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Register special needs students early for PEP — Education ministry

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Parents and guardians of children with special needs who are preparing for the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) are being encouraged to register them early with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information's Special Education Unit.

Assistant Chief Education Officer in charge of the unit, Dr Sharon Anderson Morgan, said that as was the case with the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), the ministry makes accommodation for students with intellectual and learning disabilities, physical challenges and autism, among others.

She noted that early registration of these students, particularly those with moderate to severe learning and physical disabilities will better enable the ministry to make adequate provisions for them.

“We would like to start as early as possible because, usually, we have hundreds of people applying for accommodation. It takes a good while to process all those applications,” she said.

“The earlier we get them the better because persons have to be trained. If, for example, we are going to send a prompter to a student, we would want the prompter to meet the child before the exam, so the child becomes familiar. Those are some of the preparations that we have to put in place,” she added.

The procedure for a student to benefit from special examination accommodations involves first, making a written request to the Student Assessment Unit detailing the nature of the exceptionality and the specific needs of the candidate.

Ideally, requests should be made at least 12 weeks prior to the sitting of the examination or in accordance with established examination application/registration procedures.

All requests for accommodations must be accompanied by a formal psycho-educational/behavioural assessment or a medical report based on an assessment conducted in the last two years, from an authorised individual or agency.

Anderson Morgan said that requests may be made by a school, parent or a professional (medical doctor or psychologist) who is treating the child for a particular condition.

“This usually takes the form of a psycho- educational assessment report. In some cases, it can be a medical report that is reviewed and then the schools are advised what accommodation is provided,” she explained.

She noted, for example, that if a child has a language-based learning disability, they may be provided with a scribe or a reader, if they have slow processing speed or need extra time.

“We take it on a case-by-case basis and we evaluate the report and determine what is required,” she pointed out.

The review of the request will be done by a team in the Special Education Unit and recommendations forwarded to the Student Assessment Unit, which will then send a written response concerning the status of the application to the institution/organisation or individual making the request.

It should be noted that the accommodation being requested should be consistent with the provisions made for the student in the classroom. That is, students should be accustomed to using the particular accommodation during the classroom instruction and internal examinations.

The Special Education Unit has responsibility for educational provisions for students with special needs.

The unit provides technical support that encompasses education for students aged three to 21 years with various special needs, including students who are deaf or hard of hearing; students who are blind or have visual impairment; students with learning disabilities, intellectual disability, emotional and behavioural disorders, autism; and students who are gifted and talented.

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