Role of counselling services on parents with children with disabilities in Lusaka, Zambia.

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Musuka, E. M. Maria
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The University of Zambia
Every parent has great dreams and expectations of a healthy, bouncy baby in their marriage. These dreams are shattered when the baby is born with a disability. There is shock and grief and this disappointment is harder in Africa where some societies still believe that it is an abomination and punishment from the gods for something sinful that the family had done. Thus such parents and their siblings face social stigma, exploitation, and discrimination. The grieving of parents of children with disabilities is common and universal. Counselling services assist grieving parents to heal and come to terms with the situation. Counselling helps parents of children with disabilities to be empowered and understand the human rights, know the channels to seek justice and stand up to fight in order to enable their children access the social facilities in all dimensions of life. When the parents are healed and live fulfilled and self actualized lives, then their children with disabilities will benefit and grow up to live quality lives. Counselling is not a new concept in Africa; it is as old as Africa itself. The wisdom and knowledge imparted by elderly men and women on the younger members of the society was part of continuous guidance and counselling in preparation for the future. Counselling was available to all at different stages of life. However, there is a contrast as regards counselling parents of children with disabilities because of the cultural beliefs in Africa. The communal aspect of ‘I am because you are” “umuntu” is overshadowed and there are negative attitudes towards people with disabilities. This causes grief and anguish that need counselling services. The purpose of this study was to find out the role of counselling services, whether there are institutions that offer counselling services to parents of children with disabilities, do parents of children with disabilities receive counselling services and how effective these are in Lusaka. The study sample was 17 parents of children with disabilities. A purposive sampling technique was utilized due to rich-in-depth information that was to be obtained for the researcher. The interviews carried out with these parents at Hidden Voice revealed that most of the parents of persons with disabilities do not have counselling services and face attitudinal barriers that is behaviours, perceptions and assumptions that discriminate against persons with disabilities including prejudice, low expectations and even fear within their communities. Negative attitudes about their children‘s disabilities impact on all aspects of their lives and so need counselling services and empowerment in order to cope with the situation appropriately. Finally, recommendations were made to the government, non-governmental organisations and to the parents of children with disabilities.
Children with disabilities--Psychology. , Chronically ill children--Family relationships. , Counselling parents of children with disability.