Children with Disabilities

Summary: At its 16th session (22 September -
10 October 1997) the Committee on
the Rights of the Child devoted a Day
of General Discussion (6 October
1997) to the theme "The Rights of
Children with Disabilities". This is the
submission made by the Christian
Children's Fund to the committee.

UNICEF estimates that by the end of this century, 200 million children worldwide will be disabled - i.e. they cannot take part in the normal activities of daily life due to some form of physical, mental or sensory disability, the importance of prevention, early detection, education and rehabilitation with involvement of all sectors of society is more and more evident. Where disability cannot be prevented, focus must be placed on early detection, early intervention and family support. In many countries children with disability are considered "rejects", failures and hopeless. Children who are born with weaknesses receive fewer services, as they are viewed as being less deserving than "normal" children. Policies of services for disability tend to isolate children, ignore their feelings or deny their differences. The disabled child is either at home or in a 24-hour closed-system institution. There also is too much dependence on the use of medicine in the treatment. Experts have learned that programs involving parents and family members have achieved better outcome for children with disabilities. The CRC gives guidance for integrating the child with a disability into society and respect for his rights and full development. In line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, United Nations 1989 - Article 23 NGOs not only complement Government efforts, but they are assuming an important role as they develop new initiatives to further the rights of handicapped children such as coordinating the activities of different actors to maximize effectiveness; further the meaningful involvement of parents and the broader community in the effort to improve the lives of disabled children and supporting advocacy work. Framework for Action: Parent participation and empowerment: the involvement of parents both in the home with their disabled children and later as advocates within society - has become one of the most important aspects of UNICEF's approach to disability services for children. Capacity building to create sustainable programs staff training, improvement of information systems, developing better and more practically oriented training programs using affordable, appropriate, locally produced technical aids and educational materials into childhood intervention programs. Advocacy and social mobilization to bring the difficulties faced by disabled children to public attention. In the residential institution the child with a disability has little chance of integrating within the open community. Physical barriers in the streets and public buildings often restrict the mobility of children and adults with disabilities. The intended impact of leaving a child at home or in a residential institution, i.e. out of day school, is to protect him from danger. The manifested impact is unfortunately different: handicapping the child for life through deprivation or stimulation, creating a personality of shame and inferiority and promoting excessive dependence. the cost is immense suffering for the child and his family, loss of talent and a collective moral failure. A few models : Moving from institutions to alternative care - Institutions are rarely the best solutions for children. Support for parents who keep their disabled children at home is vital. Day centers and day homes are helpful and may prepare some disabled children for integration into ordinary schools with the help of specially trained teachers and appropriate equipment. Trained personnel and appropriate information about childhood disability are scarce. Most parents receive little or no advice about how to meet the needs of their disabled children. Therapy for children in the company of their parents in temporary residential treatment have proved to be a worthwhile alternative to traditional care-take programs. Treatment in such programs is short (3-4 weeks)and it is applicable to children who are mentally, socially or physically affected. Such programs enable parents to learn how to contribute to the treatment of their disabled child. There seems to be a great need for education and training of personnel who works with children with special needs. Too often, treatment isolates the disabled child, rather than helping him or her to adjust to his natural milieu in the family and his neighbourhood. Comprehensive project: advocacy, working with families, adapted technology, staff training: Project: Sanatorium of Saulute, Druskininkai: Rehabilitation of Lithuanian Children with Cerebral Palsy; 1995 - 1997 CCF in cooperation with the Lithuanian Children's Fund is developing a national center for the treatment of children with cerebral palsy, to set up a workshop for producing appliances for rehabilitation, and to have training programs for of staff and families. Children accompanied by their parents attend one-month treatment sessions at the Sanatorium, while medical and psycho- social staff train parents to take better care of their disabled child. International disability consultants regularly visit the project to work with parents and train the staff. In turn, project members share their experience with colleagues working in local health care centers throughout Lithuania. Beneficiaries: children with cerebral palsy in Lithuania, the families of these children, medical staff and specialists. Another example: Evolution of attitudes and behaviours will lead to increased awareness of the needs of others, inspite of difference and disabilities. Create centers which could accumulate information, experiences and exchanges. Public attitudes: Launch public campaign to promote a change in attitude in people and government circles - recognition of rights Project: Rehabilitation of Children with Disability; 1995 - 1998 CCF in cooperation with the Independent Forum for the Albanian Women seek to stimulate public awareness in demonstrating how children with physical and mental disabilities can be maintained in their social environments. Children from low-income families are provided with rehabilitation aids and medical assistance. International consultants are invited to train the project staff, thus enabling them to successfully counsel and train parents individually or through workshops. Educational material is translated and adapted to be distributed to a wider circle of families and schools, in order to raise awareness about disability and child care. The rights of disabled people and their social integration are advocated through the media to reach larger segments of the population. Prevention The guiding operational principles: prevention, early detection and community based intervention; A critical role in early stages of disability prevention is assigned to parents, local health and education personnel, and community members; among the most prevalent causes of impairments are nutritional deficiencies, pre-or perinatal problems, infections diseases, accident and exposure to environmental health hazards. Answer: Child survival and development programs; education of girls in child-bearing age and mothers; Project: Women's Health Education Programme; 1996 - 1998 CCF in cooperation with Belarusian Children's Fund Reproductive health education for women and teenage girls. - lectures, brochures concerning gynaecology/obstetrics, paediatrics, and sexually transmitted diseases - lectures are given in educational establishments and vocational training schools; - radio broadcasts are made during the day and in the evening to reach as wide a section of the population as possible. A resource room/library is set up for medical personnel in the Gynaecological Hospital, Minsk. Early detection: It is vital to detect a child's problem at a young age in order to prevent an impairment from becoming a disability or handicap. Social attitudes and reaction toward impairment have been found to play a vital role in turning them into handicaps Answer: training of staff, parents, advocacy role. Coordinating the activities of different actors to maximize effectiveness The status and role of social workers -- empathetic assistance to children and families in crisis is one of the roles of social workers who also assist, counsel and mediate in other setting, e.g. schools and hospitals. In general, they should always act as allies of children and families rather than as the arms of bureaucracies. Social workers work with the family of the young disabled child to help it maintain its responsibility for the child. Examples: Project: Social Work Education; 1996 - 1999 CCF in cooperation with UNICEF, Belarusian Children's Fund and the International Federation of Social Workers Technical assistance in curriculum development and social work education for practitioners. Social work literature has been purchased, and a Belarusian bulletin/newsletter funded, covering items of interest concerning social work issues in Belarus and elsewhere. Project: Social Work Education; 1997 - 1999 CCF in cooperation with the International Federation of Social Workers, Ukrainian Association of Social Pedagogues and Social Workers, and UNICEF. This programme, which is just beginning, aims to help social work professionals and civil society organizations to bring about positive social development in Ukraine, especially for children and youth and their families. It further aims to ensure the sustainibility of such development by developing social work training in line with international standards, while at the same time respecting the traditions of the Ukraine. Project: "Hope for Chernobyl Children"; 1997 - 1998 CCF in cooperation with UNICEF and the Belarusian Children's Fund This program aims at counteracting the psycho-social effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident by providing youth with possiblities for acquiring leadership skills and social responsiblity. Young people are informed of opportunities for volunteer activities in children's institutions and hospitals. These young volunteers then help to care for disabled children in the various centers.

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