Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
World Cerebral Palsy Day will be observed today, Saturday, October 6; however, in the BVI, treatment and services for those living with the disability are severely lacking.
There are six known cases of Cerebral Palsy, a neurological disorder that affects a child's movement, motor skills, and muscle tone, in the territory.
This is according to Supervisor of the Disability Services Unit, Ms Lorna Dawson, who bemoaned the deficiency in services for these persons.
“We are still very limited in the services. There is now physical therapy…but again, very limited,” she stressed.
The Supervisor went on to state, "We don’t have an occupational therapist right now who would be very key if a person has motor problems…helping them to learn how to navigate their everyday life, how to do simple things like feeding themselves, brushing their teeth.”
However, this is not where the challenges end for those with Cerebral Palsy.
Ms Dawson explained that the adults face stigmatisation, finding it difficult to gain employment.
“They don’t find that the society is inclusive enough, they have challenges finding employment. They don’t feel that they’re disrespected but they are not given enough value and respect,” she stated.
The adults have also complained of lack of provisions for differently-abled persons. “They find difficulties in accessing buildings, the sidewalks are not wheelchair friendly, ramps, parking and that sort of thing,” she shared.
She added that, there are instances where persons occupy handicap parking spaces, since there is no enforcement of the legislation that makes provisions for such spaces.
The Supervisor divulged that while much effort is being made on her unit’s part to raise awareness, not all of the cases are reported.
“Last year when we were looking at it and trying to highlight persons with cerebral palsy, there were at least two students who I knew did not wish to be highlighted or anything like that. But, we have four young adults who don’t mind being out there and advocating for persons with cerebral palsy and I’m sure that there are more persons,” she stated.
According to Ms Dawson, “It’s just that we are not aware of them because if it is a case that is mild, it might not come to (our) attention. It comes to our attention when the person is having difficulties and they need help, but if they are coping in school, they are coping with mobility and that sort of thing, we don’t really know about it.”
The disability, she related, is caused by damage to the brain sometimes just before birth, during birth, or immediately after.
“It usually affects persons’ motor skills at varying degrees of severity. You have some persons who are mildly affected and can function regularly, and then you can have severe cases leading to mental retardation or incapacity to do anything for themselves,” she pointed out.
While it is not easily detected, there are signs to look for in infants, she said. “As the child starts to develop, you might notice the inability in limbs, weak arms and legs, inability to sit up by a certain age or to walk by a certain age. They might have difficulty in swallowing and that sort of thing.”