|Approximately how many brain-injured children are there in Barbados?|
|There are approximately 2.500 such children registered at The Children's Development Centre in Barbados, which is the primary facility on the island for treating brain-injured children, but each year the number increases. Last year 30 new babies were introduced to the CDC.|
|What exactly is meant by the term "brain-injured"? Does this refer to brain damage caused by accidents or other trauma?|
|Children whose brain functions have been affected by head injuries or accidents are certainly considered to be brain-injured but they are not typical of what we mean when we use that term. When we speak of brain-injured children, we mean those children whose brains have been damaged through some form of trauma before, during or after birth or who are born with some form of congenital defect.|
These children are severely handicapped because areas of the brain that control their senses or their abilities to communicate and move are damaged. For example, in Jenna's case, intense injury to her brain stem left her legally blind, unable to walk or talk and totally dependent on the care of others, although she could hear and respond to sounds.
|Is it the case that brain-injured children also suffer from severe physical disabilities as well?|
|Very much so. It is rare for children to be severely brain-injured but not physically affected. The brain controls everything we do - our entire nervous system. When it is injured, it can't exercise that control properly. Most brain-injured children can't walk, and their basic motor skills are very impaired. For some, picking up a pencil or a spoon, or turning a page in book. requires huge effort. For many, these things are impossible.|
|What sort of special treatments do brain-injured children need?|
|The treatments are three-fold:
- Physiotherapy for gross motor skills; Occupational therapy for fine motor skills and Speech therapy for oral control. They need physiotherapy to have their limbs and muscles manipulated manually because they cannot do this on their own. If they don't get this kind of treatment, their muscles lose their elasticity and this creates all sorts of painful problems with their joints and skeletal structure.
- Occupational therapy is used to assist with everyday tasks such as dressing and feeding (e.g. holding a spoon) in order to obtain the greatest possible independence for the child.
- Finally, Speech therapy addresses the important oral functions such as chewing, swallowing, breathing and in a small number of cases, learning to speak. It's very important to make sure that brain-injured children start getting these treatments within the first two years. Another more complex treatment that these children often need is orthopaedic surgery to correct the problems with joints and tendons that physiotherapy can't treat. As you can see, the need for physical care never ends. But most of all these children need to be loved, embraced and accepted for who they are.
|Where can brain-injured children get this kind of care?|
|The primary facility for providing physiotherapy and occupational therapy to brain-injured children in Barbados is the Children's Development Centre, which is funded by the Ministry of Health. There is also the Challenor Creative Arts A Training Centre.|
|Are treatments available privately?|
|Yes. Parents of brain-injured children can arrange for a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist to make home visits, but most of the families of brain-injured children in Barbados simply cannot afford these kinds of private treatment on a regular basis. In many cases, we are talking about single mothers who are not working because they cannot leave their child alone. The financial pressure is tremendous, and so is the emotional strain of being the only caregiver around the clock, day in day out.|
|How does the Trust work to help these children and their families?|
|First and foremost, we use the money we raise to help pay for the special care. equipment and supplies that brain-injured children need every day. The Ministry of Health, which funds the Children's Development Centre, pays for most of the costs of this care, and there are other excellent organisations such as the Barbados Children's Trust and the Variety Club that also provide funding, but somehow there is always a need for more.|
We work very closely with the Children's Development Centre, and we are guided by its staff as to how and where we can best intervene - particularly to help those children who are in danger of falling through the cracks because they are the most severe cases, and their families are the most needy. We can respond quickly to day-to-day situations because of the way we are set up. For example, on the basis of a phone call from the Centre, we have the flexibility to arrange and pay for a taxi, or a doctor's appointment, a visit from a physiotherapist, or essential supplies like pampers.