A total of 36 children, some with severe mental and physical disabilities, were presented with certificates on July 21 for successfully completing the early intervention curriculum of the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP).
Of the number, 31 are to be placed in special education classes at the primary level, and another five will join the regular school system.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony held at the Apostolic Church of God Jamaica in Kingston, State Minister for Labour and Social Security, Hon. Andrew Gallimore, described the ESP as a “lighthouse” that has provided guidance for many.
State Minister for Labour and Social Security, Hon. Andrew Gallimore (centre), and Executive Director of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), Ransford Wright, listen to a comment from Director of the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP), Antonica Gunter-Gayle, before the start of the ESP graduation ceremony today (July 21) at the Apostolic Church of God Jamaica in Kingston. Thirty-six children graduated from the ESP after successfully completing the programme’s early intervention curriculum.
He thanked parents and caregivers for not “tucking away” the children as would have happened previously, but rather enrolling them in the programme to allow them to maximise their potential.
He congratulated the graduates, and urged parents and guardians to set goals for the children. “It doesn’t matter what the goals are, they must always be working towards something, so as to strengthen them and keep them motivated and driven,” he said.
Director of the ESP, Antonica Gunter-Gayle, expressed pleasure with the progress that the students had made, noting that some, who at the start of the programme could not speak, were now talking incessantly and those who were unable to walk, were now doing so.
She encouraged parents to continue to focus on their children’s abilities, and not their disabilities.
Participants in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s Early Stimulation Programme (ESP), at the 2010 graduation ceremony held today (July 21) at the Apostolic Church of God Jamaica in Kingston.
Child Development Officer with the ESP, Maureen Crawford-Smith, informed that the programme’s services fall into two main categories – centre-based and community-based, with the former comprising clinical assessment, re-evaluation, reviews, physical therapy, speech therapy, parent orientation and counselling, and parent/staff training workshops.
“The community-based aspect entails home visits by specially trained early childhood workers called child development officers. These workers visit homes, basic schools, day care centres, private, as well as government institutions to train parents and caregivers to stimulate the child in the various areas of development such as language, cognitive, self-help, motor and socialisation,” she informed.
Administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the ESP caters to children, from birth to six years, with various types of developmental disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation; and children with various forms of mental and physical disabilities, and multiple disabilities.
These children are referred to the programme by hospitals, health centres, welfare clinics and basic schools, especially when they are not performing at the required levels, and by persons, who have benefited from the programme.
Since its inception in 1975, more than 30,000 children have benefited from the ESP, with approximately 6,000 placed in the primary education system. The programme started in Kingston and St. Andrew and is now in St. Catherine, St. Thomas and Portland.