Teachers benefit from learning disabilities workshop
Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
WESTERN BUREAU:More than 50 teachers from early childhood institutions and all-age schools in western Westmoreland last week benefited from a two-day workshop that focused on identifying learning disabilities in young children.
The workshop was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Negril and facilitated by clinical psychologist Dr Sally Bloch from Michigan, United States. It was held at the Theodora Skills Training Centre, located West End in the resort town. It saw principals, guidance counsellors, and classroom teachers in attendance.
"It is part of an ongoing programme. We work closely with many schools in Negril, and at the moment, we are trying to obtain a grant to improve some facilities in the early childhood institutions. To ensure sustainability, we looked at the educators, so we started talking to teachers primarily in the basic schools, and we started to identify some needs they have that they can't meet during the normal course of events," Director of Community Service at the Rotary Club of Negril, Ken Cooney, told Western Focus.
"Quite clearly, they were all dealing with - in different forms and different numbers - children who they thought had learning disabilities, but they didn't have any formal training or any specific training around identifying what those issues are," he added.
Cooney said Bloch was contacted through the Rotary Club of Negril, which is part of an ongoing tutoring programme at the Negril All-Age School.
"One of those people knew of Dr Sally Bloch in Michigan, and it followed from that. When the issue was explained to her, she was willing to come down and do these workshops. We are also planning to do some more training because the Early Childhood Commission's standards don't just deal with physical matters, they deal with teachers' competence, and so on, so we are likely to be following this up with training in two more areas having to do with health and to do with children's' rights," Cooney said.
Grade six teacher at the Negril All-Age School, Jean Brown, told Western Focus that the workshop had enabled her to be able to pinpoint some of the symptoms of disabilities students have, but which she had been unable to classify.
"What Dr Bloch has done is to bring to the fore what is known as the invisible disabilities," Brown said. "So the child that has Down's Syndrome is easier to identify because you can look at the physical features and recognise it; but for the child that is suffering from dyslexia and autism, and so on, it is harder to deal with, and sometimes, unfortunately, educators don't really know how to deal with them and so become frustrated."
She continued: "It (workshop) is something that should definitely be replicated in other schools because in the primary school system in particular, you do have some huge class sizes. And when, for example, you have a 54-student class and you have several persons of different abilities and quite a number of them showing these symptoms, then you see the importance of taking the workshop across the island. So what we get here others teachers can, too, so they know what they can do."
Guidance counsellor at the Mt Airy All-Age School, Lelieth Murdock, said the workshop would help to address the varied needs identified at her school. She said the institution would stage a workshop with other teachers and another for parents on how to identify children with learning disabilities.
"There are some parents who are still ignorant of the fact that their child is having a particular disorder, and so this workshop is also going to help me to do another workshop with our parents to help them to see that it is not really just from the Mt Airy All-Age School, but that internationally, these are concerns that parents do have," she said.