Inclusion Insights

Home-Based Programs to Reach Children With Disabilities and Their Families in the Philippines

Shifting people’s attitudes away from discrimination and indifference and toward acceptance and inclusion.

The Challenge

Children with disabilities are among the most neglected, vulnerable, and invisible children in the world. In the Philippines, an estimated 5.1 million children are living with disabilities. Yet programs and services for the Filipino disability sector remain insufficient. In 2020, the Sub-committee on Children with Disabilities of the Council for the Welfare of Children reported that 48% of survey respondents were unable to access essential education services and learning resources, while 33.4% were unable to access habilitation/rehabilitation services.

In the Philippines, issues in accessing services for children with disabilities include unavailability of programs in remote areas and lack of transportation to access sites where programs are offered, the inclination of trained professionals to work in major cities or other countries, exorbitant professional fees, lack of schools with qualified special education teachers, irrelevant curriculum and inadequacy of teaching materials, low school enrollment of children with disabilities, low recognition and prioritization of children with disabilities, and the family’s dependence on teachers and therapists as sole educators of their child.

The effects of a disability extend beyond the child to include the entire family. Cultural stigma associated with disability identity persists; families may experience overt and perceived forms of discrimination that prevent them from spontaneously participating in community activities.

The Approach

Home-based programs that feature collaboration between the family and a professional can help children with disabilities overcome barriers to reaching their full potential. Through a home-based early intervention program, the family gains knowledge and understanding regarding the nature of their child’s disability while learning to care for and support the child. Although societal discrimination and other challenges may persist, a home-based program can help create an enriching home environment, supporting caregivers by providing information to inform their choices and tools to help them engage in activities that promote the child’s independence, productivity, and participation in the community from infancy through adulthood. The child then applies the skills and behaviors they learn in the home setting to the neighborhood, school, recreational facilities, and other public places, enabling them to engage in social interactions and participate in the community.

A home-based program paves the way for the child to gain socially appropriate behaviors and functional skills and contribute their abilities and talents to the community. This intervention program is a necessary strategy for shifting people’s attitudes away from discrimination and indifference and toward acceptance and inclusion and, thereby, positively transforming societal mindset.

Our Story – The Malapad Family

Unfortunately, there is a dearth of government and NGO-initiated home-based programs for children with disabilities in the Philippines. Only a few Filipino schools/centers, organizations, or professionals carry out these activities. Nevertheless, those families, teachers, community workers, and other professionals who have implemented home-based programs report promising outcomes. These personal experiences, such as those of the Malapad family shared below, demonstrate the potential of home-based programs for children with disabilities and their families.

Life changed for Evert Malapad when his 2-year-old daughter, Mae-Mae, was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Seeking help to address Mae-Mae’s loud and extended bouts of crying for unknown reasons and her delays in expressive language and gross motor skills, Evert and Apple, his wife, brought their daughter to a developmental pediatrician. Although the next five years of their Mae-Mae’s life were dedicated to special education classes, occupational therapy sessions, and speech therapy sessions, her overall development continued to be delayed. When encouraged to try a home-based program that emphasized parents’ involvement as teachers for their children, the couple did not hesitate to try it. Eventually, they decided that Evert would give up his lucrative career as an automotive technician in order to be their daughter’s teacher at home.

The demands of teaching Mae-Mae every day struck Evert like a ton of bricks. He was physically exhausted from teaching his hyperactive daughter, continued to question his decision to give up his career, struggled with the effects of shifting from two sources of income to one, and experienced discrimination and judgment from people they encountered whenever they taught Mae-Mae in public settings. However, Mae-Mae’s swift progress encouraged Evert to persevere. After six months on the home-based program, Mae-Mae had acquired the basic skills of sitting and waiting; the family relationships were stronger, characterized by mutual respect, concern, support, and a deeper family faith life; and Evert had experienced significant personal growth, marked with a patient, persevering, resourceful, resilient, and hopeful attitude.

In fact, the success Evert experienced with the home-based program encouraged him to give back to the community by taking further studies in education and honing his skills as a work and life skills teacher to youth and adults with disabilities. Currently, he is active in different advocacies in the country. He became the president of a local chapter of the Autism Society Philippines and also a member of its Board of Trustees. In his desire to empower families, professionals, and other stakeholders, Evert conducts seminars and training activities on home-based programs and preparing persons with disabilities for employment. He also joins meetings, consultations, and focus group discussions conducted by government agencies and civil society organizations to lobby and advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities.

Recommendations

Lessons Learned From the Collective Experience

By implementing these measures, governments can contribute to the enhancement of home-based programs for children with disabilities, ultimately improving their overall well-being and quality of life and ensuring that they become active contributors to the community.

  • Conduct more research studies on the effectiveness of home-based programs for children with disabilities
  • Conduct capacity-building training activities for community-based rehabilitation workers, professionals, and other individuals who are interested in and committed to supporting families of children with disabilities in implementing home-based plans
  • Conduct training activities for family members of children with disabilities on children’s rights, different disabilities, components and implementation of home-based programs, and more
  • Provide a home-based program specialist who will mentor or coach the professionals and paraprofessionals who support families of children with disabilities
  • Support initiatives by providing incentives to NGOs and other organizations that develop and implement programs and services for children with disabilities and their families
  • Institutionalize support of children with disabilities and their families by enacting national laws
  • Develop an advocacy and communications plan to disseminate information about home-based programs, advocate for their wider use, and shift cultural stigma around children with disabilities (these plans should align with the goals of national and/or regional associations to amplify the messaging)
  • Ensure that home-based programs are accessible to all children with disabilities, regardless of their location or socioeconomic background, through the provision of resources in multiple formats, accommodation of different learning needs, and reduction of barriers to access
  • Facilitate collaboration and information-sharing among different stakeholders involved in home-based programs, such as by organizing conferences or forums, establishing networks, and creating platforms for sharing good practices and success stories
  • Establish mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of home-based programs for children with disabilities and help measure outcomes, identify areas for improvement, and ensure the efficient use of resources.
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