Embrace positives of children with disabilities, says Hanna
YOUTH and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna has called on parents, and the society as a whole, to embrace the positives of children with disabilities and focus on their abilities instead of the physical or intellectual impairment.
She pointed out that when such children face discrimination and stigma, it has serious negative effects. "They carry the stigma and unfortunate detachment because they feel that people don't want to play with them, and that people see them differently. So, it is for all of us to embrace them, no matter how they look, or how they speak," the minister said.
Hanna was addressing the valedictory service for 25 students who graduated from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security's Early Stimulation Programme (ESP), at the Apostolic Church of Jamaica in Kingston on Wednesday.
The minister also highlighted the burden of various forms of abuse, which the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says is five times more likely to occur among children with disabilities.
"Let us recommit our efforts and let us continue to work (with them). When we see a child with the vulnerability to be abused, we must take note and if we see a child at a home where the parent is being stressed, let us reach out," the minister said.
Congratulating the children on their achievement, she commended the teachers, guardians, physiotherapists, and other staff and stakeholders, for their love and patience.
"We really feel a sense of pride that in Jamaica today, there are human beings such as yourselves who are really taking the time, with the patience and the fortitude, to work with our children," said Hanna.
The ESP provides a number of services including: professional identification and assessment of developmental disabilities in pre-school children; the formulation and implementation of specific intervention programmes catering to the individual needs of children, with the assistance of parents; the provision of home-based teaching in order to minimise the need for institutionalised care; and providing resource centres to other agencies serving young children and facilitating consultations, referrals, intervention programmes and parent training.
The programme, which is an extension of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, is an assessment and early intervention programme for children with disabilities from birth to six years old.
Children with various disabilities benefit from the ESP, including the multi-disabled, intellectually challenged, mentally retarded and those with learning disabilities; the hearing or visually impaired; those lacking in language development; the physically challenged; and children with cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and autism.