This week was not as productive as last week; however we still were able to get many things accomplished. Illness and a trip to Arusha to meet with some potential funders lead us to only going to the office twice this week. We completed many programming assignments from Kaaya, the BCC director, while we were at home, so not all was lost! We also met with some medical students on Friday and took them to several of the centers. We learned a lot from the doctors, and hopefully they learned a lot from BCC. We will meet with them again this Monday and Tuesday.
Kaaya is working to establish a Parent-to-Parent Early Intervention program in Moshi. Currently in Tanzania, and many countries in the developing world, the news of a child being diagnosed as intellectually disabled is often received similar to news of death. Parents and families assume that the child can’t work, won’t be able to go to school, and will generally limit the family economically and socially. Often the father will leave the family after discovering a child is intellectually disabled. With the limited services that are available, the mother will be torn between helping her child and working. This results in a divided family that is destined to sink deep into the cycle of poverty.
The intent of the Parent-to-Parent Early Intervention program is that a parent of a child who attends BCC will support the new parents immediately after they discover their child has a disability. The hope is that the new parents will understand the importance of therapy, social interaction, and community involvement. The shock of the diagnosis will be less painful for the parents if they understand that children with disabilities can work, do succeed, and will give back to families in the same fashion as a child who is not disabled.
Mothers of the children who have been diagnosed will also understand that they are not alone and that there are organizations that can provide assistance to her and her child. Fathers of the children who have been diagnosed will receive support and hopefully remain with their family. Ultimately, BCC hopes that this will result in greater awareness and social acceptance of individuals with intellectual disabilities, along with fewer divided families.
It is also important that we meet with future doctors like we did on Friday. For the Parent-to-Parent Early Intervention program, the earlier children are diagnosed and the earlier a doctor can phone a BCC parent to meet with parents of children who have just been diagnosed as intellectually disabled, the better off the child and the family will be long term. It is a slow process, but hopefully some good can come from the program once it is developed.
Something else that is interesting is that out of 200,000 people in Moshi and a dozen hospitals, there are no psychologists and only one psychiatrist. In Moshi, medical doctors diagnose children as intellectually disabled. With little training and minimal knowledge about appropriate follow-up for children with intellectual disabilities, the children often fall through the medical cracks.
Because of this, it is important that medical students visit organizations that serve children with disabilities, such as BCC, so that they can become familiar with the children, their challenges, and their needs. It is also important that doctors visit organizations that serve children with disabilities so they can learn about service options for families after a child is diagnosed with an intellectual disability. Hopefully the relationship between BCC and the medical schools can continue to grow so that services for children with disabilities can continue to improve in Moshi and throughout Tanzania.