Founder of Diary of A Special Needs Mum Initiative, Bukola Ayinde launches Four Books

Bukola Ayinde, Founder, Diary of a special Needs Mum Initiative had the launch of her four books last Sunday, 8th of July, which was also her birthday.

Her friends and family turned out in large numbers to celebrate this great feat with her.

Opening prayer was said by AVM Femi Gbadebo, Founder, Benola Organisation, Opening address by Dotun Akande of Patrick Speech and Languages. The first review was done by a six year old girl, Uyi Uwumarogie, a pupil of New Hall Nursery and Primary School. While the second was done by Dr. Ogechi Adeola,a member of the faculty at Lagos Business School. The third book review was done by Ifeanyi Omeni, an author and editor. While the last book review was done by  Feyi Olubodun, MD, Insight Communication.

There was also a five-man panel who spoke about ‘Disability and Inclusion’ in Nigeria. The panel consisted of: The author, Bukola Ayinde, Tobiloba Ajayi,Founder, Let Cp Kids Learn; Folusho Liasu, Founder, Super Parents (of children with disabilities), Bisola Babatude-Idowu, owner, Great Expectation Inclusive School and Korede Oladejo, Kabworld Physiotherapy.

The books were unveiled by Rufai Yusuf Ahmad, National President, Nigeria Society of Physiotherapists.

According to the author one of the major problems that people with disability face in Nigeria is stigmatization. This is mainly due to the wrong information that has been passed from one generation to another that children with disabilities are from strange worlds and therefore evil. Bukola hopes with these books, the younger generation will read them and understand that disabilities are medical conditions. She also hopes that children that read the book would grow up to become law makers, ministers in different sectors of the country, president, teachers, disability advocate who will fight for the rights of people living with disabilities.

My Name is Nimi – Is a story about the author’s five years old daughter, Oluwalonimi, who has cerebral palsy. It is a story told in her voice. She tells her friends why she is sitting on a wheelchair and why she cannot do things like them. She also tells her friends the things that she can do just like them. It ends with Nimi asking the reader the question, ‘will you be my friend?’

My Name is Nimi (colouring book)- The story of Nimi has a colouring book for younger children. With short sentences telling the story about Nimi with simple words.

My Sister is Special– The story was inspired by the author’s second daughter, who couldn’t understand the reason Nimi was getting most of the attention at home. The story helps children to appreciate their lives and to know that the grass is not always greener on the other side. It also tells parents to give attention to other children while caring for a special needs child.

Peter is different-Ten year old Jude has a new classmate, Peter who looks different from everyone else. This story was inspired by the persistent discrimination faced by children with disabilities in mainstream schools in Nigeria. The author showed how giving students the right information about disabilities could foster love and acceptance. The book also answered the question, who are the true bullies in a mainstream school? Is it the pupils, teachers, school owners or parents of pupils in the school? Find out the answers to these questions and more.

The books are available in bookshops in Lagos: Glendora Bookshop, City Mall Ikeja, Bookworm Bookshop at Illupeju, by Oshodi Apapa Expway, Ebano supermarket, chevon road.

For home and office delivery kindly contact 08035754038; booksbybukola@gmail.com.

The books will be available on Amazon in August, 2018.

Love without Boundaries with Bukola Ayinde: Bullying & the Role of Parents

Bullying can be described as the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate or aggressively dominate others.

Bullying takes place in all works of life. It may occur at home, in school, in church, at work, on the internet, anywhere. I have a five year old daughter living with cerebral palsy (cerebral palsy is the damage to the part of the brain that controls the muscles) so I live with the consciousness that she may be bullied. I am also an advocate for children living with disabilities so this is a topic that is dear to my heart.
Taking a look at the school setting, there are usually different parties to bullying.

1. The bully (The ring leader) The one who initiates the action.
2. The co-conspirator
a. The one who supports the bully or laughs at the person being bullied.
3. The enabler
a. The one who sees the wrong actions and looks away because he is afraid that he may also be bullied.
4. The person that is being bullied

It is pertinent to state that a child doesn’t need to have a disability before he or she is bullied. A child can be bullied for being tall or short; for being too slim or fat; for being very fair in complexion or being very dark. A child can be bullied for simply being the newest kid on the block.

Where do bullies come from?

1. Parents who are also bullies
Some parents are consciously or unconsciously grooming bullies from the home front. Children of warriors; parents who do not take kindly to their children showing any form of weakness. They encourage their children to put fear into others because they think it is synonymous with gaining respect. Children also watch and learn from their parents. They see the way their parents embarrass their domestic staff and the look of fear on the faces of the staff. They also watch and learn when their parents shout at each other and the way they handle conflicts.

2. Overindulgent parents
There are some parents that over indulge their children. They give in to all their request even when the request is ridiculous and unnecessary. I was told of the story of a little girl in primary 1 who had her birthday party in school and brought 15 party packs instead of 16. She told her parents that she did not want to give the 16th person any gift because the girl looks and behaves differently from the rest of the class. She made it clear to her parents that she didn’t like the girl. The parents obeyed and provided only 15 party packs. That kind of parent is an enabler.

When a child exhibits such hurtful and unkind behavior and it is not nipped in the bud, the child may develop a mean personality and a monster is created.

A word of advice: Not for one second should a parent think that it is only the society that will feel the brunt of the child that was not properly trained. Pressed down, shaken together and running over will this child give back to the parents – either when he becomes a teenager, a young adult or when the parents are senior citizens and he starts to make decisions about their lives.

There is a proverb that says that it is the child that we did not train or build up that will sell the house that we built.

3. Dysfunctional families
A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse on the part of individual parents occur continuously and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. In simple terms, hurting people hurt others. They want to be loved but the only way they know how to behave is by hurting people.

4. The strong-willed child
There are some children that are naturally stubborn. In most cases they have choleric temperaments. Sometimes, such children have very strong wills and do not take lightly to being told what to do. Some parents may not understand how to handle such children and some parents may resolve to beating and name calling. This may only make the child hardened. Some other parents may get tired of the child’s pranks and completely ignore the child.

5. Children without guardians
Children with absentee parents may also fall into this category. When there is no adult figure that corrects the child in love, the child is left on his own to form his own rules about life based on what he perceives to be right or what he has learnt from his friends. This is also true about children on the streets, touts and misfits.

6. Children who have been bullied
In some cases, children who have been bullied also become bullies. Some parents are bullies. They bully their spouses; they bully their children and anyone around them who is of lower strength. This may affect children living in that kind of toxic environment to either become a bully or develop very low self esteem.
Another example of this is in boarding schools. JS 2 students will bully JS 1 students. When JS 1 students become JS 2 students they will also bully the new JS 1 students – unless someone breaks the cycle.

What is the solution?
1. We have to be deliberate with our parenting skills. When last did you take your child with you when you went out to do a good deed? May be for the less privileged.

2. What values are you showing (not by talking alone) but showing your child?

3. Are you an enabler? When your child makes derogatory comments about others do you take out time to explain that that is not acceptable.

4. If you have a strong-willed child, I am a person of faith, so I will ask you to pray for your child then seek professional help if you don’t know how to help your child. Please don’t label him a bully, it will only make him or her harden. There are counsellors in schools, there are also child psychologist that can guide a parent towards helping a child that is strong willed.

5. A child may not be a bully but he may be one who looks away when someone is being bullied. I wrote a book called Peter is Different. Peter had cerebral palsy and one of Peter’s classmates, Jude, got home and told his father that he didn’t like the way some of his classmates treated Peter. The way they spoke badly about him and laughed at him. Jude’s father asked Jude what Jude had done about it. Jude said he had done nothing because if he did, the boys may just bully him instead. Then his father told him, if you turn and face the other way when someone is being bullied, then you are also a bully. Strong people stand up for themselves but stronger people stand up for others.

Let’s encourage our children to build the right values and stand for what is right.

Source: https://www.bellanaija.com/author/bukola/

Love without Boundaries Bukola Ayinde: Beyond Twisted Bodies – My Visit to Modupe Cole Memorial Childcare Home

I’d heard so much about the occupants of Modupe Cole Memorial – a  care and treatment home for children living with disabilities. With those stories, I felt like I had been there a thousand times. I was told I couldn’t go into a particular dormitory there without being overwhelmed by the sight. There were children living in conditions not fit for human habitation, they said.

I’d heard that some of the children were chained to their beds like animals, that their caregivers were immune to their sufferings. I had the opportunity to visit on the 15th of September, 2018, courtesy of a friend of mine who donated some CP wheelchairs (wheelchairs suitable for children who have cerebral palsy) to the children at Modupe Cole.

Modupe Cole is a popular orphanage that has a special needs school and a physiotherapy clinic located in Yaba, Lagos. At Modupe Cole, there are children living with different types of disabilities, ranging from cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome, hydrocephalus, polio, and many others. From my research, I discovered that the centre was founded by late Modupe Cole in 1961 under Child Care Social Services-Women Voluntary Organisation (CCSS-WVO). The home-school was established in recognition of the desperate need for the physically handicapped and mentally challenged children to have an environment where they can be taught, loved and helped to live a full and normal life as much as possible. Children cared for in the home-school were brought in by their parents, schools, hospitals and missionaries. When the school started in 1961, late Mrs Modupe Cole was the principal, with other professionals and volunteers.

Unfortunately, in 1979, Modupe Cole (home and school) was taken over by the government (along with other special, private and missionary schools). It has been managed by the government till date but the physiotherapy clinic remains under the management of CCSS-WVO.

Coincidentally, on that day, I met Adebayo Adeyemi-Cole, the son of late Modupe Cole. Adebayo Cole is a soft-spoken gentleman who is probably in his 70s and currently the secretary of CCSS-WVO. One of the officials at Modupe Cole Memorial told all the people who came to witness the donation that we will be taken on a tour around the dormitory I had heard so much about. The people included the person making the donation, her husband and children, and her friends. Some of her friends also came along with their children.

I was invited to witness the donation and also to speak about cerebral palsy and how it can be managed. We were a group of about twelve people which included some children. As we walked into the dormitory, I could barely control my curiosity. I couldn’t wait to see the place for myself.  At least when others talked about the children of Modupe Cole, I would also say I have been there.

We all moved towards the dormitory and a lady introduced herself to us as our guide. When we got to the entrance of the dormitory, some of children that followed us turned back. I guess they had heard some scary things about the children they were going to see and did not want to see them. I encouraged them to go back to where the wheelchairs to be donated were kept and wait for us. We had been told that this dormitory was for children who were fully dependent on their caregivers to do everything for them. I assumed they would all be in diapers and would need someone to feed them, clean them up and dress them up too. They definitely would require a lot of care and attention.

Right by the door of dormitory, we met a very slim girl who was about 5 feet tall. She stood looking at us as we walked in. She wore a gown that looked like a nightie, which was knotted at the back of her neck. I guess so that it wouldn’t fall off her shoulders. She seemed to be inspecting each person that entered. As I moved closer to her, I realized she was not a young girl. She was a woman with numerous grey strands on her short, bushy hair. One of her hands was bent at the elbow and she could only extend her palm slowly. Even though her face looked peaceful, she could still have scared a child. It was hard to tell if she was mentally stable but I decided to be friendly. I gave her a very warm smile and said, ‘Hello, I am here to see your home. How are you doing?’ She gave me a shy smile and extended her free hand to me so I gave her a high five.

I followed the others as we went through the door that led inside the dormitory where the children were. The room reminded me of a general hospital. It was crowded with children lying down on the beds, on the floor, or simply sitting down in different positions. The room was divided into two, with several beds lined up on each side of the room. At a glance, there were about fifteen or more children in that room. The smell of urine mixed with disinfectant attacked my nostrils, but guess what? It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was more concerned about the plight of the children that occupied the room and the smell faded away. I could have stayed in that room for hours, not concerned about the smell, and believe me when I say I have a heightened sense of smell.

The first bed was occupied by two young children around the ages of nine or ten. I couldn’t tell if they were boys or girls. It was obvious that they had mobility problems which is associated with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a disorder that causes damage to the part of the brain that controls the muscles which controls movement. They were lying on their backs on the bed and they looked like they couldn’t talk but I moved close to them and reached for their minds. I have learnt to look beyond a twisted body and to talk to the mind buried within what can be seen.

‘Hello, my darlings. My name is Bukola Ayinde,’ I said with a smile. I encouraged them to say hello to me and they did. I moved to the next bed. I decided to spend a little more time with each child as our tour guide was giving a little history of a few of the occupants of the room.

I met two little boys about the age of six who were lying on a small wooden bed. The boys were smiling at me and I couldn’t resist their smiles, so I made a detour to their bed and told them I loved their smiles. They actually looked like twins. I asked them if they were twins but they only smiled at me. The women who took care of them told me they weren’t twins. I walked away from there and saw a little girl eating her breakfast. She was lying down flat on her back. When it was time to eat, she opened her mouth in that position. I told the caregiver feeding her that the child’s position was unsafe as the child could easily choke. She told me confidently that that was how God created all the children living in the dormitory and feeding them that way would not affect them in any way. In fact, she told me boldly that that was how the other caregivers fed most of the children. I smiled at her ignorance. It was pointless telling her that her feeding method was wrong. Even if it didn’t choke the child, it could cause respiratory infection if the food went the wrong way. I smiled at the woman and kept moving. I made a mental note of the feeding habit so I could later discuss with Rev Cole.

I saw a little boy lying on the floor in front of a bed, tied to the bed with what looked like a cloth, but I did not bother to ask any question because I already knew the answer. A friend of mine who had visited the place earlier had asked the caregivers why he was tied in that manner. They told her that the child often fell from the bed and moved around the room on the floor and therefore caused injury to himself and others.

I saw another little boy who was seated on the floor close to the corner of the room. It seemed he was sleeping in that position so I moved closer to inspect him, but his eyes were closed, though I was sure he was awake. I left him and walked around the room. At this point, I didn’t bother to catch up with the tour guide and the other people I came with. I could hear some of the things the tour guide was saying but I decided to spend a little more time with the children.

Most of the children were lying down on their beds in awkward positions. Their bodies were twisted in angles better seen than imagined but like I said earlier, I have learnt to look beyond twisted bodies and reach for the beautiful minds within. No matter how twisted the body may seem, there may still be a mind not touched by the imperfections of the body. It only needs a little patience, a warm smile and a charitable soul to reach out to the beautiful mind lying beneath a twisted body. How do I know?

My daughter, Nimi, taught me that. She is five years old and she is living with cerebral palsy. Some of the children said hello to me and most of them smiled happily. I shook their hands and gave some a high five. The caregivers told me that the children were always excited to see visitors. I imagined they would. Who wouldn’t? Some of them were always on their beds, all day, all week, all month, all year. In fact, probably all their lives. In that dormitory, there were more children than beds. Two or three children shared a bed, depending on their sizes. The beds were quite small, by the way. They were best suited for one child at a time.

Looking at it from a different angle, it may have been better for these children to share their beds, at least during the day. It was like having friends come over to your place to visit. It may be comforting to know that another human body like theirs was lying right beside them. Just my thoughts. I heard the tour guide telling everyone about a boy who was fully dependent. He was lying down on his chest on his bed yet he could draw with his toes. I moved close to him and told him, ‘I heard you are an artist.’ The boy looked like he was in his teens. He smiled and I smiled back at him.

I was the last person to leave the dormitory. I wanted to put a smile on each child’s face. I wanted the children to feel special, even if it was for the moment. I didn’t want them to feel like some ornament in a museum that some tourist came to see. They are children. No matter how twisted their bodies may be, they are human beings.

After everyone I came with had left the dormitory, I stayed back to speak with the caregivers. They were elderly women who seemed nice and loved taking care of the children. I strongly believed that they couldn’t perform beyond their capacity. I think they were doing their best when one compared their level of education and training to the kind of children with complex medical disorders they were to care for.

As I got to the door of the dormitory and was about to leave, I met a very little boy of about seven years old lying on a bed next to the door. His left leg was twisted in an awkward angle. One of the caregivers told me that he asked if he could get one of the wheelchairs that we came to donate. I didn’t know if he would get one and I didn’t want to give him false hope, so I smiled at him.

Though I had left the place, my mind kept wandering back to the children who had been abandoned in that place. It was apparent their parents were never going back for them. Many of them would have thrived if they lived in a society that believed that they just had a medical disorder and not strange children from the devil. They would have thrived if they had the backing of a government that could build functional rehabilitation centers. They would have thrived if their parents had damned the societal or religious beliefs and refused to give up on them. If only they had families who cared for them, loved them in spite of their disabilities, they certainly would have thrived.

You know, even the boy who had the most twisted body in that dormitory had a very genuine smile. I didn’t leave the dormitory sad or heartbroken like I thought I would. Rather, I left there hopeful. Though their bodies were twisted in awkward positions, for most of them, their minds were still alive. As I left with my companions, I knew that wasn’t going to be my last visit to Modupe Cole.

Not to forget, the little boy at the door of the dormitory was the first to get a CP wheelchair.

Love without Boundaries with Bukola Ayinde: Homeschooling Your Special Needs Child

Homeschooling or home education can be defined as the education of children outside a school setting. This simply means that a child does not attend a regular school, but a parent or teacher teaches the child at home. In the case of a family with a special needs child, this means that the child is not attending a special school or a mainstream school. Rather, the child is being taught either by a teacher or the parent.
In my opinion, which is in line with Alliance for Inclusive Education UK, the best schooling environment for a special needs child is in the mainstream setting. However, there are instances where this may not be possible or where the child’s potentials are not fully harnessed in the mainstream school that is available.

Reasons for homeschooling a child may include:
Funding: If parents are unable to pay the fees of a private mainstream school or a special school, then they may decide to homeschool the special needs child. Funding may also include the cost of transportation. If a child has a movement disorder and a big stature, or the child is approaching the preteen or teenage years, then it may be difficult for that child to take public transportation to school. Public transportation in Nigeria is not disability-friendly and it is quite expensive to use taxis on a daily basis, even for average income earners.

Another reason for homeschooling a special needs child is if it becomes obvious that the child is not benefiting from the school he or she is attending. It may be that the school the child attends pays lip service to inclusive education. This means that though children with special needs are admitted, the school has no constructive plan to include them in regular school activities or the teachers are not adequately trained to facilitate learning for the children.

Another reason for homeschooling a special needs child could be that the parents cannot find a school in the neighbourhood that is willing to admit the child.

If a special needs child has other complicated medical conditions that affect him or her, then the parents may consider homeschooling. An example is a child who suffers from seizures, a child who is constantly on oxygen machine or a child who feeds through a tube attached to the stomach region. In developed countries, children in this category still go to school; in fact, some go to mainstream schools. However, in Nigeria, these types of medical conditions might hinder a special needs child from getting admission into a good school of his or her choice so homeschooling the child may be the only option.

These are not the only reasons why special needs children are homeschooled.

Early this year, I met a woman whose son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at about two years old, but when I met the boy at the age of eight, he had serious behavioural disorder. When I spoke with the mother about the boy, she said he had been attending an inclusive primary school. However, he was kept in a separate class with two other boys who had autism and that was where he received most of his tuition.  This is a boy who cannot take instructions and makes a lot of noise that can distract other kids. How can such a boy be placed in a class with other children? That will certainly be unfair to the children. It was obvious that the parents and the school did not get things right from the beginning.

I advised the mother to withdraw the boy from the mainstream school and not seek to put him in another mainstream school for a while. I was certain that no mainstream school will allow the boy to stay in the same class with other regular students.

Inclusive education happens when children with disabilities and others without disabilities participate and learn together in the same classes. However, the truth about inclusive education is that the child needs to be given an appropriate diagnosis at an early age, as well as an effective rehabilitation plan. This will also work hand in hand with the appropriate support in school to make inclusive education effective.

Inclusive education is not magic. It is the combination of hard work, patience, consistency by the parents of the child, the school and its teachers as well as the child’s therapy team.

I told the mother of the boy to enroll him in a private special needs school for children with autism but the woman complained about the exorbitant fees of the school. The other alternative is to employ a behavioural therapist to work with the child at home. The child needed to calm down and learn how to take instructions. A one-on-one approach was the best option for him.

In my own case, I withdrew my daughter who was about three years old and living with cerebral palsy, from the mainstream school she was attending. She had been assaulted by her physiotherapist and I was scared of letting her out of my sight. I did not have any problem with her school, but I wanted to keep a closer watch on her. At that time, she was completely non-verbal and that meant she was unable to tell me if someone tried to hurt her.

In handling her homeschooling, the first thing I did was to ask my friends who had children her age, what their children were learning in school. As at then, my daughter was supposed to be in toddlers class, going to nursery one. I drew up a timetable which consisted of her physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy as well as a time to learn phonics, alphabets, numbers, shapes and colours. She also used flashcards, pop-up storybooks, musical instruments and toys to enhance her hand functions. My husband and I employed a school teacher who came to teach her three times a week. We also employed an assistant teacher who stayed with her from morning until evening during the week. Her therapies which included physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy were also conducted at home.

My daughter had a daily routine then. I woke her up at 6a.m as if she was going to a regular school. Then she would be given a bath and breakfast. Thereafter, she would be assisted to walk around the compound of the house. I allocated a small portion of the flowerbed in the compound to her so she could grow a plant. Her nanny assisted her and they grew corn. The whole idea was for her to carry a small plastic watering can so that she could water the plant and also remove the weeds. She could not do these things by herself but with the appropriate assistance, it was achievable.

Exposing a child to early morning sun which is rich in Vitamin D is one of the benefits of walking outside the house. The child will also breathe in fresh air. Walking also helps the blood in the body to circulate better and it is very beneficial to the joints and muscles. It is important to reiterate that my daughter is unable to walk by herself, so her caregiver supports her with a walker.

After that morning ritual, other activities such as learning her phonetics or numbers as well as her therapies, will kick off.

In order to balance the lack of social interaction with her peers, I ensured that from Monday to Friday, when her sister got back from school, they would visit our neighbours who had children in their age group. My neighbour had a big trampoline and swings for children to play with. They were often joined by children from other homes and all of them would play in my neighbour’s compound for an hour.

One of the benefits of homeschooling for my daughter was that I was also able to monitor her feeding. Previously, I had taken her to a nutritionist because she was underweight. However, after she spent two months at home with proper care, she began to add weight. She was also allowed to take a nap after therapy.
The school teacher working with her gave me a list of age appropriate books to buy. They included books about colours, shapes, birds, animals, fruits, cars and trucks. All these books required her to colour. My husband made photocopies of each page so she could do the same classwork as often as possible. She was colouring and she was learning. Colouring meant she would exercise her arms and fingers.

The assistant teacher that we employed did most of the work. She continued the teaching every day except Sundays. Gradually, everyone realised that Oluwalonimi was trying to talk. All our efforts were yielding fruits.

One of the reasons homeschooling worked for my daughter was because I was staying at home with her. I had made up my mind that it was going to work. I did a lot of research and asked people in the disability management profession a lot of questions. I organised my daughter’s programmes, monitored them and ensured they was working for her.

It is best for parents who want to homeschool their special needs children to carry along the children’s therapists. It is also very important for the parents to carry out their own private research on how best to homeschool their children. Parents, you must be willing to try new things. You may make some mistakes but eventually, you will find out what works best for your children.

Just as inclusive education requires hard work and commitment, homeschooling a special needs child also requires commitment, consistency and passion for it to be successful. It is not what you do when you have the time; it is what you must do to achieve a goal.

Homeschooling my daughter meant I had to suspend every other commitment that I had. A friend of mine who works with children who have disabilities suggested that I take my daughter to a mainstream school at least three times a week. I was very reluctant at first but when my daughter, Oluwalonimi began to cry in the morning whenever she saw her younger sister going to school, I knew it was time to reintroduce her to mainstream school.

I found a school with a small number of students that could cater to her needs and she adapted real quick. She started attending the school three times a week, now she goes there five times a week. My daughter has a caregiver who stays with her in school. She also has her therapies three times a week. I have continued to monitor her food intake and she has continued to gain weight that is appropriate for her age.

Homeschooling has its good points. However, when it is not well managed, it may take a toll on the mental and physical health of the caregivers, as it is quite tasking. Where necessary, it can be done for a certain period of time and the child should be re-introduced to mainstream school or a special school that is appropriate for the child’s needs.

Love Without Boundaries with Bukola Ayinde: Guidelines for Inclusive Education

What you need to know before admitting that special needs child into your school.
The aim of this article is not to make inclusive education complex but to equip you for an interesting journey into the world of special education. Once your heart is open to receive children with physical or learning disabilities into your school, you will always find a way to meet their needs. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot of funds or not.

Also remember that the other students in the school would benefit from having a classmate who has special needs. How? You may ask. It teaches them about differences. It helps them to be creativity in their thinking, communication and social interaction. It helps them to show empathy towards others who have challenges.

When we, as parents and teachers get old, we will become dependent on our children to make some decisions for us. At this stage, it is said that we have special needs due to old age or ill health. Would we want our children to neglect us or lock us away? Let’s sow good seeds.

1. Assessment of the special needs child
The school needs to request for the medical diagnosis for the special needs child who is seeking admission. Kindly ask for an assessment report from a pediatric neurologist. A pediatric neurologist is a doctor that manages disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve and muscle affecting infants, children and adolescents. In Nigeria you can find one in a teaching hospital, a general hospital or a private hospital.
Please note, the child’s parents or a special needs educator cannot, and should not give a medical diagnosis. This can only be conducted and a report issued by a pediatric neurologist.
Getting a diagnosis is not to label the child but it is to better understand the medical condition of the child and to meet his or her needs appropriately.

2. Different diagnosis, different needs
A child’s medical diagnosis will determine the approach the school will take in meeting his/ her needs. The common developmental disorders include: Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and Learning disability.

• For children with cerebral palsy, their needs are oftentimes physical. This may include the need to have a suitable chair and table in the classroom, a stroller to move around the school compound and a personal care giver to assist with movement and other needs. However, this still depends on the severity or otherwise of each case. It is not every child with cerebral palsy that requires assistance in the classroom.

• For children with autism and ADHD, it is more of emotional and behavioural needs.

A child with autism may not understand how to handle social interaction and communication. While a child diagnosed with ADHD may have above-normal levels of hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. Therefore, this child may have issues with handling self-control. This also depends on the severity of each case.

• Children with Down Syndrome usually learn and progress more slowly than most children. Likewise this depends on each case.

• Learning disability is a very broad term. It can manifest in different ways in children. It can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing and/or math. It can also interfere with higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short-term memory and attention. This child may need extra lessons. This child may need a one on one attention in class.

3. A meeting with the child’s parents, therapist and care giver
A meeting should be scheduled (after the IEP (Individualised Educational Plan) has been done) for all parties involved to understand the needs of the child. It would also give the parents the opportunity to state their expectations about their child and the school to understand how they can come in and what they can and cannot do for the child. This is very important so that everyone is on the same page. This should also be reviewed at least twice a term, it may be more.

4. Working with other professionals
If the school doesn’t have special needs educators, it may be wise to seek counsel from other professionals.

• The child with special learning needs would need an IEP (Individualised Educational plan). The child would be assessed by a special needs educator to find out learning capabilities and needs. This would guide the class teacher on what the child can do and also set goals that are achievable for the child.

• A child living with autism or ADHD may require the services of a behavioral therapist; depending on the severity of the needs. This may just require that a trained learning assistant sits with the child in class. This will be to guide the special needs child during classes and to also correct inappropriate behavior.

• A child with speech impairment may require the services of a speech therapist. This may be an after-school therapy. As much as possible, it is better to reduce pull out sessions for the child during regular classes.

5. Flexibility in your approach of teaching
No one method fits every special needs child. What worked for A may not work for B. Take for example, autism. There are no two cases of autism that are exactly the same. Even where there are more than one sibling in a family living with autism the condition may be very different in its appearance. Be patient enough to study each child and learn how best to reach the child’s mind.

6. Pull-out room
A child living with autism or ADHD may find the normal classroom setting a bit cagey from time to time. It is wise to set up a pull-out room where the child can be taken to for him/her to calm down.

A pull-out room can simply be a soothing calm area where a child can relax and even play. This could also double as a sensory room. Another child may simply calm down by taking a walk around the school compound.

7. A therapy room /sensory room
Where a school can afford to have a therapy room, this would be useful for a 30- 45 minutes exercise for a child with disabilities. A sensory room is a special room designed to develop a person’s senses, usually through special lighting, music, and objects. It can be used as a therapy for children with limited communication skills.

8. Trained care givers
Depending on the severity of each case, trained care givers or learning assistants would help the child to cope in school and the teacher will not become overburdened.

9. Educate the students, their parents and the school staff
This cannot be over emphasized. Parents of children without special needs need to be properly educated before a school embraces inclusive education.

Students in the school also need to be given the right information. They are not to show pity in a derogatory way but to show love and acceptance.

10. Start with the number of children you can handle per time. Don’t get overwhelmed.

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Dear Bukola,
I don’t have funds or space for some of the things you have mentioned above but I am open to try inclusive education in my school. What do I do?
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I would say you should start with what you have. My daughter’s school doesn’t have all these things but they are doing a fantastic job. The most important thing is a heart of love and acceptance and you would find a way around it. My daughter has a trained caregiver that stays with her in school. She assists her so the class teacher is not overburdened. She also has her physiotherapy three times a week at home. Twice a week in the morning before going to school and on Saturday mornings. When she has physiotherapy on school days, she gets to school late but her teacher ensures she catches up with other kids by giving her extra time for her class work.

If she gets overwhelmed with everything happening around her, her care giver takes her to another room where she engages in a calming activity before going back to class.

Also note that for children in toddler classes, their main learning needs are alphabet sounds, numbers and nursery rhymes. Some schools may go a little further by teaching them about their environment and personal health. In this case, the class teacher can assess and go at the child’s pace. There is really no need for a special needs teacher unless the school can afford one.

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Dear Bukola,
In line with all you have discussed, is there really a need for special schools?
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Yes, there is a role for special schools. This would be discussed in the next article.
Till then, let’s love without boundaries.