A struggle has many faces, sometimes you don’t have to be in pain to suffer. You just need to be at a play ground watching other kids scream away in ecstasy as they kick .
“I think for me, watching them play was not my biggest proa ball or run around in circles chasing god knows what under the sun for you to sufferblem. My problem was trying to imagine myself moving to their rhythm. I always thought to myself, I can’t do that. Can I? That for me was a real struggle”
My name is Damastin; I was born with a deformed short limb. At 3 years old when every child is mastering the art of walking, I was nursing a healing stamp from an amputation because the Doctors said my limb had no sensation, therefore it was useless to keep it.
Every night, I prayed to god to give me a new leg. I just couldn’t understand why my siblings could have legs and I didn’t. I couldn’t understand why they could play, run around without a care in this world and I couldn’t.
On most occasions my siblings played with the neighbourhood kids and I was but a spectator, mulling over why I couldn’t do what they were doing.
When I was 7 years old, the Doctor’s at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital gave us a ray of hope. They told my mother, I could have a chance to walk again if they reshaped my stamp and gave me a prosthetic limb
By 2011, I had undergone the surgery, healed and was started on the process of rehabilitation. Towards the end of 2011, my life was happening so fast, I could run around all I wanted, play in puddles of water when it rained— I too, didn’t have a care in this world.
As a child, you are born with an inherent need to play and that need does not exclude children with disabilities. Children with disability can often feel excluded from mainstream society. Consequently they can feel that they do not fit in and are inferior.
Inclusive play is a way of bridging the gap between mainstream and disabled children. Both groups can benefit from these play methods and learn a lot from mixing with those different from them.
Christine Tusiime, the Head of Rehabilitation Services at CoRSU Hospital says that children at all ages learn in all aspects of development through play to gain emotional, social, physical and mental development.
Tusiime states that playing is a full time occupation of children, if you take that away or if a physical limitation takes it away the child’s developmental milestones will be affected or delayed.
“Playing for children with disability doesn’t only make the rehabilitation process fun and less daunting but it introduces the child with disability to games they can actually play within their own physical capacity”, Tusiime said.
This alone helps the child become more confident on the play ground and it gives them the opportunity to introduce new games to their physically able friends.
Tusiime adds that this kind of inclusive play will help a child with physical disability get a clear understanding of their physical differences from the others, develop an attitude of tolerance, become more accepting of other people’s attitudes but most of all, help them learn new languages because Uganda is blessed with about 50 ethnic tribes and the play ground is known to have no cultural barriers as children who speak totally different languages can depend on sign language to communicate with each other while they play.
Over 5000 corrective Orthopaedic and Plastic Reconstructive surgical procedures are performed at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital, every year, out of those, about 3900 are of children.
Even though CoRSU is a Hospital that’s known for giving hope to people with disability in Uganda, not all the 3900 surgical procedures performed on children are corrective orthopaedic surgeries.
Which means some children remain physically challenged but still undergo rehabilitation care at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital to cope with the challenges of being disabled.
Moses Kiwanuka, the Head of Outreach and Partnerships at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital asserts that inclusive play is the only way you can break the barriers and the negative attitudes of communities towards children with disability. Playing in itself creates independence for these children but also fosters interaction between the physically disabled children and those who are physically able.
Damastin’s life is back on track now, after getting a prosthetic limb and undergoing rehabilitation at CoRSU, his new limb has afforded him access to the play ground and to take part in games that he covetously longed to be a part of.
Today he goes to school just fine and his captain of the village football team. Fortunately Damastin is one of the many children who are forging their own inclusive communities and games. In short we can say he has broken the barriers around exclusive games which are known to be played by physically able children.
Damastin is not asking for permission to be part of these games anymore. That’s why in honour of this year’s international disability day, we at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital have a need to find answers to this big question— is inclusive play possible?
Join the conversation as we celebrate this international disability day with a disability sports event themed, “Break the Barriers—Play Together on Saturday the 25th of November, at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital.
And if there is a child with disability living in your community? What have you done or are you doing to help them have access to their right to play?
Let’s have this conversation and remember to use the hash tag #BreaktheBarriers.