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Director of the Early Stimulation Programme in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Antonica Gunter-Gayle, has pointed out that over the last three years, public interest in the programme has grown significantly.
“Last year, we had 700 children up to October, and now we have 900 children in our programme, and a waiting list of 110,” Mrs. Gunter-Gayle said at a recent JIS ‘Think Tank’.
The Early Stimulation Programme is an extension of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, that provides an assessment and early intervention programme for children with disabilities, from birth to six years old.
Mrs. Gunter-Gayle explained that the increased interest and over subscription for the programme has resulted from the fact that basic schools and hospitals are identifying the problems that these children face, and are referring them to the Programme.
“What we have also realised is that there are very few programmes for children with disabilities and this is the only public one. The private ones are very expensive, and that is why our programme is oversubscribed,” she said.
The Director also noted that the Early Stimulation’s two year-old Child Development Centre, has also been oversubscribed.
“Our school (the Child Development Centre) also has a waiting list of over 35 children to be placed. So, there are a number of children who are in dire need of early intervention service,” she said.
Mrs. Gunter-Gayle stressed that because the early intervention programme is from birth to six years, children cannot leave before it has been completed.
“When the children come on the programme, whatever age that is, they don’t leave until age six. So, persons will have to wait until space is available,” she said, adding that if the problem is not fully corrected, they are referred to the School of Hope.
Mrs. Gunter-Gayle urged parents not to be deterred, because they have to wait, as they would be assisted.
“We have a number of success stories. Parents have come back to us and said that their child who was refused by schools, is now in University,” she said.
The Programme offers services, such as professional identification and assessment of developmental disabilities in pre-school children; formulating and implementing specific intervention programmes catering to the individual needs of children, with the assistance of parents; and the provision of home-based teaching, in order to minimise the need for institutionalised care.