“There are no children with special needs when we are ignorant of their plight. But when there is care and attention for them, only then we realize that their numbers are quite large in society. What is more troubling, 90% of children with special needs come from extremely poor families” – Aris M Budiawan, Magetan Generasi District Facilitator
Caring for Children with Special Needs has been a serious commitment of Magetan District since 2011. Monitoring results in 2010 found that a child who is paralyzed since birth cannot enter school because she has no proper access. This finding prompted the District’s attention for children with special needs. Even though education indicators have been achieved in the first year of PNPM Generasi implementation in Magetan, there are urgent special needs that have remained unaddressed.
With the help of Suprihatini, the Director of PGRI Kewedanan Special School, all Village Community Empowerment Cadres in Magetan were given training to identify Children with Special Needs in 2011. Data in 60% of the villages in 9 sub-districts in Magetan show that there are more than 200 Children with Special Needs.
They received special care
Treatment began in Sidowayah Village, Panekan Sub-district. With the remaining 2010 multiyear funds (this type of funds can be allocated to fund activities outside of the budgeted year), 29 children were assisted, including 8 children with learning disability, 1 child with emotional/social disability, 1 child with physical disability, 2 children with mental disability and 17 children with communication disorders and learning difficulties began to receive assistance.
One child with physical disability, Widodo, was assisted directly by a Sub-district Facilitator (PK) and TPMD. He received a wheelchair and school equipment. Advocacy was also conducted to the school to facilitate Widodo’s learning process. The management of education for children with special needs is provided in Government Regulation No 17/2010 regarding Management and Organization of Education, articles 129-142.
The demand for skilled personnel arose for the other 28 children with special needs. Some children with learning inhibitions suffered from dyslexia and dysgraphia. They risked dropping out of school, as they could not sit the National Examinations. These conditions could be mitigated with therapy. A teacher at Panca Bhakti Magetan Special School, Dyah Fitria Padmasari, gave therapy to the 28 children with the help of three assistants.
“I was very sad to see the condition of these children at first. Aside from their parents’ lack of knowledge, they also did not get the attention from their regular schoolteachers. When they attend school, it is as though they just pass by, when these kids need intensive attention”, says Dyah.
With Rp 400,000 per child for six months, in the fourth month great progress can already be seen. Some children who were almost expelled from school due to their learning inhibitions began to show improved abilities. Parents who had no hope about the future of their children, are now more hopeful.
Dyah added, “I began teaching since January 2013. Now, thankfully, it is better. Their teachers now report that these children who used to be silent and bowing their heads, now dare to speak and are cheerful. The hyperactive ones are more manageable. Ya, it can’t be instantaneous indeed, these children need continuous care. Hopefully the government will be able to provide care to them again. To help these kids, everybody needs to play a role, especially the parents. It is they who really should be the full-time therapists.”
With the success of activities in Sidowayah Village, Panekan Sub-district, the same activities were developed in Poncol Sub-district. When the “Rumah Pintar” activity began in Poncol Sub-district, children with special needs in Plaosan and Lambeyan Sub-districts could also be accommodated. Six teachers from Kawedanan Special School and three teachers from Parang Sub-district Special School have been identified to help children with special needs. This activity began in May 2013, and other sub-districts will begin in August 2013.
The importance of fulfilling the nutrition of pregnant women and the role of government
90% of children with special needs come from extremely poor families. The sample in Sidowayah Village, Panekan Sub-district, shows that only one such child comes from a middle-income family, three from poor families, and 25 from extremely poor families. Nutrition fulfillment affects fetal development. “This is one of the reasons for the high numbers of children with special needs. Regular outreach for expectant mothers is important. We plan to conduct group activities in all villages with resource persons from the government health services, and optimizing the village midwives”, says Aris.
Treatment of children with special needs requires the involvement of many stakeholders. Aris added, “We hope to get assistance from the [Health] Services so we can socialize to the people about maternity, IMD, and exclusive breastfeeding. We also hope that village midwives no longer give formula mil to newborns.”
The involvement of various stakeholders is important in assisting children with special needs. PNPM Generasi can address the child’s education and health issues in the scope of social problems. The Health Services are expected to be able to address the technical aspect of health services and the Education Services could also provide education services to these children. The involvement of the District Government is also important to build synergy. “We plan to make Magetan a Child Friendly City. In June 2013 we will hold a workshop and to launch [the program],” Aris affirmed.
Ibu Sutini, the mother of Widodo, was teary-eyed, “I am happy to see Widodo able to attend school like other children. Hopefully Widodo can continue attending school until high school and work like other kids. Thank you PNPM Generasi.”