Manchester father struggles to support disabled children

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 11, 2016

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PORUS, Manchester — For 43-year-old Annext Melhado, being a single parent of two intellectually disabled children is proving more difficult with each passing day.


He has been caring for the two teenaged boys from they were very young, with limited support.


Melhado said that it is a constant struggle to give them the life they need, but he is committed to continuing the fight.


"Sometimes I find myself on the little edge to pitch over and give up," he told the Jamaica Observer on a recent visit to the home in Old Porus where he lives with his children and his mother.


Melhado said that his older son, Robert Melhado, who turned 18 in August, and the younger, David Melhado, who turned 15 in May, were diagnosed as being intellectually disabled with psychotic features by a psychiatrist at the Manchester Health Department.


Melhado said that one of the telltale signs that something was wrong was the way, for example, his older son would constantly use his hands to beat on his ears.


The older boy was diagnosed at two and a half years old and the younger at two, the distressed father said..


The condition requires that the children take medication twice daily to stay calm.


Melhado said that the children became his sole responsibility years ago, with support from his aged mother, after he came home one night and saw them left alone in the dark.


They had been left at home with their mother who was also living at the house at that time. He said she took her three children whom she brought into the relationship.


"My aim and determination is to never give up on them (his two sons)," said Melhado.


Melhado said that the children’s mother, who now lives in Clarendon and has other children, has expressed interest in taking them now that they are older, but he believes that he is better able to provide the supervision that they need.


Melhado said that the two boys have not been to school in many years — since about grade three for the younger and grade four for the older — because they cannot function in the regular school system. He claimed that administrators at one special education institution told him that they did not have the skill set to properly care for the boys and another more than once said that there was no vacancy.


He said that he, along with his mother, guides the boys as best they can and, to date, they still assist them to undertake seemingly basic personal care activities such as bathing and brushing their teeth.


Melhado said that his sons will pull down shelved household items similar to the kind of behaviour typical of small children. Even worse, about seven years ago the family lost their house to fire that was set by the two boys, he said.


Melhado’s mother, Bereta Bartley, who is "near 70 (years old)" disclosed that the gutted house was replaced shortly after by charitable organisations, though a smaller version of what they had before.


"(They said that they) would give a shelter," she said, noting that while she is grateful for the assistance, the need for the home to be more convenient becomes necessary as she slips and falls often, particularly when it rains, because she sometimes has to cook on the outside and there is no bathroom on the inside.


The family also has no electricity.


Although she struggles with the challenges of caring for her grandchildren, Bartley told the Sunday Observer that they are her "company".


Melhado, on the other hand, believes that finding an organisation with the resources needed to care for them and where they can be socialised to be productive citizens would be ideal.


He said that a "slipped disc" with which he is afflicted, means that he is unable to do some tasks. However, he is willing to work and would be particularly pleased if that opportunity could be at the same organisation that would be able to accommodate his children.


Melhado said as the boys get older he constantly fears for their safety.


Left unattended, he said, they will travel far distances away from home.


Melhado said that he has had an instance where the police detained him when the boys could not be found. The police had also threatened to lock him up more than once because of perceived neglect of the children, he said.


Especially in the case of the older boy, Melhado said he tries to keep him close constantly. He worries that his son will get himself in trouble and that the court will treat him as an adult, although his cognitive abilities should dictate otherwise.


These days, Melhado said that the financial challenge is grave and the needs are great.


He said that he now benefits from government assistance of $1,190 monthly through the Poor Relief Department and he gets a small salary occasionally from cooking at an organisation which sometimes feeds people who live on the street. The kindness and contribution of others help as well, he said.


Melhado said that he is expecting that soon he will also receive a monthly stipend from the Poor Relief Department for the boys. He said that he will assist his mother to get help through the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education as he tries to keep the family afloat.


He said that the Child Development Agency monitors him as he cares for the children.


Melhado said that those wishing to help can reach him at 783-7054 and 781-4811.

  


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