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  • Children at the early childhood level who are experiencing a range of learning disabilities can now receive specialized assistance through the Screening, Assessment and Very Early Remedial (SAVER) project of the Voluntary Organisation for the Upliftment of Children (VOUCH).
  • The programme, which is offered at the VOUCH basic school at 1 National Heroes Park, will provide diagnostic services and support to children in the early childhood category from 2 years to 5 years 11 months
  • The objective of the programme is to screen, evaluate, remediate and refer students at the earliest possible stage, which will ultimately optimize the performance of the students, while optimizing the use of resources of the education system.

Children at the early childhood level who are experiencing a range of learning disabilities can now receive specialized assistance through the Screening, Assessment and Very Early Remedial (SAVER) project of the Voluntary Organisation for the Upliftment of Children (VOUCH).

The programme, which is offered at the VOUCH basic school at 1 National Heroes Park, will provide diagnostic services and support to children in the early childhood category from 2 years to 5 years 11 months.

The objective of the programme is to screen, evaluate, remediate and refer students at the earliest possible stage, which will ultimately optimize the performance of the students, while optimizing the use of resources of the education system.

Details of the facility were revealed during a launch of the initiative at the premises of VOUCH in Kingston, on January 14.

Speaking at the ceremony, Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, said the facility is crucial as assessing children at the earliest possible age will assist tremendously in lowering the money spent on remediation within the education sector annually.

He added that the initiative indicates a new recognition of the transformative effect of early diagnosis and treatment.

“This must become a place of hope for all parents…who perceive a challenge with their child. It must become the respite for teachers who have a child in an early childhood institution setting where there is an obvious need for more skill, more assessment, more acute therapy that they themselves are able to give,” he said.

The Minister informed that already, 17 children requiring assistance have been identified for assistance, and urged parents to seek the necessary assistance whenever they realize that their child need special help.

Rev. Thwaites noted that approximately 30 per cent of children who enter grade one at the primary level are judged unready for the formal education system.

“Many of the aspects which render the children unready, have to do with easily corrected physical challenges,” he said, noting that in some cases, additional intervention may be required.

He pointed out that 14 per cent of the budget allocated to the education sector is applied to early childhood and special education. He said it is the intention of the Ministry to increase this allocation.

In the meantime, the Minister commended the MICO Care Centre for the sterling role it has been playing in assisting older children with learning disabilities.

The programme at the MICO Care Centre targets children between four and 12 years old, who are still failing in school, despite special interventions provided in the regular education system.

It also caters to children, who may not have an observable disability, but display emotional and behavioural problems, which inhibit learning; children in special schools, who may manifest an additional disability; children 13 to 18 years, who are experiencing difficulties in reading, language arts, and mathematics; and children who have a high intelligence quotient (IQ), but are underachieving.

The Minister said that additional Care Centres will be opened in Manchester, St. James and Portland later this year.

Meanwhile, Project Manager, Dr. Polly Bowes Howell, explained that the initiative is to ensure that students at the earliest levels are catered to from the onset and to “get them ready for primary school.”

The project is supported by a partnership among several stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association and the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI).

 

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