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There are several ways in which the community can give assistance to the family of a severely disabled child. In some countries (usually wealthier ones), the most severely disabled, mentally slow children may be taken care of in special care centers, or ‘institutions’. Although in many cases it is better for the disabled child to stay at home with his own family, there are times when institutional care is needed. This may be because of difficulties in the home situation. Or it may be because the multiply disabled child requires more time and skill than the family can handle.
Institutional care, however, is very costly, and is usually possible only if government pays for it. Few governments of developing countries are willing or able to do that. This means that in poor countries—and especially in the rural areas—most support and assistance for these families must come from the communities themselves.
In areas where a community rehabilitation program exists, the program can play an important role. It will usually be neither desirable nor possible for the program to take complete or continual care of the severely disabled child. Yet, the program may be able to help in several ways:
- The community rehabilitation workers can regularly visit the home of the severely disabled child and give suggestions, assistance, and friendship.
- They can help make or provide special seating or equipment that can help the family to manage the child more easily.
- They can teach the family ways to help stimulate the child’s development and can plan with the family a step-by-step approach toward reaching realistic goals.
- Perhaps they can start something like a ‘day care center’ where the rehabilitation workers, different parents of disabled children, other concerned parents in the community, or unemployed young persons take turns caring for the disabled children for part of the day. This could be done on a volunteer basis. Or money to pay for caretakers could be raised by the community, either through donations, raffles, bake sales, musical events, or other fund-raising activities.
It is very important that the mother and family have rest periods from caring for their severely disabled child.
Such rest periods can often make the difference between whether or not they can handle difficulties and keep treating the child in a loving, supportive way.
In some cases it may be better to provide ‘day care’ in the child’s own home. Again, the community may be able to provide either volunteers or paid care-providers.
Whatever the case, often it is too much to expect the family of a severely, multiply disabled child to care adequately for the child, unless the community offers generous help and support.