For many children with disabilities, daily life involves little more than sitting in a wheelchair for hours on end. Enter Uhambo, the Shonaquip Foundation.
Uhambo is an offshoot of Shonaquip, a company that provides severely disabled children with custom wheelchairs. Uhambo focuses on policy, caregiver education and post wheelchair fitting support, and have just launched the Ndinogona “I Can” Stimulation Kit, designed to help disabled children play and learn with the support of their caregivers.
Lorainne Frost, General Manager of the Uhambo Foundation, explained, “These kids have these nice chairs but they’re just sitting there for eight hours a day. So we focused on how we can stimulate these children.”
Miné Campey, a therapist with Uhambo said, “The intention of the kit is a guideline as how to use activities that they (the caregivers) do everyday in a better way to help stimulate the children. The kit really is just designed to guide caregivers in how to do those every day things, but just explained in a very simple, easy to use way – to help children with severe disabilities to participate more.”
The kit, developed by one of Shonaquip’s occupational therapists, includes close to 100 songs and activities which are broken down into four categories: all about me, all about food, all about family and community, and all about learning. Each activity is based on sensory perceptual and play principles, with focuses on feeding, dressing, playing and social interaction. The kit comes with corresponding colour-coded bags and a self-standing manual, making it easy for caregivers to engage with and position children without wasting time searching for items or turning pages.
Many activities in the kit are based on movements or actions that the child has never felt before. One of the motion activities is “row-row-row your boat,” in which the child is placed in a hammock and swung gently to the song. The manual describes how to position children for each activity, which improves the ability to participate, but more importantly encourages the children to communicate.
“They (the children) love the engagement, they love the activities. You can see it on their facial expressions. You can see from the children that are even severely disabled that there is a positive response. The kids are laughing and smiling, and even the little one, who struggles a lot to participate in groups, in her way showed that she wanted to try it again. By kicking her feet she showed me that she really liked it and she wanted more. It’s those kinds of responses that we’re looking for and we’re trying to encourage,” said Campey.
In addition to use in care centres, the manual and caregivers also train parents how to use everyday items at home. For example, recycled materials can be made into toys for continued stimulation.
Campey is certain that anyone can stimulate development in disabled children with the help of the kit. “You don’t need a therapeutic background to be able to do activities like this and get a good response from the children, so I’m quite confident that caregivers with even a little bit of training would be able to implement these activities quite successfully.”
Since its launch last month, the kit has so far been tested in Elundini Day Care Centre in Du Noon (35 disabled children) and at Lonwabo Day Care Centre in Mfuleni (21 disabled children), with positive feedback from trainers, caregivers and children. Training for caregivers is being offered in the Western Cape, Port Elizabeth and Gauteng. Along with personal orders, Uhambo has recently received orders from Cape Mental Health, Cerebral Palsy Association, Down Syndrome Association, and the National Association of Child Care Workers.
The cost of the kit is R4 200, but can be customized for any child’s assessed needs.
Image 1: The children enjoy the rocking motion in a hammock
Image 2: The Lonwabo Day Care Centre, where the stimulation kit is being used
Image 3: The children learn about their bodies by blowing bubbles
Image 4: Children dance with their instructor