The country’s medical aid schemes have been challenged to rise to the occasion and finance the prohibitively expensive therapy for children with special needs. The call was made by high court judge Leatile Dambe at the 2nd annual tea party fundraising event in Gaborone held in collaboration with the Ohio University under the campaign theme- ‘Because my Child deserves it’.
In her earlier remarks, the director of Mariri Child Stimulation Centre, Kutlwelo Mariri, had appealed to parents and relevant ministries to collaborate in order to facilitate the inclusion of special needs children in the society. “Children with special needs usually require special attention such as speech therapy, audiologists, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and sensory stimulation for some,” she said, adding that this kind of treatment is very costly. Justice Dambe concurred and bemoaned the absolute lack of financing by medical aid Schemes for therapy required by children with special needs. Justice Dambe pleaded with parents especially the government to encourage one another and invest in these kids. “In order to improve the quality of life of these children we as a nation need to join hands so as to fund and have access to specialised services, they are the future of our tomorrow,” she said.
She also urged medical aid schemes to see to it that insurance for special needs is made a priority. “The medical aid schemes need to provide insurance that is relevant to today’s health issues and that includes special needs,” Dambe pleaded. Mariri added that Batswana need to provide an environment for stimulating the children, highlighting that early intervention is crucial for their overall development in society. “It is the aim of early intervention that our special needs children are given a slot at being productive and independent members of the society, that when the time calls, they are able to provide for themselves.” Child Stimulation Centre/Mariri Speech Therapists and Audiologists is a registered child speech therapy and stimulation programme in Gaborone that was founded in 2013.
The programme provides full day stimulation for children with speech, audiology and occupational impairments and currently houses 31 full time children. According to Mariri the quality of results from the early intervention programme has improved tremendously ever since the centre partnered with Ohio University. The recipients range from one year, eight months to eight years old children some of who have delayed speech development while others have more complicated challenges such as autism, attention hyperactivity disorder and global developmental delay, hearing loss, cochlear implants, and cerebral palsy. The fundraising is a way of funding the centre’s activities, following the reality of how expensive the therapy is. It is also a simple means of raising awareness and educating the public about special needs children.