The positive impact that the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP) has had on the lives of thousands of children with varying disabilities, through its many interventions, has been lauded by Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites.
“The ESP has come a far way and has evolved significantly over the years, which has contributed to the overall success of many individuals, who continue to excel in various capacities throughout the world,” the Minister said.
Rev. Thwaites was speaking at the ESP graduation ceremony, held on July 10 at the Apostolic Church of Jamaica, in Kingston Gardens.
Administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the ESP caters to children from birth to six years, with challenges, such as cerebral palsy, autism and mental retardation; and children with various forms of mental and physical disabilities, including multiple disabilities.
“Let us take into consideration the struggles and sacrifices that parents of children with special needs, caregivers, and the ESP staff undergo on a daily basis, in ensuring the wellbeing of these remarkable graduates who have done extremely well academically, despite their challenges,” the Minister said.
He noted that experience has shown that there is not always a happy ending, or a miracle cure, when dealing with disabled children, challenged by autism, cerebral palsy or paraplegia.
“Caring for special people, especially children, exhibit our value for human life in immeasurable ways, which many times are accompanied with mixed emotions. This is so because we do not understand the purposes and appreciate the logics of creation in all of its aspects. Nonetheless, it gives us a chance to reach beyond ourselves, in how we care and uplift those who are weakest in our midst,” the Minister said.
He added that there are happy moments in the lives of children with developmental disabilities, which are as a result of daily struggles and sacrifices that parents and caregivers make.
“Amidst the challenges faced, parents I urge you to retain a tremendous regard for the gift of your children, whether they can walk, speak, or attain great heights in the eyes of the world. Appreciate them, love them unconditionally, and look beyond their disabilities to the remarkable task of civilization, great or small, which you must lead,” the Minister said.
He pointed out that while the programme contributes significantly to uplifting children with special needs, much more can be done to better cater to the educational needs of such children, through private and public partnerships.
“The State cannot do it alone. So I am urging private sector companies and individuals to get on board, and support the ESP in its mission to reach out to children with special needs,” the Minister said.
For more information on the ESP, persons can contact the Ministry of Labour and Social Security at: 922-8000-13 or 922-5585.
Contact: Jeneva Gordon