Challenges Families of Children with Special Needs in Nigeria Face

The day-to-day management of a child with disability brings both physical and emotional fatigue/ exhaustion on family members. The uncertainty about the cause of the disability, the future of the disabled child and grieve over the loss of function of this child often results in anger, anxiety, frustration thereby causing a major shift in the family life. Roles and responsibilities may lead to changed or abandoned career plans especially on the mother who is more likely to take on caregiving roles and thus give up or change her work roles.

Families of children with special needs in Nigeria face multiple physical barriers, discrimination, stigma, negative attitudes from within the families, communities and policy -making bodies. Many children with special needs and their families are severely deprived of the basic resources and services that could enable them to develop to their full potentials. They are denied opportunities for education, socialization and recognition, limited access to medical-care and exploitation from the few professionals. in most cases, they have no access to professional services and how can we talk about Early Intervention/treatment leading to higher outcomes when there is a shortage of educators and professionals to evaluate and diagnose the affected child?

The absence of government supports as practiced in developed countries have resulted in the inability of most families to meet the daily needs of their children with special needs. In view of this, a handful of private individuals have established “special schools” and centres to cater for the needs of these children but their services are not affordable by an average family. The presence of a child with special needs put a huge strain on the family social, psychological, and economic well-being as these children are the least understood and their families the most exploited. For some of the children who enrolled at mainstream schools, it is common to see them fall behind in learning and socialization because their schools/teachers do not possess the knowledge, skills and supports to meet their learning needs.

The Global awareness of disability-inclusive development is increasing and Nigeria must not be left out in this. It is time for all stakeholders to make a genuine commitment in the establishing of special education, promotion of equal opportunities, access to basic services, inclusion and elimination of discrimination to enable these children develop to their full capacity and live an independent life.