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JIS News

Six child development officers from the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP) have been deployed to the parish of Portland to provide specialized assistance to a number of children with developmental disabilities.
Speaking with JIS News, Director of the ESP, Antonica Gunter Gayle explained that the organization’s presence in the parish was a collaborative effort between the Ministries of Labour and Social Security and Education.
“What we find is that there are a number of children with various types of development disabilities coming to us from Portland and sometimes it is difficult for the parents or caregivers to travel to Kingston, so we have taken the programme out there where we will be working with approximately 100 children,” Mrs. Gunter Gayle pointed out.
Outlining how the programme would work, the Director explained that after the children are assessed, the parents are then invited to an orientation where the findings of the assessment are discussed and they are informed of the special intervention programme that would be tailored to meet the developmental needs of the child. The cases will then be assigned to the various child development officers who will visit the children in their homes with the intervention programme.
“They will be showing the parents how to assist their children, because we think that parents are the main teachers of the child, so we are expecting that they will be a part of the intervention,” she said.
She informed that after the first three months of the programme, follow-up reviews and evaluations are conducted of each participant. This, she noted, would be conducted at the Buff Bay Health Centre where the team is located.
“Early intervention is better than having the child at home with no intervention; therefore if you suspect that your child has a disability or is not developing at the age that he or she should, you should check with your health centre or visit the nearest intervention centre to get your child assessed,” she advised.
Mrs. Gunter Gayle acknowledged that while it was a challenge working with special needs children, if they are given the opportunity, they could perform well. “We need to understand that and really give these children the opportunity that they need,” she said.
She also told JIS News that the ESP is presently looking at deploying a number of child development officers to St. Thomas as a result of the high concentration of children with disabilities in that parish as well. “We do have a good concentration of children coming to us from there and currently our child development officers go as far as 11 Miles in St. Thomas,” she pointed out.
The ESP serves children with various types of developmental disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation, children with various forms of mental and physical disabilities, and multiple disabilities.
These children are referred to the programme by various agencies, such as 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.
“We also offer physical therapy if the child is disabled, and counselling for the parent who is having a problem in accepting that their child is disabled, because when there is a problem in accepting this, it is harder to work with the child,” the Director explained.
The ESP is a special intervention programme of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. Over 15,000 children have passed through the programme since its inception in 1975.