Have you ever seen a disabled child in public before? If so, how did you react? Often, most people just quietly ignore him or her because they don’t know how to respond. Some kind souls might smile or wave at the child. Others stare with judgmental eyes and pass comments with hushed whispers. Sadly, children with disabilities, whether physical or mental, are one of the most marginalised groups in society. Many misunderstand children with special needs. However, disability is NOT inability. Disabled children are unique individuals, who have rights just like any other human.
Disabled Children In Society: The Numbers Are Alarming!
According to the World Health Organisation, surveys show that about 15% of the world’s population live with some form of disability. Many of these people with special needs are actually children. However, we rarely have accurate estimates on children with disabilities and there are multiple reasons to this. Data collectors may use outdated definitions and measures of disability. Perhaps there may not be adequate resources or statistical capacity. Sometimes, people just consider their disabled children invisible or non-existent.
Sadly, it is true that family members may be reluctant to report that their child has a disability. Why? It is often due to the fear of being ostracised by the community. Children with defects are sometimes scorned by their peers at school. Discrimination can result in the denial of human rights. Many disabled children face prejudice from society and are viewed as “problematic”. As a result of such callous attitudes from society, the child’s growth and development is undermined.
Disabilities are generally broken down into two categories:
1) Physical Disabilities
A physical disability affects the mobility of children and young people and have many different causes. It could be due to an accident, or it could have developed at birth or at a very young age. Physical disabilities in children (and adults too) can include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, and many more. These children require medical assistance, yet they are often neglected of their needs. Such disabilities need support and understanding, but unfortunately, many ignore it. Contributing factors often stem from the lack of family support, both physically and financially, and government funding.
2) Mental Disabilities
While physical disabilities hinder the body, mental disabilities challenge the mind. What mental illnesses are most common in children? Autism, down syndrome, ADHD, and behavioural disorders are just a few of them. Some of these infirmities affect their development and growth. Moreover, it may also impede their learning progress. Another need that these children require is additional care. Caretakers sometimes find this troublesome and will tend to ignore them. Mentally challenged children just need the patience and guidance of others. It truly does help when we give support to children who need special care. Showing love and support to disabled people benefit them more than we realise.
Disabled Children: The Convention On The Rights Of The Child (CRC)
In 1989, the world leaders gathered together and made a historic commitment to the children of the world. They adopted an international treaty called the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC worked to inspire governments to change laws and policies so that more children would have their needs met. Because of CRC, many children’s lives have transformed thanks to their support and care. For example, one of the many things CRC has done was introducing the four basic rights of children. What are the four rights, you may ask?
The Four Basic Rights Of Children
1) The Right To Survival
All children have the right to live a prosperous, healthy life. That includes nutritious food, clean water, clean air, and a clean environment. Basic sanitation and healthcare services are also things that children have rights to. But for centuries, poverty has prevented people of every nation from getting their needs met. Poverty is a major contributory factor to disability. With malnutrition and polluted air or water, the risk of becoming disabled inevitably goes higher.
2) The Right To Protection
Every child has the right to protection from ALL types of harm. They have the right to say no to anything or anyone that makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. The right to protection entitles them to shielding from abuse both physical and emotional. This right is one that needs to be enforced as many adults ignore it. In many countries, violence occurs literally everywhere. Disabled children, especially, suffer from severe affliction and assault from the community, from school, and even from home.
3) The Right To Development
The right to development is one often ignored. All children have the right to an education and a healthy childhood. They deserve to learn and explore and live life to the fullest in their youth. Unfortunately, today more than 263 million children are not able to attend school. Again, poverty is one of the main causes for this. Armed conflicts and natural disasters are other prominent causes too. In some countries, where child marriage and child labour are common occurrences, exploitation and gender inequality can also be a major factor for lack of education. Disabled children are often neglected due to their limited learning capabilities and are perceived as retarded.
4) The Right To Participation
Last but not least, children have the right to participation. They have the right to voice their opinions and speak their mind. They should be allowed to be involved with decision-making. Disabled kids have the right to participate in activities too! They can participate in any activity that any other child can take part in. Often, people exclude them from activities, thinking that their disabilities will hinder themselves and others. Disabled children might need extra aid, but this does not render them useless. All children deserve a place in society and equal treatment.
Children are not a distraction from more important work, they ARE the most important work.C.S. LEwis, british writer
UNICEF Champions The Cause Of Disabled Children, Too
UNICEF, also known as the United Nations Children’s Fund, helps children all over the world. They provide humanitarian aid to the underprivileged and those in desperate need. UNICEF was formed in 1946, and since then, they have reached children in over 190 countries and territories. Their programmes emphasise promoting the well-being and health of children. It is also one of the many agencies that participates in the CRC. They tackle the discrimination directed against disabled children and work to change prejudiced attitudes. Visit their website for more information on their researches, reports, articles, and stories.
What We Can Do To Support Disabled Children
Now that you are aware of the plight of disabled children, what will you do? Despite what the CRC has done, millions of children still live in need of humanitarian aid. The world is still a cruel place where disabled children suffer with their rights trampled on. We can’t change the world in a day, but we can start with the basics. Small acts of kindness to children with disabilities can make a big difference. We can stand up for them who face discrimination from others. If you want to be even more involved in changing the lives of children with disabilities, you can start by donating to support the campaign. Together, we can create a better world for all children.
This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.