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Wasswa’s Story

Wasswa is eight years old. He has profound deafness and reduced vision as a result of Congenital Rubella Syndrome. He lives with his mother Namaganda, father, Lutalo, and his twin brother, Kato, Wakiso district, Uganda.

When Wasswa was born, he was underweight and unwell. The hospital kept him under medical observation for three weeks. Wasswa’s parents learned he was visually impaired when he was three years old. By the age of five, they began to suspect that he was deaf.

At the age of eight, Wasswa couldn’t bathe himself, and his behaviour was challenging and aggressive at times. Wasswa began to develop coping mechanisms, for example, he became obsessed with a straw. He had particular places where he’d keep the straw, and would get very aggressive if anyone removed it. As Wasswa held the straw with his left hand, he’d suck his right thumb, preventing him from using his hands for things like bathing or chores. Wasswa would play alone with his straw in a corner and wouldn’t allow children to get close to him. Instead, Wasswa would push the children away, often hurting them.  

In May 2015, Wasswa was referred to Sense International Uganda for specialised rehabilitation and support.

As his mother explained:

“On assessment day, I was able to interact with parents whose children had the same condition as Wasswa. I felt relieved when the doctor explained the type of measles which led to his deafblindness”.

Wasswa started receiving support from his Special Education Needs (SEN) teacher with very clear goals, particularly around improvement in communication and social skills, independence in activities of daily living, as well as development of his visual perceptual skills through exercising, playing and making use of touch. For Wasswa, his hands are his eyes, ears and voice.

Through attending the Community-Based Education (CBE) programme since June 2015, Wasswa is now able to communicate meaningfully. For example, when Wasswa wants a drink, he is able to bring an empty cup to his mother and take her to the fridge.
When children from the neighbourhood take Wasswa’s toys, he no longer pushes them. Instead, he goes straight to his mother and leads her to the children and toys.

“He is not aggressive anymore”, shared his SEN teacher.Wasswa is now able to identify beads of colours, sort and group them, and choose his favourite red colour. He is able to take turns while playing and sharing interactive games with his brother.

Although Wasswa still finds challenges in buttoning and unbuttoning shirts, he is able to put on a pair of shorts without any assistance. Importantly, Wasswa is now able to shower by himself.

His mother said:

“As soon as I closed the bathroom door, I heard him making loud noises, jumping and clapping his hands. The sound of splashing water was heard from a distance. I peeped to see what he was doing. Surprisingly, Wasswa was so happy, jumping up and down as he poured water on his head.”

In February 2016, Wasswa enrolled at Bwanda Regional Deafblind Resource Centre, which is a hub of expertise on deafblindness in the country.

First published: Friday 7 June 2013
Last updated: Wednesday 20 September 2017