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JIS News

Director of the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP), Antonica Gunter Gayle has urged parents and guardians who identify development delays in their children, to seek help early.
Failure to do early intervention could be a “very major setback”, the Director told JIS News. She advised parents to look out for signs of development delays in their children, such as disabilities in the area of learning, hearing impairment, slowness in speech for that age group, not sitting up, not rolling over at six months, not holding things, as well as children who are mentally retarded, environmentally retarded and troubled with Down Syndrome.
Emphasizing that parents should not delay getting their child assessed, she added that, “the opportunity for learning will become impaired or reduced. It sets the child back, or the child can regress”.
Outlining the method used in assessment, Mrs. Gunter Gayle said that the Denver Development Screening Test is used to assess the child every three months and this might be administered in the home or community centre, health centre, basic school or state run/private-run children’s homes.
She explained that the ESP provided support to parents whose children were slow in their development, and noted that early intervention would lead to substantial success. She pointed out that the child is assessed at home and from this, steps are taken which would benefit both child and parent.
Mrs. Gunter Gayle further encouraged parents to provide a stimulating environment for their children’s development, the absence of which would lead to environmentally retarded children.
“Environmentally retarded children lack stimulation in their environment, where the home is not conducive to learning and where the child is called hurtful names,” Mrs. Gunter Gayle said while addressing a recent JIS ‘Think Tank’.
As part of the programme, parents are encouraged to bond with their child as well as to stimulate the child’s sense of touch. Parents are counselled and given support and Child Development Officers engage in community work to increase acceptance of children with disabilities.
Included in the ESP’s intervention, Child Development Officers, who are trained in practical nursing, early childhood care and social work, show parents how to stimulate the child by making simple and inexpensive toys from things around the home.
Elaborating, Mrs. Gunter Gayle, who has 18 years of experience with the ESP, said that articles such as brightly coloured toothpaste boxes, macaroni boxes and cotton reels are used.
The Child Development Officer works closely with the parents to show them how to carry out the skills and activities necessary and this is done until the child is 6 years old.
As the child gets older and is placed in the School of Hope or a special education system, the programme follows up and reviews the child’s progress.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the ESP and some 300 children are seen by Child Development Officers who cover communities in the Kingston Metropolitan Area, Portmore, St. Andrew, Port Royal and Bull Bay. Since its inception, the ESP has benefited 11,500 Jamaican children. The ESP is an agency of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.