Shalani loves playing, singing, and dancing. She is a lively and jolly child but she has a weak body. She was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, a condition 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.
“It started with her convulsion when she was a year old. I used to bring her to the Philippine General Hospital to avail of the 50-peso therapy session that lasts an hour. We would leave the house at 4 AM to line up for the session then we would get home at 3 PM,” Shalani’s father, Neil, said.
“I would lay her down on the floor of the playground at the therapy center when I have to feed her milk. I felt sorry for her but it’s the only thing I could do,” Neil added.
But when Neil had to work as a caregiver to an elderly woman, it was difficult to continue attending the therapy sessions. Neil brought Shalani with him to work but he also knew that it would be best for Shalani to attend school.
Neil enrolled Shalani in the Special Education (SPED) class at Eusebio C. Santos Elementary School, one of schools supported by Save the Children’s Kabataang Aralin Sa Lahat Ibahagi or KASALI project.
KASALI project works towards the protection and inclusion of children with disability from early childhood to basic education by training teachers, village councils, and parents and caregivers in the cities of Taguig and Paranaque, and in the municipality of Pateros.
Through the support of the KASALI project, Shalani was able to continue the much needed speech and occupational therapy sessions. “Shalani has improved so much. She did not speak before but after therapy she can now say whole sentences. She enjoys going out so now she would say “Papa let’s go out together! Let’s eat at the mall!” Neil said.
“She now knows how to hold a pencil. She can also jump higher. She joins all of the school activities now especially if it involves dancing,” Neil added.
KASALI project also trained Shalani’s teachers on different teaching strategies that will support the different learning needs of children and positive teaching approaches to actively engage children in their own learning. Through the advice of her teachers and therapists, Neil can also better support Shalani’s learning even at home.
“I still guide her and continue therapy at home. I place a weight on her weak left wrist while she plays. I let her practice going up and down the stairs. I give her a pencil and paper so she could write and draw to practice her fine motor skills,” Neil explained.
“Even in the dinner table I make adjustments. I use a placemat so that her plate does not slide and I can leave her with her meal. When getting ready for school, I let her dress herself even if it takes her an hour to put on her shorts, as long as she finishes the task,” he added.
To address the need for accessible therapy for children with disability, the project also trained village officials and community volunteers to establish Community-Based Inclusive Development (CBID) sites. “The challenge is really the lack of doctors for these children. So the CBID site will really be a big help,” Neil said.
The CBID site in Taguig City will serve as a resource hub for families with children with disability and aims to sustain therapy services utilizing existing spaces and volunteer para-therapists for speech, occupational and physical therapy needed by children like Shalani.
Even if there is still a lot of work to be done, Neil is always proud of Shalani saying, “I got emotional when she received medals and awards in school. Then she even joined a school pageant where she was Ms. Philippines. I even made her a float using a pushcart.”
When asked his dreams for Shalani, Neil simply says, “I want her to experience different things and I hope she achieves whatever it is she wants to do in the future.”
Through the support of the IKEA Foundation, Save the Children’s KASALI project has reached over 78,000 children and facilitated the enrolment of more than 700 children with disability into school since 2014. The project aims to ensure that all children have access to inclusive and protective education through partnerships with the local government, schools, community groups and other key stakeholders.
The KASALI project further strengthens its interventions on inclusive education in 2019 as it improves the capacity of governments to implement programs, develops or enhances policies, establishes a system that strengthens the continuum of services in communities, and generates research to inform and improve education programs for out of school children.