Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, says he is pleased with the efforts that parents of children with special needs have made over the years, despite the many challenges they face on a daily basis.
"There is no escaping this challenge, and as such, we all need to understand as a society, that the challenges can be enormous, whether they are financial, educational, medical, social, marital, or psychological," he said.
The Minister was speaking at the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP) graduation ceremony, held on July 11 at the Apostolic Church of Jamaica, Kingston Gardens.
He pointed out that the best thing that the society can do as a demonstration of maturity, and as a developing nation, is to remind these courageous parents that they are not alone while caring for children with special needs.
Mr. Kellier argued that in order for the wider society to effectively understand children with disabilities, there is a need for self education.
"More Jamaicans need to come to the realisation that raising and caring for a child with a disability, takes a toll on the parents and the family. We can never ever say enough by way of praise and support to those parents who take on these challenges on a daily basis,” he said.
The Minister explained that experience has shown that there is not always a happy ending, or a miracle cure when dealing with children with disabilities, and those challenged by autism, cerebral palsey or paraplegia.
"We often forget that parents of children with disabilities undertake a monumental task of caring for them, not because they hope for some Hollywood ending, but because they love their children. They simply do what they need to do, without knowing they have the strength and determination to care for their young ones,” Mr. Kellier said.
However, he pointed out that there are indeed happy moments in the lives of children with developmental disabilities, resulting from the daily struggles and sacrifices that parents and caregivers make.
“Some children with special needs require constant medical care, therapy, and additional attention, so that they can function effectively,” he said.
The Minister told JIS News that the Ministry is committed to doing more to improving the quality of service for the disabled community, seeing the many challenges faced by parents and caregivers.
Mr. Kellier lauded the work of the ESP staff, which contributed to the overall success of the graduating class, and many others who have benefitted from the programme.
“I salute the devotion and commitment of the team at the ESP, who continue to do an outstanding job, to encourage children with special needs to be the best they can be,” he said.
A total of 45 students graduated from the programme, and will be placed in regular primary schools, as well as special education institutions in St. Catherine, Kingston and St. Andrew.
By Jeneva Gordon, JIS PRO