taught about disability, equality and the Social Model of Disability from an early age.
Also, education needs to look at the strengths of the disabled person, instead of what they cannot do. I believe that if these things were embedded into the codes or philosophy of schools, mainstream schooling would be much more a positive experience for disabled children and young people.
Even though there were challenges in mainstream, I believe that it helped me with future life chances. For example, in mainstream school I was able to gain qualifications that I can use to apply for work. It also prepared me for how the “real world” works. I believe it is also a foundation for a disabled person to be able experience independent living.
In my view, special schools segregate disabled children and young disabled people from their non-disabled peers and makes Disabled people seem like “the other” and as a result it increases inequality. However, I do completely understand that parents can feel their child or young person has been let down by mainstream schooling and feel that they have no choice but to put their child in a special school. Also, in many countries I understand that mainstream schools refuse to educate disabled children, and the only choice is a special school or special unit, or in many cases no school at all.
My advice for parents of children and young people who are disabled and have special needs, is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Medical professionals, experts, and even family and friend may paint a bleak picture, and you might feel like all hope is lost. You will most likely find that the biggest barriers that your child faces will come from society itself and not from their condition. You will face a lot of ignorance from non-disabled people. The fight against this is exhausting and there will be so many times you want to give up but you must persevere. Don’t hide your child away. Your child can live a full life, you just have to try and adapt to the challenges that are coming your way. You and your child are going to have to approach things in a different way, but this is not a bad thing. Focus on their strengths and their gifts, not always about the things that they cannot do. Your child is unique in their own way and a blessing from God. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different, they can still achieve their goals and dreams.