Rotary Club stages successful disabilities workshop in Negril

BY ANTHONY LEWIS Observer Writer

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

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NEGRIL, Westmoreland — The Rotary Club of Negril in collaboration with its partners from the United States of America recently hosted a two- day workshop for educators in the Negril area under theme 'Learning, Attention and Autism Spectrum Disorders.'

The workshop, aimed at empowering participants on how to identify and deal with children with mental or physical challenges was staged on the compound of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in Negril, at a cost of $150,000.

"Quiet clearly, they (the teachers) were all dealing with- in different forms- children who they thought had learning disabilities. But, before the workshop many of the teachers did not have any formal training or specific training around identifying what those issues are, and how they might be able to help the child manage, so the workshop was really useful," explained Ken Cooney, director of Community Service for the Negril Rotary Club.

Principal of the Negril All Age School, Charles McKenzie, who attended the workshop, noted that at a recent Ministry of Education Region Four workshop, it was disclosed that a study undertaken by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) a few years ago, revealed that approximately 40 per cent of the Jamaica's children suffer from some form of disability.

And psychologist Dr Sally Bloch from the state of Michigan in the US in her presentation stressed the importance of early diagnosis before students reach the grade three level.

She argued that if early detection and intervention is not made before then, it would take three times as much work to make a successful intervention.

Following the workshop, Dr Bloch told the Observer West that she was impressed with the work of the Jamaican teachers, pointing out that with overcrowded classrooms it is difficult to give extra- time and attention to those children in need.

She added that the teachers are in need of more support.

"Even if you are the best trained special education teacher, how can you address a child that needs extra- time? It is not a reasonable expectation that they (the teachers) would be able to do it with so many children per class. There need to be other people involved like volunteers or assistants," she argued.

McKenzie in the meantime said he is of the opinion that the Ministry of Education needs to have a look at getting teachers trained in dealing with children with disabilities.

"I think the Ministry of Education really needs to look into this, and retrain teachers that are in the system since every class has special educational challenges," he told the Observer West, adding that training sessions could be conducted during the summer holiday.

McKenzie further reasoned, "Many of the teachers are not trained in special education, only a minute percentage of the teachers that teaches in Jamaica did special education, and even if teachers do their upgrading in their degrees ... many of the disciplines are not really focusing on special education and how to assist these children."


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