Therapy for ‘CSAC’ kids
BULUAN, Maguindanao—The case of Sarah Pananggulon, the deaf six-year-old fatality in the botched Mamasapano operation on Jan. 25, 2015, has led to a discovery by child psychologists that close to 500 children in the province have varying cases of physical impairment.
Salvacion Deaño, Maguindanao Division coordinator of the Department of Education’s Special Education unit or SPED, said the province’s Second Schools Division alone has 431 children with different cases of physical impairment from birth.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said he believed there could be more than just the currently known number of children with special needs in his province, or mainly those with congenital physical impairment.
The Second Schools Division is made up of 20 districts with 267 elementary and 38 secondary schools.
A stray bullet killed the minor Sarah, who could not hear the exchange of gunfire in the bloody Mamasapano clash, because of her hearing impairment, according to her parents.
The province’s pilot program for children with special needs began with a three-day workshop, from August 29 to 31, at the air-conditioned Buluan Provincial Gymnasium here, for 29 child-beneficiaries.
The children were accompanied by their parents or guardians and 14 public school teachers as their co-participants, and in the tutelage of psycho-social therapists led by Iris Mae Ubas, a psychology graduate of the University of the Philippines, who specialized in behavioral management therapy in Vietnam.
The United Nations defines children with special needs as children “[who] may have mild learning disabilities or profound cognitive impairment; they may have food allergies or a terminal illness. A child’s special needs may include developmental delays that catch up quickly or remain entrenched.”
Even President Rodrigo Duterte, an occasional critic of the UN over reactions generated by his anti-illegal drugs campaign, has spared time visiting children with special needs, many of them with terminal ailments such as cancer.
Article 23 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that children “who have any kind of disability have the right to special care and support, as well as all the rights in the Convention, so that they can live full and independent lives.”
At the program’s closing ceremony, the father and teacher of a nine-year-old participant from Datu Odin Sinsuat town shed tears of joy, as the audience witnessed the child being able to generate tongue-based oral sounds for the first time, as one born mute, said the program’s focal person Lynette Estandarte, provincial budget officer.
Mangudadatu said he wanted this therapy workshop for more children and youth conducted monthly, to benefit kids in batches of 25 to 30.
He said creating that forum for children as a monthly activity would enable educators and specialized trainers to develop and establish their experts’ findings and help upgrade the province’s program policies on children.
Members of supporting staff from the DepEd and the Department of Social Welfare and Development said a monthly session for children with special needs could help develop a more culturally sensitive learning module, especially for the children in situation of armed conflict or CSACs, as the UN refers to children in strife-torn areas.
But even without a locally-designed learning module, Ubas and the other visiting psycho-social therapists successfully handled the three-day activity for the children.