Monitor child health from birth - Reid
Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid wants attention to be given to the educational requirements of special needs students, including those with autism.
Reid made the call during his keynote address at the opening ceremony for the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College’s new diagnostic and early intervention centre in Montego Bay, St. James on Tuesday.
The centre was constructed at a cost of over J$72 million, which included a C$100,000 (J$10,279,995.12) contribution from the Canadian government. It is designed to provide diagnostic and therapeutic services and early intervention for children in western Jamaica. A mobile facility will also be established to provide greater regional access to the centre’s services.
In his address, Reid said children’s health must begin from the womb and be carried out at the community level.
“We have to start from in the belly [womb] and support those mothers who need good nutrition. We have to go back to when we used to have community health aides to make sure that once you’re pregnant, you get certain medicinal services, and I want to see where we track every child that’s born and make sure they’re developing appropriately, and where there’s need for early intervention, it takes place,” said Reid.
The minister noted that approximately 70 per cent of the Jamaican population are affected by special needs issues, with more boys than girls being on the autism spectrum.
“I would say that as high as 70 per cent of our population could very well have spectrums of special needs between mild to severe. Indeed, statistically, one in every 42 of our boys and one in 167 of our girls are autistic, and that’s only one of the special needs,” said Reid.
“We have to educate our parents that our children are wonderful and special, but they are not all equal because what used to happen is that parents felt ashamed if their child had any developmental challenges. Not only do they require special attention, but they’ll require longer time in the education system, if necessary.”