Fri | Feb 21, 2020

NY professor: Don’t diss disabled students

Published:Thursday | December 5, 2019 | 3:54 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer

New York-based professor Dr Donna Wright has urged Jamaicans to invest in the talents of the special-needs community, especially those in schools, to enhance their contribution to national development.

Wright, who is originally from Jamaica, was the guest speaker at yesterday’s Disability Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston.

She said that the journey to holistic development begins with a society learning first how to respect people with disabilities.

The conference was hosted by the Special Education Unit within the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, in partnership with the Digicel Foundation and Wisynco.

“If we look at the future, everyone has to be educated and have mastery if the country is to grow. Everyone needs to be able to read and do mathematics up to calculus.

“I propose we start where we are. We have centres throughout the island; special education centres. I say, we build on that.”

Wright stressed that the disabled will not advance economically or otherwise if they continue to be marginalised. She condemned the practice of some parents who kept disabled children at home because of shame, which ultimately displaced them further.

“Neglect and keeping them at home happens in America, too. Inclusion cannot just be something done in schools. It requires a societal response,” the City University of New York professor said.

“We need each other. Everyone has something to give. God does not make junk.

“Everybody has something. When we think we are better than the next person, we have a problem. You are not better than anybody. When we get up in the mornings, we do the same things.”

Highlighting the importance of increasing the supply of special education teachers in Jamaica, Wright pointed to their strengths of accommodating students at different functional levels.

“They have the ability to arrange subcomponents in a developmental framework. That way, they are able to say, ‘Oh, you did not learn this is that and, therefore, we have to go back to this,” added Wright, who also advocated flexible classroom pedagogy.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com