CHILDREN living with disabilities in Lagos State and its environs may now heave a sigh of relief as Lagos State government, some parents and medical experts have agreed to take concerted efforts against disabilities in children.
They reached the consensus at the first 'Stakeholders Summit on Disability' organized by the office of the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Government on Social Development. The Summit, whose theme was Ability in Disability: A Stitch in Time Saves Nine, was held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos on Tuesday.
Addressing participants at the occasion, the Governor of the state, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, represented by the Deputy Governor, Dr. IdiatAdebule, said the state government had decided that every category of people must henceforth align forces to make life more meaningful for children living in disabilities.
Ambode said early intervention of disability in the affected children would help a lot in giving hope of a meaningful life to those children. As a result of that, he said the concept of early intervention was targeted at parents and guardians of the target children.
His words: "Early intervention will afford you the opportunity to do what is needful medically. Since nothing can be done to change the circumstances of those children, you must show them the ability to support them in harnessing their potentials."
In her welcome address, the Special Adviser to Ambode on Social Development, Mrs. Joyce Onafowokan, disclosed that the governor's inaugural speech in which he advised that circumstances should not be obstacles to dreams, with the promise that the issues of disability will receive greater attention this year, necessitated the summit.
According to her, too often, some professionals make the mistake of telling parents what they need only, in handling disability in children. However, she said with the summit, the state government was beginning a new journey of putting in place systems to ensure early diagnosis and intervention.
She said: "We are here to ask you to join us. We want to listen to you. We want to know how we, all, collectively, in partnership can better the lives of our children. One thing I want you to know is that being here at this Summit, is our first step in the mandate that His Excellency gave to us. We will get there but we must agree to move. We must agree on where we want to get to and how we intend to get there."
In his keynote address, Professor Julius Ademokoya, Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan, said there is no person with disabilities without abilities for one's good and the good of humanity; provided necessary assistance is given.
He, therefore, advised that some programmes and procedures must be put in place to ensure early identification of disabilities. Among programmes suggested are: Antenatal Disability Screening, Newborn Screening and Ability/Disability Assessment.
For the way forward, Professor Ademokoya said intervention programmes for managing disabilities should target establishing Special Needs Education (SNE) that would provide the required education to curtail disabilities, educate persons with disabilities and sieve out abilities from disabilities.
He insisted that adequate support must be guaranteed for persons living with disabilities through: attitudinal change programmes, instituting necessary legislations and highlighting capabilities and achievements of persons living with disabilities. Similarly, Dr. (Mrs.) Barakat Animasahun, Associate Professor/ Consultant Paediatrician, College of Medicine, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Lagos, said there is ability in disability.
She therefore advised people to always highlight more the positive side of disability over adverse side. She advised that conditions causing disability should be also prevented.
According to her, some of the causes of disabilities in children can be reversed if they are discovered early enough ad necessary intervention measures are taken.