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Every cloud has a silver lining

By Dr. Badewa T. Adejugbe-Williams, Educational Therapist, Founder of the Royal School of Educational Therapy Foundation

I have two children. They are 29-year old twins diagnosed with Intellectual Disability . However, my family extends beyond my biology. I am part of the Royal School of Educational Therapy Foundation (RSETF), an Innovate and Learn grantee. Together with the students, the service providers and their caregivers/ parents, we form a huge family. The students are persons with various neurodevelopmental disorders including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Down syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Intellectual Disability and Cerebral Palsy.

As of April 2020, Nigeria had confirmed over 1,000 cases of persons infected with the coronavirus. Major cities like Abuja, continued to be under lock down. My family and I  had to come to terms with this new reality. Like the rest of the world, we also had to readjust.

 Accepting and Dealing with COVID-19

In pursuit of continuous learning and growth, even during these strange times, we adapted and explored new ways of supporting the students. We have been in constant communication with the parents, service providers, caregivers and students themselves through WhatsApp and phone calls on a daily basis. This helps us keep up to date on how they are doing. We continue to monitor and share homework for the students and provide some online support and counselling with Parenting Unusual

We sensitised our students on the pandemic, and right before the lockdown, were practising hand-washing upon entering the learning centre, using sanitizers before entering the classrooms, and more regular hand-washing throughout the day. We taught alternate modes of greetings besides handshaking and hugging.

The grey cloud

RSETF planned on having auditions for our YES WE CAN! docudrama which was now postponed. On top of that, the centre had to close. Quite a number of the students, especially the ones with ASD and ADHD, did not like the idea of being unable to go to the centre. We had to manage a series of meltdowns, resulting in much aggravation for everyone involved. This was the main reason why we needed to make constant phone calls after the lock down, to talk to the students and their families during the transition. Due to social distancing, access to one-on-one support and therapies is no longer an option.

The silver lining

I am glad to share, based on reports we are receiving, our students are doing much better, with some surprising us with their progress!

These are the reports from the service providers…

“I have been communicating with parents since the inception of the lockdown order. It has been very positive and productive as we’ve been working together to engage their children. About two weeks ago when I checked on Kay, a 19 year old young man with Autism and Intellectual Disability, I was told that he had exhausted the worksheets I gave him within a few days. I had to send some more materials and worksheets via email and WhatsApp for printing to his brother. This is because they were having challenges engaging him in things that he enjoys doing! Now he has a daily routine of one hour for Literature and Mathematics and then he takes a break. After his break, he does a module through the online curriculum we subscribed to for the students.”

“Students on my caseload (a social and educational term that refers to the list of the children/students/ a service provider gives services to) are all doing great and are always grateful whenever I ask to speak with them. Just to mention, one mum said she was excited when her other kids brought out their assignment and Chidi also brought hers! Chidi is a 16 year old girl who had been out of school due to trauma for a couple of years before joining RSETF.”

 “After speaking to a mother yesterday, I just could not stop shedding tears of joy… A nonverbal young man with autism started uttering words, to her astonishment and joy! The power of Speech Therapy! She says she is no longer worried. She says she didn’t even know that he has words. She has hope that he will speak in sentences soon.

“ The responses from parents in the Lion Class have been encouraging as students are doing great. I call all the parents on my caseload to know how the students are doing as well as how they are completing their homework. I spoke with one father who told me that his son is missing the centre. I also get excited when the students themselves call me up to ask how I am doing. They are wonderful! The Lion Class has students with severe developmental disability, Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Intellectual disability”

 “ All the students in the Elephant Class are good. I have been speaking to their parents and directly to some of the students. I am happy that it’s very positive feedback from everyone. The Elephant Class contains children from 5 to 8 year olds with ADHD, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and Down syndrome. Most have co-morbid diagnosis of Autism and ADHD

One mum is excited as she got nutritional help from the support group page . Her son is now on a diet that seems to be working. He is attending well to his home work. As a matter of fact, he is excelling and will soon be joining a regular school for inclusive education.

“I called another dad who was happy to speak to me. Their son , Eri, a six year old who has Autism and ADHD, has been showing all that he has learnt. He was very hyperactive and showed signs of echolalia  when he started with RSETF, but now, he is conversing with others and excelling academically. ”

“I had a video call with one student and his parents. His mum and dad are very happy that he has exhausted his homework already. The parents said he used to have many injuries due to his rough play before coming to the centre. But observing him now, they can see that he is very coordinated and he maintains conversational skills very well.”

Amidst the pandemic, I can’t help but smile when I read some of the messages from my fellow parents on what is happening during this #stayhome period.

Good morning everyone. Thanks to the ‘holiday’ my son is washing my car!!! Though if I have to check the metre, we have used nearly 1000 litres of water.”

 “My son successfully made pineapple juice for us as he was taught to do at the Center. This is an amazing accomplishment. Thank you all.”

 “Good morning ma. Thank you for all the information and continuous support, for all you are.”

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