Sustaining the Rehabilitation of Disabled Children by Training Mothers to be Partners in Treatment and Advocacy


There is limited understanding and acceptance of disabled children in Palestinian society. As a result, disabilities can marginalize children and stigmatize their mothers. Institutions offering rehabilitation require lengthy in-house treatment, which removes disabled children from their families, sometimes preventing their reintegration after the course ends. Such programs also have limited impact: high residency costs limit the number of places and treatment ends when children leave the program.


 After recognizing that in-house programs isolate children, the Jerusalem Princess Basma Center for Disabled Children began admitting the mother alongside her disabled child through its residential Mothers' Empowerment Program supported by USAID and other donors. While the child is receiving treatment, the multi-disciplinary program builds the mother’s capacity to be an equal partner in rehabilitating her child. She is educated on the causes of the disability, trained to cope physically and mentally with the child’s condition, taught how to continue the customized therapy program at home, and empowered to advocate for herself and for her child in her family and community, particularly for education, access, and treatment.



 By extending the therapy into the home with the mother's help, the center has been able to shift from a lengthy residential program with small intake into a combined in-house/in-community program that treats more children for the same cost. The center has been able to shorten the treatment period (from three months to two to three weeks), enabling them to increase their in-take of children by 300%.  

Mothers no longer feel passive victims of fate. The most immediate impact on the mother is an improved psychological state, which often influences the child's progress.  
The children are more likely to continue to improve, even after leaving the center. The training of mothers promotes the sustainability of the children's therapy once home because the mothers can continue with a tailored rehabilitation therapy program. 
Mothers have also become advocates for their children in their community, particularly through support networks established by graduates from the program, which – in at least one city – has grown into a community-based organization. This has extended the center's reach to the community by providing it with an active partner in changing social attitudes towards disability and raising awareness about treatment opportunities.

Treating disabled children in isolation from their family and their community creates results that are limited in sustainability and impact and does not address the marginalization and disempowerment of the children and their family.

By focusing on the “rehabilitation” of the mother alongside the disabled child, the Jerusalem Princess Basma Center has been able to use its resources to create a wider, more sustainable impact on Palestinian disabled children. Building the capacity of the mother of a disabled child through a short in-house program yields high-quality, multiple impacts without increased costs, sustains therapeutic benefits for the children, strengthens community-based networks for supporting families with disabled children, and raises awareness about disability and treatment opportunities.


Report Author(s): 
Maha Tarayra, Elizabeth Price
Jerusalem Princess Basma Center for Disabled Children / Chemonics International
ASSIST publication: 
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