JIS News

Pre-school children with mental and learning disabilities are benefiting from much-needed special education, stimulation and care, at the Early Stimulation School located on Austin Close downtown Kingston.
The school, which opened in September, is a project of the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP), which operates under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
The school’s curriculum is geared towards helping special needs children grasp cognitive, language, socialization, fine and gross motor skills, while providing physiotherapy. It is part of government’s efforts to provide a comprehensive system for detecting and treating children with developmental delays.
So far, some 18 children are benefiting from the services provided by the school, and according to Antonica Gunter-Gayle, Director of the ESP, the demand is overwhelming. “We are making room for another 30 (students) come January (2007) because the space is there and the need is great to give placement,” she tells JIS News.
Outlining the operations at the new school, Mrs. Gunter-Gayle explains that unlike regular schools, children are not grouped according to their biological age but according to their chronological or mental age.
“For the class setting, we have five children in one class because we cannot put too many special needs children in one class because you have to spend time with them.we work with them according to their development,” she explains.
Mrs. Gunter-Hunter says that the institution is filling the need for more programmes for children with special needs.
“While there is a lot of attention being given to early childhood education, the parents still feel that there is not enough focus on children with special needs, hence we saw where there was a great need for schools for these children in the early stage, from three to six years, ” she says.
“Most of the nurseries and other basic schools were saying ‘we can’t take these children, we don’t know how to (care for them). There is not enough space for children with disabilities, our schools are not ready for these kinds of children’,” she adds.
The ESP, which was established in 1975, is administered by the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) and caters for children 0-6 years with autism, mental retardation, attention deficit disorders, cerebral palsy and downs syndrome. Given the early success of the three-month-old school, Mrs.
Gunter-Gayle says there are already plans to replicate the institution in other communities outside of Kingston.

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