The Woodside Special Care Centre in Rondebosch is making people aware that March is Intellectual Disability Awareness Month.
Gregory Sirmongpong, spokesperson of the facility, explains that he wants the public to be aware of the special month and to start planning to do something special at the facility.
“Intellectual disability is characterised by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behaviour,” he says. “It is defined by an IQ score below 70 and affects the everyday social and practical skills of those involved.
“The great majority of them require special care but are able to speak and to function at various levels of social and physical competence.
“However, a small minority of between 1% and 2% – that is between 1500 and 2500 people in the Western Cape – can be categorised as having profound intellectual disability.
“Many of those involved also have serious physical disabilities and are unable to walk or carry out the most basic social and physical functions. This means that they require 24-hour care, every day of every week of the year. They must be fed, cleaned, changed, loved and made to feel comfortable by dedicated carers. This is what Woodside Special Care Centre does for its 77 residents.”
Sirmongpong adds that despite their profound disabilities the residents still experience happiness and frustration.
“We want to create an awareness that they respond to love, to visual stimulation and to the care provided by their caregivers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists,” he says.
“Most importantly, they are also citizens of South Africa and are entitled by our constitution to be treated with respect and human dignity.
“Some of our residents have been abandoned by their families and have been consigned to our care by the courts. In most cases, the families of residents are still involved in their lives but very few can afford the full cost of the care that Woodside provides.
“Parents of residents and the state cover about two-thirds of our costs, which means that every year Woodside must raise about R3m to maintain the levels of care that we now provide.”
He adds that during March the organisation wants to raise awareness of these people who are marginalised but not able to speak for themselves.
“As part of creating awareness we would like to invite schools, churches, mosques, societies or sports clubs to either allow us to do a presentation or to come and visit the centre during March. This way people will discover how they can be a part of their happiness,” he says.