Special Needs Awareness Month kicks off, officials say early intervention is key

Education Minister Octavia Alfred delievering remarks

The Ministry of Education, Human Resource Planning, Vocational Training and National Excellence officially has launched its activities in observance of Special Needs Awareness Month as of Monday.

The observance is in collaboration with the OECS Program for Educational Advancement and Relevant Learning (PEARL), a four-year programme aimed at refining the regional educational frameworks to better meet the needs of primary school students.

 The activities will be held from April 15-30 and will include a panel discussion on understanding special needs, a parenting symposium, and a nurses’ conference among other activities.

“We are here to take responsibility, not just as educators and policymakers, but as a community to foster an environment where every child can thrive regardless of his or her challenges,” Education Minister Octavia Alfred said while addressing the ceremony.

She continued, “Our education policies embrace and emphasize that no child shall be deprived of an education.”

According to Alfred, after Hurricane Maria all schools that were refurbished or built had special access and washroom facilities for special needs students.

“Special needs students do not only attend special needs schools supported by the government, but they also attend primary, secondary, and even the Dominica State College,” Alfred noted.

She stated that in addition to the classroom teacher or the subject tutor as in college, a special teacher who is paid by the government is assigned to each of these students.

Furthermore, Alfred mentioned that the Government of Dominica has made significant contributions of land, professional expertise, and financial assistance to ensure that the needs of special ability students are met.

Meanwhile, Chief Education Officer Dr. Jeffrey Blaize said the Ministry of Education has embarked on countless initiatives both in terms of building capacity and supervision and support for special needs institutions, more specifically, special needs clients.

“I must say that in the past 2 to 3 years we have redoubled our efforts as a ministry in both support and sensitization, more specifically we have embarked on building capacity at the school level in terms of our training of staff,” he explained. “We went even a step further in ensuring the application of a structure for reporting what we call the pre-referral process where we ensure that capacity is built at the school level where regular teaching staff are trained in identifying students who are at risk for accessing the curriculum.”

Dr. Blaize further explained that this is an initial line of intervention, with the understanding that the capacity of the Ministry of Education needs to be supported in that regard.

“Because at the supervision and support level, we have only two officers who are doing a lot of the supervision and support work within the special needs unit,” Dr. Blaize revealed.

He believes that the earlier parents can recognize and come to terms with the fact that they have children who require those interventions, the easier, and more successful interventions will be for the ministry and students.

“Because too many times we get those reports way down in the intervention process when parents, sometimes years, finally get to terms with that, and then the intervention is not as effective, because we may have wasted too much time,” Dr. Blaize noted.

He added, “We need to recognize that there are many students among us who may require intervention at different levels.”

He called on stakeholders, more specifically the adults, to identify those risk factors as early as possible if they can, and work with the Ministry of Education, “so that we can mitigate, we can have intervention at the school level and support for parents as well.”

Dr. Jeffrey Blaize

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  1. Roger Burnett
    April 16, 2024

    Research has shown that up to 20% of students are to some degree dyslexic.

    Years ago, when I offered to assist the ministry on how best to realise the potential of dyslexic students, I was told that they already had programs in place for slow learners. What they didn’t understand is that a dyslexic student is not a slow learner, but a different learner. Many of the worlds most creative and brilliant minds owe their accomplishments to being dyslexic. The list includes, Leonardo Di Vinci and Albert Einstein.

    There is no better introduction to the challenges of dyslexia than this two minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtFKNPrJhJ4

    My video, “Realising Your Creative Potential” explains how being dyslexic has helped me as an artist and innovative engineer. https://youtu.be/5K7MM16Kc_E

  2. if we knew better
    April 16, 2024

    No facilities for children with autism.
    No professionals to work with the kids,
    No sensitization to the masses about
    We talk a great game but we aint doing nothing here.

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