I promised I would give special explanation to the Behavior Challenge Program. Today I will do my best, but I must admit for me this is the most challenging and exhausting program at COBT.
There are purposely very few children in this program. Imagine a room full of ADHD, ADD, and Autistic kids alongside those with other behavioral challenges caused by Cerebral Malaria damage, or frustrations caused from lack of proper communication due to deafness, or being born mute. Now put eight to ten of these kids together in a small room with heavy throw-able objects. Starting to get a picture?
In my heart there is a huge place for kids like this. I have ADHD, ADD, and Dyslexia. When I was little I had an undiagnosed allergy to dairy that caused a mood disorder. This was easily solved by managing my dairy intake and that issue resolved, but the others are a part of me, who I am. They are as much Jason Tischer as my legs and arms. If you do not have these issues, you can’t understand what a challenge it is to be a kid who wants to be able to sit still and participate, but can’t. People often say “just medicate them.” NO! Huge mistake. Like myself, a lot of people can through time learn to get a handle on their ADD/ADHD through diet and learned self-control. Most people do not understand that the “meds” often administered like Ritalin are basically mild crack cocaine. There are long lasting damaging effects to kids, and people under the influence of these meds are not themselves. They are in there, but suppressed.
Sorry for the rant there. Yes, of course there are cases that definitely require proper medicating. I have no qualm with that but often pills are just handed out without a second thought.
Back to the Behavior Challenge program. We start with group mat play. There are several activities we rotate through: building play, sensory, water play, etc. We then break for pala (soy/maze nutrient enriched porridge) so the kids are full and have energy for the last section. This time also gives them a needed break, which the staff need just as desperately. After this we work on ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) i.e.. bathing and dressing. The purpose here is not for us to assist them, but to instead help them to become independent. This is however a large cultural issue that often acts as a boundary. In Malawi mothers do everything for their children until they are school age (five years old) then the child is expected to be able to wash and dress themselves. This sudden change from being waited on to expected independence is hard for a typical child, but for a kid with behavior challenges…. Let's just say the tub ends up turned over and there is a soapy naked kid to chase after down the street. On the flip side, a child may be one who is withdrawn from everyone and they will just sit there and not do a thing. We help with that.
Lilongwe from Home