Special Olympics Jamaica brings joy to students with tablet gifts


Special Olympics Jamaica brings joy to students with tablet gifts

Saturday, January 16, 2021

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WITH the novel coronavirus pandemic ruining plans for many of its sporting activities, Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) has committed to providing tablet computers for students with disabilities.

Since last week, SOJ, through the support of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), has been distributing tablets to special education schools and units across Jamaica.

The distribution is particularly important for children in the context of increasing reliance on remote learning to limit the risk of exposure to the virus which causes the COVID-19 disease.

“We would want to resume sporting activities as soon as it is safe for all concerned, but right now we are giving students educational support,” Coleridge “Roy” Howell, the SOJ executive director, told the Jamaica Observer.

“It is a mixture of virtual and face-to-face learning for some schools, so it [the tablet distribution] is very historic for Special Olympics Jamaica… recognising the fact that not all the children are able to afford or have received tablets.

“We are honoured and so pleased to be able to make these contributions to students through the support of UNICEF. We are covering all parishes where our special schools are situated and within two weeks or so we should be able to complete this distribution to make sure we don't have students left behind,” he said.

Since the virus outbreak in the island early last year, a myriad of SOJ's programmes and events have been negatively affected, including sports training, the annual national games, key fund-raisers, and healthy athletes clinics.

The inability to host healthy athletes clinics — the core of the Special Olympics movement — is a major blow. Through clinics, run by trained volunteers, the programme offers free health examination and treatment to people with intellectual disabilities.

Howell, who took over from Lorna Bell as the executive director of Jamaica's operations in 2019, said the organisation remains on standby for when its sporting activities can resume.

“We are looking at rolling out our programmes and we are looking at parish games and national games, but we are awaiting word from the Jamaican Government. When that time comes we have to find ways how we can best follow the protocols,” he told the Observer.

Through sporting activities and competition, the Special Olympics movement focuses on breaking down barriers that exclude people with intellectual disabilities from mainstream society.

Intellectual disabilities can either be acquired or genetic, and can include cases of cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, and traumatic brain injury.

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