Advertisement
JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Helping to reach disabled children and to help parents understand their children’s disabilities are no ordinary feat, but Director of the Early Childhood Stimulation Programme (ESP), Antonica Gunter-Gayle is certainly up to the task.
  • Her staff, who met recently with Labour and Social Security Minister, Hon. Shahine Robinson during a tour of the Stimulation Plus (STIM-PLUS) Early Childhood Development Centre, described their job as challenging, but rewarding, especially in helping the children to overcome certain challenges.
  • Education, Youth and Information Minister, Senator, the Hon. Ruel Reid, at the 2nd Biennial Advancement in Education Summit held at Jamaica College on March 23, gave a commitment from the Government to focus on special education to determine the real extent of the special learning needs among those students.

Helping to reach disabled children and to help parents understand their children’s disabilities are no ordinary feat, but Director of the Early Childhood Stimulation Programme (ESP), Antonica Gunter-Gayle is certainly up to the task.

Through the community-based rehabilitation component of the ESP, Mrs. Gunter-Gayle leads a team, which tries to meet the needs of children across the island suffering from autism, Down syndrome, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, among others.

“What we do is try to visit these children and carry out intervention with them in areas that they are weak or slow in. Some of the children are seen at home, some….are seen at the nursery and some of them are seen at school,” said Mrs. Gunter Gayle in a JIS News interview.

Developing a child’s weak or slow areas can include helping them to develop their pincer grasps properly. In order to do this, the ESP Director noted that parents and caregivers need to be actively involved in the process, by utilizing elements as simple as everyday household items.

“In dealing with a child to develop touch sensation, we say to parents, get some rice in a saucer or dish and open the child’s palm or hands and rub it in. Get peas, sand or stone, find things to help the child to grow,” she said.

The ESP Director has labelled the programme a success, insofar as it helps to develop the cognitive abilities of some disabled children.

“We are excited about the community based programme for this reason. It gives the children a chance to be seen at home. If it were not for this programme, it would be challenging to take the children into the centres to be seen. To lift a child with a hydrocephalus head or a child with spastic quadriplegia would be difficult,” she said.

However, Mrs. Gunter-Gayle acknowledged that there are some challenges that relate to readily accessing the residency of the disabled children and the acceptance of the disabilities by some parents.

To remedy the parental denial, Mrs. Gunter- Gayle said parents are taken through a process of counselling and are involved in a support group, which makes them more amenable.

Her staff, who met recently with Labour and Social Security Minister, Hon. Shahine Robinson during a tour of the Stimulation Plus (STIM-PLUS) Early Childhood Development Centre, described their job as challenging, but rewarding, especially in helping the children to overcome certain challenges.

The Minister, on her visit, praised them for their hard work and called them the “true unsung heroes” of Jamaica. Mrs. Gunter-Gayle noted that this visit by the Minister signalled her commitment to working with the ESP to achieve their goals.

Education, Youth and Information Minister, Senator, the Hon. Ruel Reid, at the 2nd Biennial Advancement in Education Summit held at Jamaica College on March 23, gave a commitment from the Government to focus on special education to determine the real extent of the special learning needs among those students.

This, he said, is to be done in order to apply effective teaching and learning strategies to aid the students.