Parenting a child is not an easy task. Parenting a child with a disability is altogether a more challenging experience. But what exactly is a disability? A disability may be defined as a condition that may restrict a person’s mental, sensory and/or mobility functions to undertake and/or perform a task in the same way as a person who does not have a disability. For the parent of a child experiencing developmental, physical, cognitive, behavioural, learning and social disabilities, the parenting journey can become an obstacle course that requires assistance for smooth navigation. Let’s think even further and
imagine having to raise a child with disabilities in a society with ever-rising health care costs. Completely unnerving or perhaps daunting? Maybe, but this is where the Caribbean Kids and Families Therapy Organization (CKFTO) comes in.
Spearheaded by Sara Stephens, an Occupational Therapist, and Laura Pierre-Escayg, a mother of a child with disabilities, this Caribbean non-profit organization was born out of a dream to create a warm, family-focused therapeutic clinic where families could receive quality services and resources regardless of their socio-economic position. CKFTO was registered in 2009 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. It’s primary goal is to provide affordable, professional and empathetic therapeutic services to all Caribbean children between the ages of birth to 21 with special needs. Financial subsidies ranging from 20% to 80% reduction of the standard fee are offered to families that meet the criteria and are in need of therapy and support.
The CKFTO has two distinct arms. First is the therapeutic arm featuring services such as occupational therapy, music and aqua therapy as part of the restorative process for children. These methods focus on fine motor, perceptual and developmental skills. Music therapy uses music as a means of restoring, maintaining and improving the physical, emotional, social, cognitive and psychological well-being, while aqua therapy uses water buoyancy as a tool for children to practice development skills such as crawling, walking, rolling and jumping. Second is the supportive arm which features services such as HOPE (Helping Our Parents to become Empowered) Support Group, providing parents with hands-on involvement in the growth process through tips, information, education and understanding. The HOPE Support Group also provides teacher workshops, in-services, seminars, consultations and disability awareness campaigns.
One of the most influential campaigns is the CKFTO Count Me In puppet programme, designed to educate children about their peers with disabilities and chronic illnesses in order to bridge the gap between typical students and those with disabilities. The drama and animation of puppets create a lively vision for the children, as their imaginations are stirred with puppets such as Asha, who is blind and uses a cane; Anna has Cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair and David, who is autistic. The CTFKO Count Me In Puppet program fosters positive awareness and promotes the beauty and value of being different.
The involvement and inclusion of parents, siblings, school and the community sets the CKFTO apart from other similar organizations. If a tree doesn’t stand straight, does it mean it can’t be something of beauty? Of course not. CKFTO understands the child is more than just him or herself, but a product of the people and things around them. All CKFTO students are treated as a whole person, to help them maximise their potential.
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