Since birth, Cessar could barely move and is unable to speak. He was born premature, and he spent his first few months in an improvised incubator made of a box and a 5-watt light bulb. When he was a year old, he frequently visited the hospital because of convulsions.
Cessar was initially diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects motor skills, and ‘Global Developmental Delay,’ a delay in either cognitive, motor and social skills, and speech and language skills of a child.
His days were spent lying down and playing with his three siblings at home. He is only brought outside to visit the local health center using an improvised walker made of a kerchief tied to his chest and held by his father, Cessar Sr.
Cessar’s father, Cessar Sr., is a fishball vendor, while his mother, Letecia, stays at home to take care of him. “My neighbors told me to enroll him but since he could not move or talk, I did not know if he would be accepted,” Cessar Sr. said.
In May 2015, Cessar’s family was invited to take part of Save the Children’s KASALI (Education for All Children) project. After confirming his initial diagnosis, Cessar was referred to a Special Education class at Upper Bicutan Elementary School in Taguig City, one of the project’s partner schools.
By providing meaningful trainings and seminars for teachers, parents and village councils, KASALI project is working towards the protection and inclusion of children with disability from early childhood education to basic education in the cities of Taguig and Paranaque, and in the municipality of Pateros.
“Since Cessar was bedridden, I suggested that they start home learning first and from there we will monitor his status,” says his teacher, Marie, who has been trained by the project on inclusive education and positive discipline. After initial preparations, Cessar started attending class in January 2016.
“At first he was quiet and just observed his other classmates but eventually he warmed up and befriended them,” Marie said. “His favorite activities are coloring and playing with cars and cooking toys,” she added.
The project also provides rehabilitative services for children with disability through partnerships with child development clinics. Cessar attended physical therapy sessions twice a week from April to December 2016.
Cessar’s parents are optimistic that he will be able to better develop his skills through attending school and therapy sessions. “There is a big improvement with his movement. He can now stand on his own and take a few steps. I believe that in time he will be able to walk on his own,” Cessar Sr. said.
“Although I am a bit worried for his safety because he is now more active, I am happy,” he added.
Thanks to his supportive family and teacher, Cessar has greatly improved since his first day of school. “Though he still cannot talk, he greets me with a smile and shows his joy through being active in class,” Marie said.
“From doodling, he is now able to write the letters E, F, H, I, L, T and V on his own. He has a positive disposition in class. He also improved his social interaction and he has developed confidence and discipline,” Marie added.
To ensure sustainability of the project, village officials and community volunteers were trained to initiate community-based rehabilitation (CBR) programs. The chosen villages will serve as resource centers for localized rehabilitation services for children with disability. This year, Cessar is set to resume his therapy sessions through CBR sites in Taguig City for his continued development.
Save the Children, through the KASALI project, ensures that all children with or without disability have access to inclusive and protective education through partnerships with the local government and local agencies, schools, community groups and other key stakeholders.