KINGSTON — Thirty five children, some with severe mental and physical disabilities, were presented with certificates on Tuesday July 19, 2011, for successfully completing the intervention curriculum of the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP).
Some of the students are to be placed in special education classes at the primary level, while others will join the regular school system.
Speaking at the graduation exercise at the Apostolic Church of Jamaica, Kingston, Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles, said that while the education of children with disabilities is supported by the Child Care and Protection Act, the Ministry is preparing the Disabilities Act to provide protection, on a human rights basis, for all persons with disabilities
“I am fully committed to this process and will endeavour to bring this document to Parliament soon,” Mr. Charles assured the audience.
The ESP caters to children, from birth to six years, with various types of developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation, as well as those with various forms of mental and physical disabilities. The programme also provides developmental assistance and a chance to reach their full potential.
The 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.
Mr. Charles said the ability to read and write is the foundation for learning successfully in all subjects, pointing out that what the graduates have achieved is “great encouragement” and “says something” about their ability to compete, despite their physical challenges.
Mr. Charles thanked parents and caregivers for not “hiding” the children, as would have happened previously, but allowing them to maximise their full potential.
Director of the ESP, Antonica Gunter-Gayle, said that students who, at the start of the programme, could not speak were now talking incessantly, and those who were unable to walk, were doing so now. She encouraged parents to continue to focus on their children’s abilities, and not their disabilities.
Administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security since 1975, more than 30,000 children have already benefited from the ESP. The programme started in Kingston and St. Andrew and has since been extended to St. Catherine, St. Thomas and Portland.
By CHRIS PATTERSON, JIS Reporter