JIS News

The Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College (SSTC) in Granville, St. James has partnered with the Kiwanis Club of Montego Freeport, to provide support and training services for parents and caregivers of children with learning and intellectual disabilities.

The entities have launched a parent support group and training series, which will better equip parents to care for their special needs children.

Special Educator at the Sam Sharpe Diagnostic and Early Intervention Centre, through which the programme will be executed, Joshcia Lawrence-Brown, said that the pandemic has highlighted the need for the intervention.

She noted that during the periods of lockdown, many parents and caregivers struggled with providing proper care for their charges, including home schooling, as many were not equipped to cope.

She said that while families that use the diagnostic and early intervention centre are at varying points of their parenting experience, with some better able than others to respond to their children’s needs, everyone will benefit from the assistance being provided through the parent support group and training series.

Speaking to JIS News, Centre Manager, Tracey Ann Pinnock, explained that the services will cater to all parents of children with disabilities from spectrums of autism, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning and intellectual disabilities, and speech delay.

She said that the facility will focus on two aspects of support – parent education / training, which includes tips for relating to picky eaters, at home strategies for toilet training, behaviour management techniques, at home speech therapy activities and preparing for the teenage years; and discussion sessions where parents can share and learn from each other in a relaxed setting.

The support group and training series will run for a set period and feature monthly meetings.

President of the Kiwanis Club of Montego Freeport, Stokely Reid, in his remarks at the launch, said that the initiative is in keeping with the club’s commitment to making a difference in the lives of children of communities in which it serves.

Principal of SSTC, Dr. Lorna Gow-Morrison, informed that the parent support group and training series also has the support of several stakeholders, among them, Community-based Rehabilitation Jamaica, the Ministry of Education and Youth, and the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD).

She noted that the centre is also assisting students, who have demonstrated regression in speech and motor skills development, and general learning loss while they were at home due to the pandemic.

Guest speaker at the launch, Family Literacy Specialist, Dr. Hixwel Douglas, hailed parents of children with special needs are “superheroes”, who are achieving “miracles.”

“Parents, you encourage your children with special needs to do things doctors, relatives and friends say they would never be able to do, and you prove a lot of them wrong,” he said.

Dr. Douglas is a Sam Sharpe Teacher’s College alumnus, who has excelled despite his visual disability.

He encouraged the parents to remain strong individually, and to work collectively for better results.

The Sam Sharpe Diagnostic and Early Intervention Centre is a government-owned institution established in 2018 to meet the growing demands for psychoeducational assessment of children in western Jamaica.

The facility caters to children with a wide range of special education needs in keeping with the Ministry of Education and Youth’s, mantra that ‘every child can learn, every child must learn.’

Among its services are diagnosing and remediating school-aged children with learning challenges indicative of a disability or exceptionality.

The institution’s Principal said that since the facility started offering services, academic intervention has been provided for approximately 150 students, 11 of whom could not read at all, and others doing so at levels way below what is considered normal standard for their infant school age-group.

Assessment and intervention services provided have enabled the placement of primary school-age children in a classroom for the first time.

There are two volunteer psychologists, who treat children with behavioural problems, and the diagnostic centre continues to provide public education on special needs and psychoeducational assessment.

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