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JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Portland branch of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s Early Stimulation Programme (ESP) is set to be completed by midyear.
  • The Programme’s Director, Antonica Gunter Gayle, told JIS News that when finished, the early intervention centre will be equipped with all the requisite resources.
  • The ESP is a community based rehabilitation programme where child development officers, who are trained in special early childhood education, go out and assess special needs children from birth to six years old in their homes, Government-run children’s homes and nurseries.

The Portland branch of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s Early Stimulation Programme (ESP) is set to be completed by midyear.

The Programme’s Director, Antonica Gunter Gayle, told JIS News that when finished, the early intervention centre will be equipped with all the requisite resources.

“We should have an administrative block, assessment and therapy rooms, at least five bathrooms and a kitchen,” she informed.

The facility, for which ground was broken in October last year, is being constructed through a $30 million donation from the Digicel Foundation. It will accommodate some 100 special needs children from Portland and surrounding areas.The current facility in the parish caters to just over 50 students.

According to Mrs. Gunter Gayle, the Stimulation–Plus (STIM PLUS) Early Childhood Development Centre, which was constructed in February 2014 has surpassed expectations.

“Parents are elated and are overwhelmed, especially for those persons who have seen the progress of the children. It has given them hope,” she said.

STIM PLUS is a centre-based programme carried out in a school setting in which students, from three to six years old, are engaged in a structured teaching and learning programme.

Mrs. Gunter Gayle also pointed out that the ESP continues to impact the lives of children with special needs.

“I have spoken with parents who never knew that their child would be able to be in a school setting and it means a lot to them to look and their child with a disability [learning and progressing],” she said.

The ESP is a community based rehabilitation programme where child development officers, who are trained in special early childhood education, go out and assess special needs children from birth to six years old in their homes, Government-run children’s homes and nurseries. After the assessment is completed, individual programmes are then crafted for the children.

The Director is encouraging parents and guardians to seek help early for their child if they suspect they may have either physical or mental challenges.

“Take the child to the nearest health centre or a stimulation programme or a private doctor to get the child assessed or screened to see if the child will need additional support. Do not wait until it is too late, but seek intervention as early as possible to prevent their condition from worsening or to prevent regression,” she emphasised.