The general African perception of people with disabilities especially those born with special needs, are very different than people in other parts of the world. Their perception is superstitious and deep rooted in witchcraft or spiritism. In Nigeria, a number of people believe that if a child is born with a disability they will bring a curse on the whole family or village. Many children with disabilities such as down-syndrome, caustic ingestion, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, and deformities are left by their families to die. This happens deep in the bush as well as in the highly populated cities. These babies often require early medical intervention and even if they are not left to die, most parents do not understand what type of care is needed and are unable to provide the necessary care. Care and support are essential in the development of a special child. One area that has not been given the pride of place in Nigeria’s educational system is special needs children. These are children who, because of their unique features and endowment, cannot be adequately and satisfactorily catered for in the regular classroom. Special needs children are those children who cannot benefit maximally from the regular classroom teaching/learning experiences on account of physical, mental, emotional and other sundry disabilities, which may or may not be easily identified. Therefore, special needs children are special children who need to be given special attention in the classroom or at home.
National and State Governments
National and state governments in Nigeria need the collaboration and partnership of diverse stakeholders, including those from non-governmental circles to leverage on the gains made so far in the care and support of children with special needs, educationally and medically. These efforts can collate into the development of a national network of individuals, professionals, groups, organizations, and agencies that specialize in serving those touched by all forms special needs. The lack of institutional support for non-state actors and groups working on direct care and support for children living with disabilities and those with special needs brings forth challenges that make interventions much more difficult. The few care and support centers besides government health facilities lack the necessary infrastructure to support such children. There is therefore a need to scale up support towards this challenge, using a multi-stakeholder approach, to identify and support such institutions.