Nora Gideon Ekanem
Lawyer with a re-government Parastatal
Age of parents:
Age: 7 years
Is this your only child? No.
Diagnosis of child: Cerebral Palsy
What are the biggest challenges facing your child on a daily basis?
It’s not easy raising a special needs child in Nigeria. Many people regard disability as a taboo and assume it’s the mother’s sins that have caused this. The belief in evil practices is strong in Nigeria and some people avoid us for fear of contamination. It’s a real strain having a severely disabled child depend on me as a single parent. I wake up earlier than most, as a working parent to ensure that his medications and other procedures are done for him before I leave for work. I drive long distances to take him to a special school where my own special care giver is constantly by him. This costs a lot of money as Joshua depends on someone for everything. His needs rest on me alone, which can be overwhelming.
What are the happiest moments you have with your child on a daily basis?
Joshua is an easy going child, once he has been cleaned and fed, he mostly stays peaceful and quiet. Joshua hears very well and he is now able to call me Mama. If you put him on the floor, he moves around on his tummy. He is also trying to hold his hands together.
Are you a single parent or married? Separated for 5 years.
Has your special needs child had an effect on your marriage?
I guess he couldn’t cope with having a disabled child. When my ex-husband does comes to visit Joshua, he look broken like he wants to cry. He takes our other children and they stay over with him often but he never takes Joshua. It’s most probably too stressful for him.
What has your child taught you about yourself, both positively and negatively?
As the youngest daughter in a Nigerian family, I was pampered, I expected and often had many of my wants indulged. The experience of raising a special needs child has taught me so many things: to be humble, to give, to be patient and it has also taught me how to love unconditionally.
Are your family and friends supportive?
God blessed me with wonderful brothers and sisters – they have made it so much easier for me. My church has also been a great support. Otherwise I don’t expect everyone to be compassionate about my circumstances.
Do you take time out, if so what do you do to relax?
Yes, I do. My family are always there to look after Joshua and give me some time alone.
What has made the biggest difference to your child’s quality of life?
The medical procedures he has received in my country and in South Africa. His wheelchair, standing frame and splints have greatly improved the quality of Joshua’s life.
What is your dream for your child?
I come from Nigeria, where everybody believes in divine intervention. I’m a believer – God will do it in his time.