Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Gov’t gives boost to special-needs students

Published:Thursday | October 1, 2020 | 12:10 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer

The Ministry of Education said it is ramping up the number of teachers to serve students with intellectual disabilities and investing in training for parents.

The Government has also committed to provide caregivers to work in homes.

A manual has been developed for parents providing guidance on stimulation exercises and other support.

Usually, caregivers are deployed within schools to work with students, but that model has been tweaked because of the closure of schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With the coronavirus outbreak forcing schools to rely almost wholly on online learning, there have been lingering concerns that special-needs children will be at greater risk of being left behind.

Addressing a virtual press conference on Wednesday, acting Chief Education Officer Dr Kasan Troupe said that the ministry had invested $25 million this year into the placement of an additional 125 special-needs students.

“That will also add to what we have placed last year, when we placed 665 students in special-education programmes to the tune of approximately $148 million, so we have been providing for our special-needs students,” Troupe said.

The focus on support for students with special needs covers the full range of disabilities – visual impairment, behavioural or emotional disorders, as well as intellectual challenges.

For the blind or visually impaired, the Government has been providing hand-held electronic devices tailored to their needs and is in the process of downloading special Braille software, said Education Minister Fayval Williams.

“We have a Braille division here at the ministry that has been preparing this material for our students that are without sight or have limited sight and are dependent on material that is written in Braille,” said Williams.

“We are doing everything to ensure that we bring resources to bear so that these students also are getting the (appropriate) teaching experience,” she said.

Meanwhile, Troupe said that the special education committee has partnered with private educational institutions to provide services to an estimated 4,000 special-needs students based on their individual diagnoses.

“We have audited the system, and we also know the needs for their tablets, and we have been responding to that.

“Just yesterday, we would have distributed some tablets for them. We actually allocated another 150 tablets for our special-needs students, reducing now the need to approximately 350 to be filled for them,” Troupe said.