The Nathan Ebanks Foundation (NEF), a local non-profit organisation that supports persons with disabilities, recently hosted its Sixth Annual Special Needs Conference Expo in a bid to educate teachers, medical professionals and caregivers about programmes, products and services designed to improve the lives of physically and mentally challenged individuals.
The four-day forum, which was hosted under the theme 'Building the Road to Independence for Children and the Elderly with Disabilities and Special Needs in Jamaica', ran from Wednesday, April 11 to Saturday, April 14, at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
"Movement affords us independence, it allows us to perform basic functions and carry out our everyday routines," said Christine Staple-Ebanks, NEF founder. "Many of us could scarcely imagine our lives without movement and yet a sizeable part of our population is faced with limited mobility and its associative obstacles on a daily basis," she explained.
In the mid-1980s, Linda Bidabe, a special-education teacher based in California, began to strategically use movement with her special needs students. Due to the overwhelming success of the curriculum, Mobility Opportunities Via Education/Experience, popularly known as MOVE, was officially established as an educational and therapy guide for the classroom. MOVE helps children and adults with severe disabilities to acquire greater independence by learning to sit, stand, walk and transition.
During the NEF Conference, MOVE presenters, Beverley Young and Julie Sues-Delaney, offered participants basic provider training focusing on the six steps of the MOVE programme. The seminar taught teachers how to test, evaluate and design individualised plans for developing mobility skills and how to use common furniture as instructional tools to improve movement.
"As a psychologist specialising in child and adolescent issues, I am always seeking opportunities to strengthen my skill set, knowledge base and offerings," said Doneisha Burke, clinical psychologist and lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI). "The MOVE basic provider for children workshop provided just that. It has enabled me to learn how to assess and work with disabled children, thereby empowering them to not just learn about and adapt to their environment, but also to be involved in the happenings around them," she explained.
The special-needs expo component of the event, the first of its kind to be held in Jamaica, included more than 20 exhibitors and provided visitors with great informational sessions and live demonstrations. Some of the topics discussed during the workshops included drug awareness, services for persons with disabilities, dealing with hearing loss in children, and oral-care options for individuals with special needs.
One of the highlights was a special continuing medical education session for paediatricians and other health-care professionals. It included presentations on alternative treatment programmes, such as physical, chiropractic, and speech and language options, for individuals with neurological disorders.
The expo was made possible due to strong sponsorship support from a number of corporate and public entities.
CAPTION: (From left) Christine Staple-Ebanks, founder of the Nathan Ebanks Foundation (NEF); Faith Innerarity, director general in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security; and Christine Hendricks, executive director, Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, officially opened NEF's Sixth Annual Special Needs Expo with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the launch for the event. The four-day forum, which took place from Wednesday, April 11 to Saturday, April 14, provided a platform for local health-care professionals to promote their products and services targeted to the disabled community. - Contributed