Raising a child with disabilities can be a struggle in the best of times. The current situation makes it so much more challenging. This year, Fondation Amal has partnered with the Habilitas Foundation in support of the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre to help make these challenges smaller.
Advances in modern medicine have made it possible to save babies born prematurely, or with complications in the womb or during delivery. While the hospitals are saving these babies’ lives, many are left with physical impairments and medical issues that will stay with them for their entire lives, and for which there are no cures.
These exceptional infants and children are unique in the complexity and profoundness of the challenges that they face every day. For more than 100 years, the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre has provided hope and support for these children. It is the only centre in Montreal that specializes in the four areas of physical impairment for children under one roof – motor, vision, hearing, and language. Last year alone, the center served about 1,800 babies and children with visual, auditory, motor or communication impairment.
To ensure that these already vulnerable children don’t fall behind in their development as much of society faces restrictions in this time of crisis, the MAB-Mackay has started providing virtual therapies when possible. However, many families simply don’t have the proper technology, internet access, or other tools in their homes. Furthermore, some children have a hard time connecting with us over a tablet or laptop, as they need to be physically moved and interacted with.
For these little ones, home visits have become the best solution. Therapists arrive fully dressed in PPE (scrubs, gowns, gloves, visors, and masks) at the child’s home, allowing them to observe the child, work on therapy goals, and provide guidance to the parents. During these therapies, the MAB Mackay Rehabilitation team uses a variety of specialized toys and objects to engage the children and help them develop key skills. These tools may include illuminated or shiny objects to improve eye-tracking abilities; switch-activated plush toys to develop motor skills or learn alternative communication abilities; glove puppets to promote feeding techniques.
To limit the sharing of toys among children, and to encourage parents to practice on their own between therapy sessions, the therapists often leave these items with the families. The need for special therapy toys that play such an important role in the child’s progress has expanded since the pandemic hit. Without these toys, the children will not be able to achieve important gross and fine motor milestones. They’ll miss the chance to explore and interact with their environment and develop their social and visual skills. Most importantly, though they’ll miss out on opportunities to play, learn, and show their families and friends who they are and what they are capable of.
As these families face continued isolation ahead in the months of winter, you can help children with disabilities learn and grow and make their days brighter in these dark times.