“Exhausted” – parents of disabled children have been acting as teachers and therapists

The Coronavirus pandemic has placed far greater pressures on families of disabled children. This has not only disrupted the daily routine of these children that need continuous attention and support, and many stated that they have not had any therapy for the last six months, initially because of restrictions and later as a result of industrial actions over the last two days.

A mother explained that throughout the pandemic she has had to be a teacher and a therapist, experiences that in moments resulted in her sheer exhaustion.

Over the last 170 days since the start of the pandemic, parents of disabled children have been facing far greater challenges than experienced by other parents, challenges for which they had no training provided.

Karen Buttigieg is the mother of an eight-year-old disabled boy. She said that while trying to continue activities online she spent many hours carrying out research as to the best way in which to help facilitate her son.

She continued to carry out home-schooling for her son and also acted as a therapist, times in which she felt alone while also suffering the pressures and fears of contracting the virus because if this entered the home it could have dire consequences for her son.

Karen, who is a member of the Kumitat tal-Għaqda Ġenituri ta’ Tfal b’Diżabilità (Committee of the Parents’ Association for Disabled Children), explained that a great number of disabled children have not seen their therapists since March, first because of the pandemic and then because of directives given by the UĦM Voice of the Workers to specialised professionals, directives which were suspended last Thursday.

Somehow through private means or in one way or another, some solutions had been found. She said it is as well to state that some therapists contacted parents and some sessions were held online.

The Commissioner for the Rights of Disabled Persons, Oliver Scicluna, said that in such circumstances some children have begun to lose their skills acquired in previous years. He noted that online therapy was always the best method, particularly for children that have certain conditions.

Scicluna said a disabled person has to develop a bond with a therapist or a professional and therefore face-to-face contact is important.

The Commissioner maintained that therapy is crucial for the development of children. He said he himself is a disabled person and from birth has suffered from Spina Bifida but the fact that he now is able to walk is thanks to therapy and the therapists who helped him in the past.