Eric and Francina Phakamea
Age of parents:
51 and 46
Age: 9 years
Is this your only child? No, two elder girls aged 19 and 17.
Diagnosis of child: Down syndrome
What are the biggest challenges facing your child on a daily basis?
Communication - he has challenges with his speech and some words aren’t fully understood when he speaks, which really frustrates him. His peers misunderstand his pronunciations, which makes him angry. When he was smaller he would bang his head against the wall in frustration, this has completely vanished as he has become more confident in his communication and has different ways of expressing himself..
What are the happiest moments you have with your child on a daily basis?
He has a great sense of humor, is very sociable and loves to compliment us when he notices something new. He has a hearty laugh that is so contagious. He is full of jokes and makes us laugh most of the time.
Are you a single parent or married? Married.
Has your special needs child had an effect on your marriage?
No, having Benjamin actually strengthened our marriage. We support one another in bringing him up in the same loving environment, in the same way that we brought up his two older siblings.
What has your child taught you about yourself, both positively and negatively?
Positively: we are more aware and caring towards other people with special needs. Negatively: I get angry and impatient in certain situations with attitudes to disbility.
Are your family and friends supportive?
Yes, family and some friends (who understand what it is to be born with down syndrome) are supportive . I have family members who are able to take Benjamin out for weekends and he enjoys chatting up his cousins.
Do you take time out, if so what do you do to relax?
We do take time out by taking road trips to interesting tourist attractions in RSA as a family. Since Ben’s Mom has been working in Seoul, South Korea for the last while we have been visiting her there.
What has made the biggest difference to your child’s quality of life?
Our family support system has positively turned Benjamin turn into a fine young boy. He is in a great school - Unity College, where the majority of this therapies are done in-house. We were stuck in Korea on how best to educate Benjamin as most schools give lessons in Korean. So we decided that he would be educated in RSA, where he can understand the language and culture. It has been very positive for him.
What is your dream for your child?
To be able to achieve independence and knowledge. And of course to be able to personally gain some level of skills that will attribute toward his happiness.