An analysis of the situation faced by children with intellectual disabilities in Albanian, presented by Neritan Sejamini on his Euronews Albania show, “Me pak fjalë,” showed that these children and their families encounter many difficulties and receive little help from government institutions.
According to the latest available statistics, there are over 74,537 people with disabilities in Albania, of which 55,237 are physically and intellectually disabled.
Intellectual disabilities include Down syndrome, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). There are 681 people living with Down syndrome in Albania, about half of which (305) are under 18 years old.
According to a World Vision study conducted in 2018, 1 in 10 children aged 2-17 exhibit a high rate of behavior difficulties such as: attention disorders, communication or learning difficulties, memory problems, inappropriate behavior, hearing and vision issues, difficulty in engaging in social relationships, among others.
So, 10% of all children in Albania, about 70,000 in total, display difficulties but have yet to be diagnosed.
As of now, people with disabilities receive a government allowance of €85 per month. In 2006, this sum amounted to €65, meaning that in the last 15 years, there has been an increase of only €20.
Furthermore, out of 55,237 persons with disabilities, only 2,248 received care services in public care centers across Albania.
Aferdita Seiti, head of “Help the Life”, a local NGO for people with disabilities, said that “the state should set up programs for the treatment of people with intellectual disabilities from an early age to make them more independent when they grow up.”
She underlined that children and families should have access to early assessment and receive guidance based on the child’s needs.
In all of Albania, this assessment can only be done in two centers, both located in Tirana.
Seiti further stressed the need to standardize state protocols and interventions for diagnoses procedures.
“Early intervention should be standardized because parents start by seeing private specialists,” Seiti said.
But specialized therapy presents an extra cost that families must bear all on their own. The average cost of private therapy is about €365 per month, a considerable discrepancy when compared to the €85 per month financial assistance that people with disabilities receive from the state.
“We need to establish programs and start intervention for children who are 0-6 years old, begin individual therapy and advise the family on how to behave with the child, ” Seiti reiterated.