Educator calls for greater collaboration to transition special-needs students
A lack of information is hindering the process of transition of special-needs students in primary schools, according to Heather Lyn, education officer for special education in the Ministry of Education.
She was addressing the Abilities Transition Conference hosted by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica.
"A lack of information is hindering the process of transition from home to school, grade to grade, school to school, and school into the wider community," said Lyn, who has responsibility for the supervision of special education programmes in primary schools.
"There needs to be greater collaboration among parents, school personnel, agencies and the community to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to the support they may need at each stage of transition."
The conference, which was held at the Mandeville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Manchester was the second of two such conferences and formed part of the Special Needs Awareness Week, which started on March 7 and climaxed last Saturday with Special Needs Awareness Day services at selective Adventist Church locations across Jamaica.
"There needs to be a greater awareness that persons with disabilities have abilities and can contribute significantly to their growth, well-being and the society," Lyn said in her presentation.
"Parents need to become greater advocates for their children and empower them to become their own advocates."
Figures from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica reveal that there are approximately 785,000 or approximately 28 per cent of Jamaicans living with a form of disability.
During the conference, Pastor Everett Brown, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica, explained how special-needs awareness forms part of the church's strategic objectives.
"Today, the Adventist Church in Jamaica more than ever recognises that it has a God-given responsibility to minister to and serve those persons with physical and other challenges in our congregations. But more than that, we believe that we must also create an environment that is conducive for these persons and those in the wider society to equally participate in the mission of the church."
Brown further stated that the vision for Special Needs Ministry is more than a ministry of compassion, but that it is the church's intention to focus the ministry through acceptance, accessibility and inclusion for all who have special needs.
"We must make all our buildings special-needs friendly. In the construction of all our buildings, especially our places of worship, we must make provision for those with disabilities to not only access the main sanctuary, but also access the platform and other facilities of the church building. Our vision is to have a wheelchair available at all our churches and church offices throughout Jamaica."
Six wheelchairs were handed out during the conferences.