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JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Early Stimulation Programme (ESP) has been transforming lives and making the future brighter for youngsters with varying types of developmental disabilities since 1975.
  • Administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the ESP, which is an extension of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, is an assessment and early intervention programme for children with disabilities from birth to six years old.
  • The programme serves clients from across the island with the concentration of work in the Kingston and St. Andrew metropolitan area, St. Catherine and Portland.

The Early Stimulation Programme (ESP) has been transforming lives and making the future brighter for youngsters with varying types of developmental disabilities since 1975.

Administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the ESP, which is an extension of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, is an assessment and early intervention programme for children with disabilities from birth to six years old.

The programme serves clients from across the island with the concentration of work in the Kingston and St. Andrew metropolitan area, St. Catherine and Portland.

Director of the Early Stimulation Programme, Antonica Gunter-Gayle tells JIS News that a number of improvement projects are set to be implemented, which is aimed at providing students with resources to improve the quality of their learning experience.

Among the list of improvement projects include, the construction of a new building on the site of the school located at 95 Hanover Street Downtown, Kingston.

Mrs. Gunter Gayle informs that the Ministry of Labour and Social Security is in dialogue with the Inter-American Development Bank, regarding funding for construction of the building, which will include a refurbished assessment and therapy centre.

“The centre will be used to evaluate the students in the ESP programme to determine their learning needs. It will also be used to facilitate assessments and design of personalized early interventions for children suffering from varying developmental disorders and physical disabilities,” she explains.

Also, the construction of the programme’s Portland centre has been completed through a $30 million donation from the Digicel Foundation.

“The building itself is finished, but other things such as the handing over has not been done yet. Also, the Ministry is in the process of staffing and putting the necessary things in place so that by late September the school may be opened,” she says.

In addition to ensuring that the physical structures are in place for the new term, Mrs. Gunter-Gaye says that measures have been put in place to enhance the children’s learning experience.

“A large part of the success, of the programme is the effort that is made in engaging the students in various extracurricular activities. All the students will be involved in activities such as Cub Scouts and dancing. We will also have a regular music teacher at the institution at the end of September. These activities help to improve the students’ mental and physical processes,” she informs.

Upgrading work also is underway at the Programme’s Kingston campus for the 120 students that are enrolled for the new academic school year.

One of the improvement projects that have been undertaken at the institution is the provision, of a learning resource centre for the students.

Mrs. Gunter Gayle says that the resource centre is an excellent addition to the services provided by the ESP to assist in providing the best educational resources to these special needs students.

International Game Technology (IGT), formally called GTECH, has donated nine computers to the school and also furnished the centre with computer desks and chairs for the students. The learning centre is housed in a converted classroom at the school’s Kingston campus at 1A Ostend Avenue in Kingston.

“We are glad to have this resource centre, because it will assist our special needs students in learning by way of the computer and internet. It is important that we provide our students with every advantage so that they will have a chance at leading productive and successful adult lives,” she notes.

The Labour Ministry is also providing the school with specialized wheelchairs, walkers and teaching aids with the assistance of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) to be used in the new school term.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Gunter-Gayle says that coaching the parents is also an important aspect of preparing for every new school term.

“We had our orientation session for new parents coming on board. Some of the children are going to school for the first time at four and five years old and they have various kinds of disabilities such as cerebral palsy and intellectual impairment. This can be a very emotional experience for parents, so we help them to go through the process of allowing their child to take this important step in becoming more independent,” she says.

She further notes that educating these special needs children, is only achieved in partnership with the parents.

“We train our parents in what they can do to ensure that what the child learns at school is continued and reinforced at home. You have to be consistent when working with these children or they will regress and we don’t want that to happen,” she states.

The Director says that the school aims to continually improve upon the programme’s offerings to provide the best educational resources for their students.

She says that these efforts have paid off, as most of the students under their care make significant improvements which enable them to graduate from the programme and move on to other institutions where they continue to pursue further studies.

“We graduate about 35 students per year. About 20 percent of these children matriculate to the regular school system while the others move on to other special education programmes. Children who go on to the regular school system have been enrolled in traditional high schools such as Woolmer’s Boys School, Jamaica College, Kingston College, a number of schools and they have done well,” she states.