Community-based group helps care for children with disability

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — From the cost of therapy sessions to tuition at a special needs school, caring for a child with disability is no easy task — especially if one has less in life.

This is what Rosalie Gonzales faces every day: She looks after her daughter, Jenny, who has cerebral palsy.

Jenny's therapy costs about P600 to P1,000 per session, while school dues amount to at least P100,000 a year.

Gonzales' husband, a factory employee, works hard to earn a living for their family. But with Jenny's condition, they would not normally be able to afford her special needs.

Fortunately, Project Therapy, Education Assimilation of Children with Handicap or Project TEACH — a rehabilitation program "that caters to indigent special children" of Mandaluyong City — helps Rosalie and her husband give Jenny what she needs without having to pay.

Project TEACH therapists help children with disabilities at their center and also provide free occupational, physical, and speech therapy on a home care basis.

Children_with_disability_2_CNNPh.jpg Home therapy is usually given to those who need to improve motor skills.  

Archie David, Program Director of Project TEACH, explained the importance of therapy in the lives of those with disability.

"If those with cerebral palsy, for example, aren't given therapy, they will develop deformities. Children with autism will not have the opportunity to learn skills for independent living later on," David said.

Tagging along a Project TEACH visit

Twice a week, Project TEACH therapists visit patients in depressed areas in Mandaluyong City. For the rest of the week, they're stationed at a nearby community center, where they are able to treat more children.

CNN Philippines accompanied Project TEACH therapists as they visited Jenny.

"When they (therapists) come over for therapy, they're able to teach me what I'm supposed to do, like for example, how I'm supposed to carry my child, " Gonzales said. "That way, I don't have a hard time."

A few blocks from Jenny's home, Marichris — also diagnosed with cerebral palsy — underwent therapy, too.

Marichris' mother, Marilen, said that caring for her daughter becomes more more difficult when money is tight.

"She's been operated on twice. I didn't know what I was supposed to do," Marilen said. "At one point, we didn't have anything to eat and I only had P5 left."

Tanya Ty, an occupational therapist who works with Project TEACH, has been helping children with disabilities for almost a year. She can earn five times what she's earning now if she worked abroad, but she opted to stay.

"Especially in the first cases you handle, you'll see how much they (children) improve. You'll see that you can actually make a difference," Ty said.

Project TEACH, meanwhile, hopes local governments across the country will follow Mandaluyong City's example and also create programs to help children with disabilities — especially those from the poorest of the poor.