Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Andrew Gallimore, wants Jamaican citizens to become more considerate of persons, especially children, with disabilities.
“I urge every well-thinking Jamaican to recognise that disabilities can affect each and every one of us. We should all do our little part to create a society that makes persons with disabilities feel like first class citizens, and have all the liberties and freedoms that the rest of us have,” he said in an interview with JIS News.
Mr. Gallimore was visiting the Stimulation Plus Child Development Centre, in Kingston, Wednesday (May 13), where he read stories to students and toured the facility.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Andrew Gallimore, greets students of Class 2 when he visited the Stimulation Plus Child Development Centre in Kingston on May 13.
The Centre evolved out of the Labour Ministry’s Early Stimulation Programme, which was started in 1975. The Programme provides developmental assessment and early intervention for children who exhibit some form of developmental delay from birth to six years.
He noted that the Early Stimulation Programme was gradually changing the culture of ostracising disabled persons.
“For many decades now, there have been children that are affected with different forms of disabilities, who are basically shunned by the rest of society. They are hidden away by their immediate families and not allowed to become fully socialised. What operations such as Early Childhood Stimulation are doing, is that they are providing an outlet to socialise these children, to integrate them, somewhat, into the society,” the State Minister said.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Andrew Gallimore (right) engages in a light moment with Programme Director for the Ministry’s Early Stimulation Programme, Antonica Gunter-Gayle, during his visit to the Stimulation Plus Child Development Centre in Kingston on May 13.
He noted that the population of students at the Stimulation Plus Child Development Centre was growing significantly.
“This means that a cultural shift is taking place in that people are more comfortable. They know that there is help available, and they know that the Early Stimulation Programme will give their children the best chance at development that they have,” he said.
The Centre, which has a population of 70 special needs students, operates as a basic school and caters to students aged three to six living with disabilities such as down syndrome, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, behavioural problems and mental retardation, among others.
According to the Programme Director for the Early Stimulation Programme, Antonica Gunter-Gayle, the students are given specialised attention and care at the Centre.
“They are placed in a smaller classroom setting, where one on one attention is given to them, because we believe that all children, more so the child with a disability, need the sort of stimulation and early intervention to develop their potential,” she noted.
A teacher at the Centre, Joy Smithware, encouraged parents not to limit their children with special needs.
“I would encourage parents who have children with special needs not to give up, because there is hope. They have possibility, they have potential. They can be anything they want to be; you can’t limit them,” she pleaded.
Ms. Smithware, said she has also benefited from the programme, as her first child was diagnosed with down syndrome.
“I thank God for the Early Stimulation Programme that has really given me the hope to carry on,” she said.