How to tell if your child has special education needs
Every parent thinks his/her child is the most special little person they have ever met, but what if your child is different? What if your child is not developing at the pace you think he/she should be? What do you do? diGJamaica has embarked on a quest to help parents recognise developmental challenges in their children and where to find help.
WHAT IS SPECIAL EDUCATION?
Special education or special, needs education is the tailoring of the education programme to suit the needs of students in a way that accommodates students' individual needs and differences. These differences can include physical disability and or mental and intellectual challenges. Ideally, this involves an individually planned and systematically monitored arrangement of teaching procedures, equipment, and materials, accessible settings, and other methods and measures designed to help students achieve a higher level of self-sufficiency and success in school and community than would be available if the student wasn a part of the general education system.
'IS MY CHILD OK?' DIAGNOSING SPECIAL NEEDS
No one knows your child better than you do, therefore, you would probably be the first to recognise that something is wrong. If you do notice that 'something is not quite right', bring it to your child's doctor's attention. The sooner that treatment starts, the better chance you have of minimising the impact of the disability.
There are some disabilities and challenges that present themselves physically like Down's Syndrome or paralysis, but there are others that might be more subtle. Here are some things to look out for at the preschool level:
• Problems with speech, including pronunciation or learning new words
• Problems following simple instructions
• Difficulty with rhyming
• Difficulty learning the alphabet or learning to count
• Problems with motor skills such as walking, skipping, running, or balancing
• Struggles with fine motor skills such as button or zipping his clothes, grasping or manipulating small objects, using scissors, colouring or painting
• Difficulty learning colours, shapes or other concepts
• Difficulty staying focused and paying attention
• Trouble making friends or interacting with peers
• Easily angered or frustrated, may throw temper tantrums.
HOW ARE THESE SPECIAL NEEDS DIAGNOSED?
Parents have to know their child and observe when something seems amiss. If parents believe that something is wrong, they should carry the child to the doctor for a medical review. The doctor will assess the development of the child. At this point, challenges such as vision or auditory challenges can be identified. Sometimes the reason for a child's difficulty at school could simply be poor vision or a build-up of wax in the ear, but at other times, there could be more serious health complications.
If a special challenge is identified, there is a referral process that takes place so that the child can be enrolled in a special-education programme.
WHERE CAN PARENTS FIND SUPPORT/GET HELP?
• Child's doctor/local clinic
• School administration
• Ministry of Social Security (14 National Heroes Circle, Tel: 876-922-8000-9; Toll Free: 1-888-991-2089)
All parents with special-needs children must register them at the Ministry of Social Security's Early Stimulation Programme. If you need financial assistance, the child can be placed on the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).
• For more information on how to educate children with special needs in Jamaica, see diGJamaica's website: http://www.diGJamaica.com/special_education. diGJamaica is the Gleaner's research and data website built specifically to address a need to make data about Jamaica more accessible, relatable, easy to use, and easy to understand.