Sun | Sep 26, 2021

Kaye Richards | No room in the inn for special needs children

Published:Wednesday | July 14, 2021 | 12:10 AMKaye Richards/Guest Columnist
In 2021 AD, I challenge you to see the able not the label and I charge you, make room in Jaminn for our special needs children!
In 2021 AD, I challenge you to see the able not the label and I charge you, make room in Jaminn for our special needs children!

“Teach us true respect for all …

Strengthen us the weak to cherish,

Give us vision lest we perish”.

It is 2021 AD and there is still no room in the inn. No room in the schools, no room in the churches, no room in the places of recreation, no room in the airports, no room in the airplanes … JUST NO ROOM FOR OUR SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN!


School #1 promptly and enthusiastically confirmed that my son could be placed at this prestigious top-three preparatory school in the Corporate Area. UNTIL I stated the unthinkable – my child is on the autism spectrum. The tone of the conversation rapidly changed and with profuse apologies, I was advised that special needs children are being phased out from that institution as they just don’t have the resources to accommodate them.

School #2 placed my application in file 13 and each time I called, the game of ‘send the fool a little further’ was activated. After calling and calling and waiting and waiting, I noticed that several persons who had applied after I did were receiving calls to come in and make payments to indicate acceptance of placements being offered.

One parent advised me that the school had created an additional kindergarten class and that the said class had room for additional students. Despite this, I was still not called.

Whether from foolish optimism or perverse self-inflicted pain, I applied to school # 2 a second time. This time, the ‘enlightened principal’, who had lived in a first-world country, kindly advised me that they, too, were phasing out special needs children and that it may be best for me to consider another institution. The school was, however, gracious enough to refer me to a professional to conduct a $30,000.00 assessment which ‘might’ make my child eligible for consideration!

Well, since the schools are only required to make ‘reasonable accommodation’ to facilitate desired entrants, who am I to complain?

Although every child can learn and every child must learn, there is no room in the top-tier preparatory schools in the Corporate Area for our special needs children.


I theorised that karate classes would be beneficial in my son’s development, so I reached out to a well-known, reputable association about him accessing their facilities to receive tutelage. Without hesitation, I was advised that the classes were only extended to students with ‘normal abilities’. Again … no room in the inn for our special needs children.


“If I had the wings of a dove (rep), I would fly, fly away, flay, away and be at rest”. Maybe the airports will be my gateway to accommodation ... NOT. The staff at the airport expect full compliance with their orders, no exceptions, no considerations given to sensitivity. Travellers must present themselves for individual scanning and scrutiny BAR NONE. The non-compliant ‘spoiled children’ must be coerced into obedience and the bewildered, frustrated parents must accept being chastised for failed parenting. No room in the airports for our special needs children.


Well if looks could kill, I would be dead. So many glares, so many disapproving looks and annoyed glances. Passengers do not wish to hear electronics or to be subjected to the meltdown of a child. The intrusion is just too much and so in many cases we are stashed away in the back of the airplane next to the toilets. Needless to say, as parents we wish to be anywhere but there. Flight attendants are, of course, vigilant and regimented in enforcing all protocols and in protecting the rights and expectations of the other passengers on board. “A place for us, somewhere there’s a place for us”… but not here. No room in the airplanes, either, for our special needs children.


“What a balm for the weary, oh how sweet to be there”… IF but only if you do not pose a distraction to the members who are on the highway to heaven. When your special needs child threatens the worship experience in the sanctuary you may be politely ushered elsewhere or you may be morally swayed to exit by the frequent hostile glances of the congregants. In the church of our Lord Jesus Christ … there is still no room for our special needs children.


We lobbied fiercely for the end of apartheid in South Africa. We reminisce bitterly on the holocaust in Germany. We scoff at the history of segregation in the United States and we mount Black Lives Matter slogans but we embrace intolerance to our special needs community.

“Jamaica love, we wanna feel Jamaica love, everybody wanna [live in ] Jamaica, Jamaica”, so “I’m dreaming of a new Jamaica, a … place of choice to live, work, raise [all] families and do business”.

In 2021 AD, I challenge you to see the able, not the label, and I charge you, MAKE ROOM IN JAMINN FOR OUR SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN!

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