Sat | Sep 26, 2020

Caregivers making life easier for children with disabilities…

Published:Monday | September 16, 2019 | 12:05 AMLynford Simpson/Gleaner Writer - -
Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson presents Dandre Simpson with a backpack and certificate at the Early Stimulation Programme transitional exercise, held at the Apostolic Church of Jamaica Bethel Temple, Kingston Gardens, on July 10. Caregivers believe children with disabilities can succeed if they are given adequate support.
Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson presents Dandre Simpson with a backpack and certificate at the Early Stimulation Programme transitional exercise, held at the Apostolic Church of Jamaica Bethel Temple, Kingston Gardens, on July 10. Caregivers believe children with disabilities can succeed if they are given adequate support.

She is a shadow, a teaching assistant in the special education unit at the Ocho Rios Primary School which, at the end of the last school term, had 47 students with varying mental (including intellectual and learning) and physical disabilities.

Nadine Grant supports a young boy with cerebral palsy, which affects his movement.

Mrs Grant assists the boy with his writing. She first transfers what is written on the board by the teacher, on to a smaller board so the youngster can then write at his pace. Even then, she helps him with the actual writing.

Grant spoke with The Gleaner news team during a recent visit to the school’s special education unit, which examined some of the challenges faced by educators who deal with children with disabilities.

“I enjoy my work. Apart from just being a shadow I am mommy because of all the things I have to do for him from time to time,” Grant said with a broad smile.”

Grant has a natural love for children, she herself being a mother of eight. Before joining the team at Ocho Rios Primary, Grant taught at a basic school for 26 years.

“At the end of the day it’s fulfilling,” she said when asked about her job.

“You see where a child comes in and you watch his improvement until you see where he can move on to a regular class. It’s very rewarding,” she stated.

“If you see how far some of them have come, it just blows your mind and I wouldn’t change it for anything,” she said while beaming with pride.

Children with disabilities falling between the cracks

Although she is a mother of eight, Grant said it has never been about the money. She said more needs to be done to sensitise the public on the needs of persons with disabilities, in particular children. She lamented that some children are being left out of the formal education system because of their disability.

“They are brilliant kids, they are brilliant kids. You only need to be patient with them,” said Grant.

Meanwhile, caregiver for the past four years in the special education unit, Kamal Parkes Moulton, plays an indispensable role in helping the regular classroom teachers get the subject matter across to their challenged students.

Her primary role is to assist the teacher in reinforcing lessons. For example, if mathematics is being taught and there is a child who is not grasping the subject matter, she will take that child outside the classroom for a one-on-one session.

“I will try to break it down as simple as possible for them to understand,” Mrs Parkes Moulton explained.

She also helps the children with their hygiene and with their lunch.

Parkes Moulton must be alert at all times, especially when the children are playing in order to prevent accidents, since some are unable to walk or otherwise get around easily.

As to how rewarding her job is, Parkes Moulton, said: “It gives me the opportunity to realise that anybody can have a child that is special and it also teaches me how to cater for people that are special, especially when you have children who have seizures,” she said.

“It makes me know how to work with even adults as I have learnt a lot while working with the children in the unit.”

Parkes Moulton also made an appeal for more equipment and toys and “things that could assist [the children] to write, as some of them are unable to grip a pencil.”

“We need some very basic things like skipping ropes and balls,” she said.

Although most children may take these things for granted, Parkes Moulton said it would help the children in the special education unit to develop their motor skills and help them to lead as normal a life as possible.