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Thursday, June 13, 2024

I’m an advocate for moms of special-needs kids, says lawyer, playwright and film maker who has authored five books

Some women possess strength beyond measure, while others exhibit resilience that seems impenetrable.

About a decade ago, Mrs Bukola Ayinde received a divine blessing in the form of a beautiful daughter, who was born with cerebral palsy. Initially, Bukola was downcast, but she refused to succumb to the challenges she faced.

She realised that she is not the first mother to have a child with cerebral palsy, and she decided to triumph through her struggles, and the story became her glory.

As a disability inclusion advocate, she assists children with disabilities and also sets a benchmark for reaching out, nurturing, encouraging, and empowering mothers to reclaim their lives while caring for their special-needs children.

Today, we are delighted to feature her on our cover story.

Her background
My name is Bukola Ayinde, and I am from Ise in Ekiti State. I was born in July 1979 into the family of Mr Samson and Mrs Betty Olokesusi.

children with cerebral palsy are not strange children

I grew up in a middle-class family. My parents were civil servants, and they ensured to provide for us. My mother was my earliest influence. She is a typical African woman who raised her children to be strong enough to persevere despite life’s challenges. She taught me how to remain bold even when I was scared inside.

The first school I attended was Sacred Heart Primary School, in Ibadan, Oyo State. After we moved to Lagos State, I completed my primary education at the Federal Home Science Association School, in Ikoyi, Lagos, before proceeding to the Federal Government Girls College in Owerri, Imo State.

I studied Law at the Obafemi Awolowo University and also attended the University of Lagos for my Master’s degree in Managerial Psychology.

While I was growing up, my career dream was to be a lawyer, and I am glad to have accomplished that. I am a woman who is blessed with many gifts. So, after I became a lawyer, I started exploring other areas of life, and the results have been superb. I’m a storyteller who has authored over five books, a playwright, and a film producer.

I am married to Mr. Lawrence Olumuyiwa, and we are blessed with two daughters. One of them was born with cerebral palsy 10 years ago.

When I received the diagnosis, I was devastated and afraid of what the future would bring.

When we met a neurologist to ascertain her condition, he said the diagnosis was severe. So, we began to think about what to do.

The first thing that came to mind was to relocate from Nigeria to a more developed country, but my husband couldn’t leave his job, and I didn’t want to be in a foreign country alone with two toddlers. So, I decided to stay back in Nigeria to take care of my daughter in every possible way and build my home.

It was not easy at all; however, my husband and I found a way to work around it. I built my support system and helped my daughter integrate into her community.

Bukola Ayinde

My husband is my number-one support system. He is a very caring father, and we are in this together. When I got a bit of respite in my own life, I decided to help other mothers who have children with special needs.

What is cerebral palsy?
Contrary to many speculations and superstitious beliefs, especially here in Africa, children with cerebral palsy (CP) are not strange children.

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CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage, and it affects a child’s ability to control his or her muscles.

There are several causes of the abnormal development or damage. Most people think that CP is mainly caused by a lack of oxygen during the birth process. However, scientists think that a lack of oxygen causes only a small number of CP cases.

Neurologist told us that our daughter’s diagnosis was severe

The abnormal development of the brain or damage that leads to CP can happen before birth, during birth, within a month after birth, or during the first years of a child’s life when the brain is still developing.

It’s not contagious or hereditary. It is not a curse from the sins of the child’s parents. The issue is that there was an injury to the child’s brain.

Diary of a Special Needs Mum Initiative
When I had my daughter, I realised that many parents were reluctant to share their special-needs parenting journeys because they were afraid of being stigmatised or judged.

I felt there wouldn’t be progress in Nigeria if parents did not come out to speak about their special-needs children. We can’t hide these children forever; the world needs to know that they exist.

After I started sharing my experience, moms of children with special needs would send me messages telling me about their own experiences. After a while, I realised that many families have children with disabilities, and that was how I decided to start a non-governmental organisation called the Philippians Four Thirteen Foundation. (P4:13 Foundation.)

P4:13 Foundation
The Diary of a Special Needs Mum Initiative has grown to become a registered foundation.

At the foundation, our work is divided into two major parts.

The first is to advocate for people with disabilities. This is done through storytelling, the writing and publishing of storybooks, arts and crafts, writing competitions, etc. We teach children who do not have disabilities how to relate with persons with disabilities.

if you don’t have a balanced mental, physical, and spiritual life, you can’t take care of your child effectively

Secondly, we work with mothers who have children with disabilities to live fulfilled lives despite life’s challenges. This we do through personal and business development training.

I strongly believe that if you don’t have a balanced mental, physical, and spiritual life, you cannot take care of your child effectively.

Here in Nigeria, families with children with special needs have a lot of bills to pay as there are no social welfare packages for families. We encourage women to start businesses or build their careers. They shouldn’t give up on their dreams because of their special-needs children.

We guide them on how to earn an income and live independent lives. Thankfully, many women from different parts of Nigeria have embraced this initiative.

In 2022, we had a total of 80 women in our two classes. Currently, we have 51 women in our first class for the year.

Goals and ambitions
My ultimate goal on earth is to be an agent of change. I strongly believe that my purpose on earth is to be the salt of the earth and to touch lives positively.

As a disability inclusion advocate, I empower mothers and help them navigate the challenges of raising a child with special needs.

Women shouldn’t give up on their dreams because of their special-needs children

In the next 10 years, I want to produce more movies, write more books, and touch more lives. I want to see mothers and families have access to social welfare, and finally, my real heartbeat is to see children with disabilities go to school and exercise their fundamental human rights just like every other person.

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Sometimes, mothers of children with special needs go through one form of depression or another. In some cases, they abandon their dreams and focus on their special-needs child.

I hope to see children with disabilities go to school and exercise their fundamental human rights just like every other person

Life is a gift, and it should be enjoyed. Having a special-needs child is simply one of life’s challenges. Therefore, it shouldn’t define your entire life on earth.

I am always very happy whenever I see women who have learned how to rise above their challenges and make an effort to live fulfilled lives.

Having a special-needs child is simply one of life’s challenges

When I am not at work, I love to read, watch thrillers, romance, and blockbuster movies.

If I had the opportunity to meet a public figure one-on-one, I would love to meet Oprah Winfrey.

Advice for women
Love yourself and treat yourself with kindness. God loves you and your child. No matter what you are going through, God knows and is still in control.

With this at the back of your mind, do not let your situation weigh you down, but rather, rise above it and fulfil your purpose in life.

If you are unable to do this on your own, do not be afraid to seek help.

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