Children with special needs must be correctly diagnosed – Experts



Experts have said that children with special needs must be correctly diagnosed, treated and integrated into the society.

They also decried the activities of general practitioners in medical practice who masquerade as specialists, saying that such doctors are not equipped to serve the needs of the concerned category of patients.

Speaking at the 2017 Annual Scientific Conference/Workshop, with the theme, “Challenges and care of children with special needs,” the experts emphasise the need to correctly identify children with disability, with a view to according them the needed support and treatment.

In his presentation at the event which held at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, Consultant Paediatrician/Provost, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Prof. Afolabi Lesi, said there are currently over 600 million persons with disabilities throughout the world, of whom 400 million live in developing countries and 80 million in Africa.

“The World Health Organisation maintains that about 40 per cent of Africa’s population consists of people with disabilities, including 10-15 per cent of school-age children. This percentage would translate into about 300 million people with disabilities in Africa,” Lesi proferred.

Beyond the damning statistics, though, Lesi says, ‘special needs’ refers to “any condition of various difficulties, such as physical, emotional, behavioural, or learning disability or impairment that causes an individual to require additional or specialised services or accommodations.

Zeroing down on cerebral palsy, he said it is a group of disorders of the development of movement and posture, causing activity limitation that are attributed to non-progressive disturbances that occur in the developing or infant brain.

“It is reported to be the most common cause of motor deficiency in childhood both in developing and developed countries,” Lesi noted; adding that causes include severe perinatal asphyxia (difficulty in establishing breathing at birth), Kernicterus (excessively high bilirubin/jaundice), infections, metabolic problems like hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), and infections like meningitis.

Lesi said the problem in Nigeria was compounded by the shortage of professionals to correctly diagnose cerebral palsy and offer appropriate counsel and medical attention to patients.

In his delivery, the Executive Chairman, Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board, Dr. Ganiyu Sopeyin, said there was the need for the integration of children with special needs, especially those living with cerebral palsy.

“Inclusion is when children with special needs are provided equal opportunity to participate in the same types of programmes and activities as children without disabilities or special needs.

“Inclusion means serving children who are developing in a typical way. Previous words used to describe these opportunities have included mainstreaming, reverse mainstreaming, integration and integration programmes. All of these opportunities could be described as inclusive,” Sopeyin said.

He added that certain acts of the federal legislation took cognizance of the need to include children with special needs in every area of national life.

“Two acts of federal legislation mandate the inclusion of young children with disabilities and other special needs in community services such as early child education programmes,” Sopeyin noted.

Decrying society’s attitude towards children with special needs, Lesi warned that it could lead to the denial of the affected child who may not be counted as an individual with a unique identity, leading to denial of basic rights, including education.


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