JENSEN LA VENDE
For some parents, raising a special needs child can be exhausting. The Caribbean Kids and Families Therapy Organisation (CKFTO) is seeking to offer hope to those parents.
CKFTO, founded ten years ago, offers therapy to children with many forms of disabilities from neurological to physical, and beginning June 23 will launch the latest of its services, this one without a cost, entitled Helping Our Parents become Empowered (HOPE). The ten-month long programme will run simultaneously with its sibling support group Supporting and Including Brother and Sisters (SIBS) as they hope to make the home for the child/children with disabilities that much richer for them to thrive.
Speaking with Sunday Newsday at CKFTO’s St James office, general manager Krista Hamel-Smith said the aim is two-fold–to offer support for parents raising their children who have some form of special needs and to encourage both parents and would be parents not to abandon their child because he or she may have a special need. She said CKFTO was founded by a parent who had no where to turn and decided to become a support system for others.
“If we had the opportunity to speak with the parents who are thinking about abandoning their children because of disability I do think that this support group will give them some hope,” Hamel-Smith said.
She added that CKFTO was founded by a parent with a child with a disability who needed support and therapy, and the non-profit organisation has continually grown since then.
Toni Betaudier, an educational psychologist, said the importance of HOPE is to allow parents to “put on their oxygen masks first”. Rather than raising a child with special needs in isolation, CKFTO’s plan is to generate a community with a common thread where each member can have support. This is also the purpose of SIBS so that both the parent and the sibling can learn to cope with and care for a child with special needs.
“You are a part of the community and we want to let parents know this. You have this community to come to for support. It will take a village to advocate for a child with disability,” Betaudier said.
She added that parents will learn how to access the necessary government aid, which she highlighted should increase and the loopholes in the system that seem to further limit children with disabilities, among other things. She said some parents feel burnt out and having to deal with a special needs child means less time for themselves. According to the most recent data she received, there are 40,000 children with disabilities in TT but fears that this number is significantly low and most likely dated given the archaic system used to measure a child’s disability. The support group will take place once a month for ten months with a maximum of ten families to ensure that the proper bond is created without the group becoming to hectic. The next step Betaudier said is to go into the pre-natal clinics.
Greisy Gonzalez, a psychologist with CKFTO, said HOPE and SIBS will teach parents skills to help them face that situation and give the parents some attention.
“Parents have to be well for the child to be well. We want to teach them to take care of themselves so they can take care of their children. For the health of the child you have to be aware of their parents because they live with their parents,” Gonzalez said.
CKFTO currently offers speech, occupational and music therapy and other therapy and will soon be starting art therapy, for children from birth to 21. They also offer psycho-educational assessments. To date the institution cares for over 50 children and does outreach throughout the country in both traditional and non-traditional schools.
Any parent/caregiver with a child with a disability and wants to be a part of the support group can call CKFTO at 628-3268 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.