We had some extra medical visitors in town, including a dear pediatric colleague who lived here for 2 years and there was an opportunity to go to a smaller city about 3 hours away to a special needs school.
This school was absolutely phenomenal.
We saw a total of about 60 patients, with 5 residents/recent graduates seeing the patients and N and I precepting/teaching.
In addition, the children seen that day also all received fluoride varnish treatments and some basic oral hygiene training from our team.
I was struck by the parents’ hunger for information on how to help their kids learn and thrive.
Some have received a diagnosis and have no idea what it means.
Others have no diagnosis, just are told their child is “delayed.”
I asked many of the moms and grandmas whether they felt like having their child at this school had made a difference.
The answer was an overwhelming YES.
Countless times we heard that prior to coming here, the children were unable to walk, or talk, or do much for themselves.
Now, 6 or 12 months later, they can!
This boy was being hauled up to the 4th floor by his grandmother every day, her lifting him under his arms.
And he’s not a tiny kid.
In the past months, he can actually climb all the stairs by himself, holding the handrail.
They were both beaming with pleasure, and I had tears in my eyes.
I was blown away by whatever the teachers and therapists are doing.
Perhaps not all according to our ideal US standards–they are eager to have colleagues come and do more teacher training and therapy training–but they are certainly already making a huge impact on these families.
I was reminded of the fact that 85% of people living with disabilities are in the developing world.
And 98% of children with disabilities have no access to education worldwide.
(for more, read Unicef’s report on disabilities here)
I have certainly found limitations to education here in our city–for one, pretty much anybody with a disability cannot attend the regular school.
Each district has a public special needs school but there are reportedly tuition fees that many families cannot afford, even if distance is not an issue.
But I am still learning about that issue, so cannot wax too eloquent yet.
In any case, this particular school is a bright spot in their city, and we are looking forward to our next trip and planning more targeted educational and medical interventions.