Special education policy in Jamaica

Thursday, November 15, 2018

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Dear Editor,

The special education policy of Jamaica acknowledges that we have a vulnerable group among us who are unable to function as their normal peers. As such, it is suggested that, as a country, we raise awareness to help to enforce and strengthen the initiative.

The Disabilities Act of Jamaica 2014 details the logistics as to how the unique group of people who are disabled are to be catered to. The policy was especially designed to give life to the Act and make special provisions for individuals living in Jamaica with disabilities.

The policy was carefully designed to ensure that the framework encompasses the development of the disabled cohort, birth through to 21 years of age.

Additionally, family support systems are to be established to provide support to the disabled group that is not enrolled in learning facilities. It is important to note that some children with disabilities have multiple to severe disorders and are, therefore, not easily integrated in the general education system.

In light of the rise in general education teachers expressing concern over the number of students with dysfunctions in the classroom, there needs to be a change in our approach to learning. Catering to the unique needs of children is consistent with the differentiated instruction model. If this model is integrated it is believed that students' learning needs will be nurtured to ensure that the policy is realised in this regard.

It must be noted that the Ministry of Education's Special Education Department continues to make strides in making special education an inviting programme that caters to the holistic development of our disabled community.

As we work towards Vision 2030 it is important that we become aware of the trends in special education and keep abreast of what is happening on the international stage. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act developed in the United States of America is the epitome of the Special Education Policy of Jamaica and, as a community, it is important that we take collective responsibilities to ensure that no Jamaican citizen with a disability is ignored or mistreated.

Discrimination is an existing phenomenon that plagues people living with disabilities. With increased awareness it is hoped that discrimination will reduce significantly over time.

Equity is important, and it can have a dampening effect on an already disadvantaged group.

The policy looks at provisions for screening and assessment, appropriate placement in learning facilities that are equipped with the necessary human and non-human resources to adequately address the educational and other social needs.

Depending on the nature of the disability, the family plays a pivotal role in supporting children's learning at school and to continue the learning at home using social interactive techniques. If given sufficient support from families, disabled students can achieve more than what educators are able to offer in the ambit of the learning environment.

Finally, the policy speaks to catering to individual needs of disabled children and the suggestion is made that educators consider differentiated instruction as a tool to help strengthen the existing platform that guides the fundamental principles that undergird the approach to teaching special education in Jamaica.

Christene Pinnock


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