21% of Bhutanese children from 2 to 9 years have disabilities

Bhutan’s first Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) study on children with disabilities survey report was launched providing an overview of the current knowledge, attitudes and practices of stakeholders towards disabilities and disability services, with an emphasis on children with disabilities (CWD) in a country. The study was carried out by Ministry of Education and UNICEF Bhutan.

The survey reveals that 21% of Bhutanese children between 2-9 years live with one or more disabilities of diverse group and include those with cognitive, visual, hearing, speech, physical and behavioral impairments.

However, the report confirms that the knowledge regarding the children with disabilities is extremely limited where most people understand the disability as severe physical and sensory impairments. The situation is reasoned due to lack of accessible, reliable and user-friendly information. “The term ‘disability’ was generally defined in narrow terms as representing only those individuals who have severe physical or sensory impairments” states the report.

Considering the challenges in a country to ensure that all children with special educational needs and disabilities receive appropriate education and social services, the survey was carried out by Ministry of Education (MoE) and UNICEF Bhutan in 2016 to identify the achievements and barriers in service provision and to identify priorities for future development.

Despite the positive attitude towards the children with disabilities, the report confirms that many would not want their children to marry someone with disability. 80% of the respondents said that disabilities are the result of past deeds including some professionals. Further, the families of children with disabilities felt that that the support they received both from schools and within the community was inadequate.

The attitudes towards CWD and their families were more positive among younger respondents with higher level of education where the consensus parental practice is mostly informed by acquired, experiential knowledge of their children with disabilities.

Following the survey, it was recommended to establish a national policy and strategy for social and educational inclusion for those children where the quality and availability of educational and social support services needs to be ensured.

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