Daily Mirror - Print Edition

Caring for adolescents with disabilities

22 Nov 2019 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      



Adolescence, the period between ages 10-19, is a very special age. This is because this is the period where a child is becoming an adult. During this period physical mental, social, hormonal and behavioral changes take place. It is important to see how an adolescent would adapt to these changes. Eventually it will be the future of that adolescent.

Globally there are about 150 million disabled adolescents in the world. It is very important to handle these adolescents with disabilities, because they are facing many changes during this transition period on top of their disability. 

ICF (International classification of functioning, disability and Health) is the WHO framework for measuring health and disability at both individual and population levels. “In this framework we consider the 6 F model in managing these adolescents. Six F’s are Fitness, Founder, Friendship, Family, Fun and Future,” said Dr. Heshani Karunathilake, Medical Officer in charge of Yowun Piyasa, Mithuru Piyasa counseling centre Colombo South Teaching Hospital, Kalubowila. 

“When we consider fitness, obesity is a major problem for these disabled adolescents,” she added. “They must have lifestyle modifications with low calorie diet and physical activities. Also they can engage in recreational activities such as reading, writing, studying, singing and dancing etc. The company of friends is very important while participating in peer functions with peers to have fun, learn and grow with them. The family has to play a key role in managing these adolescents. They should have a secure environment and be brought up with tender love and care. If they don’t feel comfortable with family they tend to adopt risky behaviors such as substance abuse, pornography etc. The family should also play a role in helping them take decisions. These adolescents should also have fun participating in parties, outings, trips etc.” 

The most important thing about their future is to take a decision during their childhood. Some major challenges they would face in education, employment and social implications such as marriage and child birth should be planned early in their lives.

The education system should be updated to fulfill their needs with materials, equipments and technologies. The social stigma and bullying of these adults should be minimised and as there is a high risk of abusing these children, policies and legislation should be established to protect them. 

Dr. Karunathilake further said that job training is vital. “The only job for them is not making envelopes and making saddle sticks but they should engage in jobs similar to normal people. Even though they are physically handicapped they may have a good IQ. Therefore they may even be able to do professional jobs. During the latter part of their lives, they should be given similar opportunities if they are interested in getting married and having children. 

To protect these children there should be policies and legislations in Health, Education, Social, Welfare and Employment systems. Though they are disabled they should enjoy normal lives with similar opportunities and bring productivity to our nation as part of our population.