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;

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.


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: Are Special Schools the Best Option for Special Needs Kids?

A special school is a school for students who have special educational needs due to learning difficulties, physical disabilities or behavioural problems. In my quest to understand how our special schools work in Lagos, Nigeria, I visited both public and private special schools in Lagos State. I can boldly say that the public schools do not offer great services. This leaves us to depend on private special schools to meet the needs of children with special needs.

On the other hand, the school fees for private special needs schools are expensive especially those located on the Island in Lagos, Nigeria.

Pacelli school for the blind is run by Catholics (Congregation of the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus ) and they are doing a fantastic job, despite the little resources at their disposal. Wesley school for the deaf is also located at Surulere in Lagos State. However, majority of the other public schools that accept children with neurological disabilities such as cerebral palsy, down syndrome, autism and others, do not have the funding, facility or training to handle the children.

Most of the public special schools in Lagos State focus on therapy (sometimes this is also not provided adequately) and give little concern to educating the mind. I am of the opinion that education opens the mind of children (with or without disability). No one is asking that every child must study law or receive a university degree. The most important thing in any human life is to be able to express his or her needs in any form and also have some form of independence. This should be the goal of special schools.

My daughter attended a summer school at Peto Institute in Hungary, Europe. It is a school for children with cerebral palsy. This is a school with boarding facility completely funded by the government. It has a beautiful serene environment where all children are treated with dignity. Well trained facilitators and fully equipped therapy rooms and classrooms. A lot of their equipment are made of wood and the institute has in-house carpenters who make these equipment. I strongly believe this will reduce cost too.

The entire facility was adapted to meet the children’s needs. The chairs and tables were suited for them. There were long horizontal bars by the sides of the wall that the children could hold on to. This would enable the ones that could walk with support move along the corridor of the school on their own. There were also very wide elevators to move the children from one floor of the building to another.

The restrooms were also adapted for their use. Instead of a handle for flushing the toilet, there was a rope to pull which was hanging down from the top of the restroom wall. It was easily accessible to any child who had shaky movements or unstable grip which is common with people living with cerebral palsy.
When the institute is in session, the children partake in numeracy, literacy, art, music, sports and therapy. They are also taught how to live an independent life. If a special needs school in Nigeria can achieve this, then they have done well.
Now to the big question, if a special needs school can achieve this, then why do children living with disabilities need to attend mainstream schools?

The answer is very simple. It is because there is no special world. There is no special community. There is no special place of employment (if there are, they must be very few). There is no special university and very few special secondary (high) schools.

It has been proven over and over again that when children with neurological disorder are introduced into mainstream education at an early age, and they are also given appropriate educational tools and assistance as well as continue with their therapies, drugs and treatment where applicable, they are likely do much better in adapting to the society than children who have attended special schools most of their lives.

Secondly, non-disabled children will also benefit from schooling with children living with disabilities. They will understand diversity and differences early in life. They will know how to interact with people who are different from them. It may also challenge them to be creative in their communication and approach to life. They may also come up with inventions in science and technology that will help children living with disabilities. Not to forget that while the teacher is looking for creative ways to teach the special needs children they will also discover methods to teach children who are slow in learning. Definitely it is a win- win situation.

Do you know that even children who have schizophrenia can also go to school, get jobs and grow up to have families of their own? What is required is early intervention. Where the child is using the drugs as prescribed, having psychotherapy and as well as getting an education in a mainstream school (and a special needs school where necessary) which models the right attitude.

It has also been argued that when children who have cerebral palsy and autism learn together consistently, the children with cerebral palsy tend to acquire behavioral problems similar to autism. In my experience most of the kids with cerebral palsy that I have seen with behavioral problems have been schooling with children with autism. It has been said that children with cerebral palsy imitate behaviours of the kids constantly around them.
Secondly, when children with cerebral palsy learn in the same classroom with neurotypical children (children developing normally), they are more likely to imitate good behaviour. Will this alliance affect neurotypical kids? The answer is no.

Can children with autism study in the same classroom with neurotypical children?
Yes, they can. However, it is a whole lot easier if the child with autism started therapy and schooling early and the school the child attended have trained teachers that understand his needs or the child living with autism comes to school with his own therapist or study assistant. Depending on the severity of the child’s diagnosis, the child may also require therapy after school or he may start his schooling by attending a special school fully or partially (such as two or three times a week).
Should we then rule out special needs schools? Unfortunately for many years to come in Nigeria we will not be able to achieve this.

For a child living with disability to adjust into a mainstream school then the child must have benefited from early intervention (correct diagnosis at an early age, treatment, rehabilitation plan and early education). Early intervention in disability management is still a huge problem in Nigeria.

Secondly, most of our private schools are yet to embrace inclusive education. Therefore, parents with children with disabilities find it difficult to get schools that will accept and meet the needs of their children.
Many schools in Nigeria have not trained their teachers to work with children with disability. I believe special education should become a compulsory subject for all teachers and sign language a course that they should learn. I believe this will also enrich their course curriculum.

The basis of the problem in public schools in Nigeria is the decay in the educational sector. The mainstream schools are in dire need of a total overhaul and little attention is given to disabled students.

In the meantime, I will advise parents with children with disabilities to become their children’s first teachers and of course advocates. Search out the best educational needs for your child and locate where these needs can be met.

My next point of discussion is on how to homeschool your special needs child.


Love Without Boundaries with Bukola Ayinde: The Role of Special Schools in Disability Management

In the past few months, I have been talking about the need for inclusive education for children living with disability.Inclusive education simply means that all students attend, and are welcome by mainstream schools (schools that are not special needs schools) These schools are age appropriate, have regular classes and where children are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life.

I have discussed the benefits of inclusive education to the special needs child, mainstream school, teachers, students, parents, and the society at large. I dream of a day when a child with disability or special learning needs will not be discriminated against in a mainstream school in Nigeria. However, we are not there yet.

We still live in a society where many private schools prevent children with disabilities from attending their schools. For most low-income earners in Nigeria, their disabled children may only be able to attend public special schools for disabled children or public inclusive schools even though the disabled children are kept in separate classes from the regular classes.

To help a child with disability adjust into a mainstream school, the child’s parents must key into early intervention for that child. Early intervention for children with disabilities simply means doing things as early as possible to work on your child’s developmental health and support needs.

For example, Rufus was diagnosed of cerebral palsy some months after birth. At the age of three, he was unable to sit and stand unsupported. He could not use his hands properly. However, he started his physiotherapy and he attended a regular school where he mixed with other children. With support, love, therapy and an education, Rufus became a lawyer. Rufus can also get married and have children.

Another example is Beatrice. She was diagnosed of down syndrome at birth. She started her therapies while she was still a few months old. She started school at the age of two and it was soon discovered that she had a learning disability. She could not learn as fast as her classmates but her parents kept her in school. She did not walk until she was three. Beatrice was slow in attaining all her developmental milestones. However, she was very friendly with her classmates; she always knew when someone needed a hug and would give it generously. During the extracurricular classes, it was discovered that Beatrice loved to swim. Her parents encouraged her and today, a grownup Beatrice contest in Paralympic swimming.

Not every child had the opportunity to obtain an early diagnosis. Sometimes, after the parents have received the diagnosis, they refuse to seek the necessary therapy for their child rather they run from pillar to post looking for a miraculous cure.

Some other parents live in denial for many years and the child is not improving. In some cases when the parents get a medical diagnosis for their children and they search for mainstream schools that can accept them, they do not find. Some schools accept children with special needs because of the money they will make, even though they do not have knowledge or training in handling these children. For example, Latoye has autism. At the age of four he started mainstream school without a support system in his class. He had had several outbursts during classes to the dismay of his classmates. At the end of the term Latoye did not learn anything new rather he had become more violent. On a particular day he wandered out of his class and he was almost getting to the carpark before he was discovered. Latoye’s parents withdrew him from mainstream school and enrolled him in a special school. In some of these cases, a special needs school becomes the only solution.

There have been several debates and school of thoughts who believe that children with disability cannot effectively learn in a mainstream school. Some even say they are a source of distraction to other non-disabled students.

It is pertinent to mention some common disabilities and wrong assumptions. Cerebral palsy has to do with a movement disorder because it affects the part of the brain that controls the muscles. Due to the fact that the muscles control all our movement, a person living with cerebral palsy appears like someone who is not in control of their mind. People often think that children with cerebral palsy have intellectual disability or that they are mentally incapable of doing anything by themselves. Some people even call them imbeciles. This is a wrong assumption. A person with cerebral palsy may have other disabilities but this doesn’t necessary follow. Therefore, the needs of a student with cerebral palsy will mainly be physical unless the child has other ailments. The student may need a support table and chair. He may not be able to use his hands and in other cases he may not have speech. If a school works around these challenges then a child living with cerebral palsy can go to a mainstream school. Can children with cerebral palsy go to mainstream schools effectively? The answer is yes!

On the other hand, Autism and ADHD are 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. While children with Down Syndrome usually learn and progress more slowly than most children.
I am of the opinion that when these children key into early intervention (medical, therapies, education) and the mainstream schools painstakingly take out time to learn about these disabilities, train their teachers, and give the necessary support in and outside of the classrooms, the children will thrive.

However, today’s reality is that not many schools in Nigeria are ready to take this route. Some schools will claim that they operate inclusive education but the special needs children are kept in separate classes. In some other schools, the special needs children attend one or two subjects in the regular class but are pulled out of the classroom for a better part of the school period.

The longer it takes for parents to get the right help (medical treatment, rehabilitation therapies, education, social interaction) for their children, the more difficult it is for these children to be integrated into the regular classroom.

I once met a woman who has an eight year old boy attending an inclusive primary school. The boy was initially placed in the regular class with other students but at the request of the parents with non-disabled kids he was moved into a separate class with two other boys who had different forms of autism. The day I met the boy, as he sat in front of me and I spent some time observing him without him knowing, I saw that his behavior was quite disturbing as he could not sit still and he would laugh at nothing in particular and hit the wall or the chair or himself. It was obvious the school he was attending did not have an idea on how to handle him. I advised the mother to withdraw the boy from the mainstream school and enroll him into a very good special school for children with autism (for six months or one year) or she could look for a behavioural therapist and homeschool him before looking for another mainstream school that could meet his needs. It was obvious the boy did not get the right help for him early- early intervention and currently, he needed intensive behavioural therapy.
Can we then say that special schools are better equipped than mainstream schools in handling children with disabilities and special learning needs?

The answer to this and much more will be discussed in the next article. In the meantime, let’s love without boundaries.