Disability can be a handicap in Ndlambe

HELPING THE DISABLED: Understanding the issues, specifically around mental health in pupils at the Enkuthazweni Centre in Nemato for disabled children, was among the topics discussed at a conference at MyPond Hotel last Thursday. From left are chairman of Enkuthazweni board Mzameli Dikeni, Pam McLaren from the Disability Action Research Team (Dart) and Nolubeko Xuma-Soyizwapi, deputy director of the Eastern Province Department of Health, therapeutic and medical support services

FACILITIES for children suffering from mental and/or physical disabilities are few and far between and several surveys, specifically by Africacheck and Sadag, estimate that 16.5% of South Africans suffer from one or many forms of mental disorder.

Pam McLaren of the Disability Action Research Team (Dart) was at the MyPond Hotel last Thursday to meet with the staff from Enkuthazweni Centre in Nemato for disabled children, together with other interested parties to discuss better treatment for the children under their care as well as many more that have either been incorrectly diagnosed or still remain undiagnosed.

It was clear from the discussions that took place that this is a very real and complicated problem that needs serious political will if the disease and its causes are to be combated. It was also clear that proper education is the best way to tackle the ignorance that seems to prevail regarding topics such as foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), an umbrella term for a range of disorders ranging from mild to severe and can cause physical and mental birth defects, and caused by women who drink alcohol during pregnancy.

Other reasons that came up for discussion included the lack of information to teachers at schools, misdiagnosis because of other factors such as viruses, parasites in the food, malnutrition and many more.

It was stated that sometimes children suffered because they were being taught in a language that was not their own and how these children might appear slow and unable to cope with normal academia but it was their lack of understanding of the medium of instruction rather than an actual mental disorder.

For more on this story, please see this week’s Talk of the Town.