Rights of Children with Special Needs

By Abiye Tam-George


Children with special needs are children that suffer from certain conditions that affect their ability to perform activities a normal child may perform. Such conditions include; autism, blindness, vision impairment, deafness, hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, quadriplegia, paralysis, learning disabilities, mental retardation, amputated limbs, etc,.

Rights are fundamental freedoms that safeguard and protect children with special needs from neglect and abuse. In 2003, Nigeria enacted the Child Rights Act which has been domesticated by over twenty states in the country.

For example, we have the Child Rights Law of Lagos State 2007. The provisions of the Child Rights Act are a foundational milestone in the protection of children with special needs.


The following rights were guaranteed; right to life, survival and development, right to a name and registration, right to dignity of the child, right to freedom from discrimination, right to private and family life, right to freedom of movement, right to leisure, recreation and cultural activities. Right to health services, right to parental care, protection and maintenance, right to a free compulsory and universal primary education, right to special protection measures, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The right to special protection is based on the importance of providing the child with the training, preparation for employment, rehabilitation, and recreational opportunities. This is to ensure the mental, social and physical development of the child and to achieve the fullest possible social integration in the society. This provision of the Act appears to have been neglected by the government. There is a failure to provide adequate facilities and trained professionals to educate children with special needs.

The rights of children with special needs are often violated due to cultural beliefs, preconceptions, ignorance, and superstition of the majority of people in our society. Children of school age are often denied the right to be educated. They are literally conscripted by adults to beg in the streets, and are forced to live in very degrading circumstances. There are increasing cases of the ritual killing of children, and the banishment from communities of children accused of being possessed by so-called evil spirits.

The extent of abuse on children with special needs is insufferable, from neglect to emotional, physical and sexual abuse. In fact, every child with special needs has a unique ability to grow and succeed. And it is the responsibility of parents, government, individuals and organizations to help discover that innate ability in every child with special needs to achieve their optimal development and survival.

There is a pressing need to pass specific laws for children with special needs. For instance, we could institute a number of education rights that will require schools to deal with children with special needs by making provisions that suit their specific conditions. We need to hold schools accountable for any form of discrimination, segregation and lack of adequate facilities that will provide an environment fit and proper for the educational advancement for all children, particularly children with special needs.

This means classrooms will become more inclusive, and school curricula will be more broadly designed to integrate the interests of children with special needs.

It is important to increase a pool of professionals that can train and care for children with special needs.  These include special educators, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, social workers, nurses, psychologists, parenting skills consultants, child life specialists and child developmental lawyers who can teach, and help enhance the self-actualization of children with special needs. Protecting children with special needs from all forms of abuses will require education, sensitization and punishment of abusers or offenders, to serve as deterrence for future occurrence.

Parents must be educated on the skills needed to effectively provide, monitor and offer educational opportunities Protecting children with special needs from all forms of abuses will require education, sensitization and punishment of abusers or offenders, to serve as deterrence for future occurrence. Parents must be educated on the skills needed to effectively provide, monitor and offer educational opportunities for the child. Government must be compelled to provide adequate and child-specific facilities that will enhance the child development and well-being.

The public must be educated on the importance to see children with special needs as having the ability to become independent and productive if given the right environment, training and assistance.

The greatest gift that we can give to children with special needs is to treat them with respect devoid of pity.                     

Abiye Tam-George is a lawyer, writer and child protection/parenting skills expert.

Email –abiyetamgeorge@yahoo.com

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