Options available for under privileged children and those with special needs (disabilities) in Caribbean countries
The acceptance of the under privileged and disabled children in the society was a slow and a difficult process. In the olden days, even in ancient times they were considered to be an abomination that was to cast out of the society. The parents to whom these children were born, did not come to accept them as human beings, they were seen as incomplete, and were often thrown into the forest to be eaten by wild animals. As time went by the society found news ways of making use of them, they were hidden way from people by their parents (Sanders, 1994). The under privileged and the disabled were often denied basic needs like food, if any care was given to them, they were lucky to even sleep in the ban. They had little or no clothing, the little care they got was the privilege of food and shelter if not death.
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If sickness befell these children, they would not receive any care. This was the time the society and the family considered them to be a curse. An abomination that was not welcome in certain parts of the home or the town. They were loners and since no one spoke to them they often did not develop their language skills. It was even worse for those who had mental disabilities as they were considered mad, any learning disability was considered to be a slow child whose only duty if they could perform were chores (Catherine, 2008). We cannot blame the society of this period, they had no knowledge in many fields, they were simple minded beings that could not understand many aspects of the human being, it was for this reason that many under privileged and disabled suffered loneliness and learning disabilities.
While times have changed, and we have advances in medicine science and technology, we still have under privileged and disabled children in the society. We have come to accept them as part of the community, but we still get surprised on meeting them. Many parents are shocked on receiving the news that they have an under privileged child or one with disabilities. They experience denial and self loath, blaming themselves for bringing this on themselves.
As science has improved and while we may try to help these children, they are no known cure for each ailment or condition that ails them. We have been able to design and develop better diagnostic methods to determine the different conditions. We are left with the management of these conditions as the only way to assist them.
The management of under privileged and the disabled children involves all activities and learning process geared to this. The parents are also not left out; they are taught on how to care for each child according to their condition. The society has seen an increase of approved schools, care centers and other organizations and institutions that deal with these children (Sanders, 1994).
There are various scientific and social fields that deal with these children and their parent or care givers. The understanding of the under privileged and the disabled help in their management. Apart from schools there are special programs in the main steams schools that deal with the under privileged and the disabled. The most affected are the under privileged as they have a problem in learning (Zita, 1986). Their short comings make them unable to be in a position where they cannot fit into the main stream schools. The establishment of these institutions of learning and training has also come a long way
Education centers for the disabled or for those who were under privileged were meant to be a place where they were put away from the rest of the normal society. They were institutions that were set up to hide them from the rest of the society, but at the same time there emerged a few people who had compassion, those who wanted to help these less privileged or the disabled, though there those who used them for experiments, there are those who set out to understand them. It is from these scholars that the care and management of the under privileged and disable was developed to what it is today. The behaviorists and psychologist went further to define the behavior of these children and gave us a clear understanding of them.
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The first help and assistance these children receive is from schools and centers of learning. In these schools or centers of learning there are school psychologists whose role is to assist children and youth with disabilities or who are under privileged to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. They work together with educators, care givers, and other professionals with the intention of creating safe, healthy, and supportive education environments. The purpose of these learning environments is for all students to strengthen the connection between their homes and school.
The school psychologists are highly trained in both psychology and education. They receive special training to enable them to engage in speech with the students. Their roles are many and varied they are trained effective instruction and child development. They also receive training in student diversity and development, the role of school organization, and the different special education policies and ethics (Hall & Figueroa, 1998). They are also taught the prevention, intervention, the learning styles and behavior of their students. They are trained in skills like research and programme evaluation with the intention that they will use these skills in the development of programs in the institution for the betterment of the child.
They are trained in carrying out of psycho-educational assessments; these assessments are meant to evaluate psychological and academic skills of the child. The Psychological in question here are include skills in language, memory, the processing of visual and auditory information, the reasoning abilities. These skills are important in the establishing the abilities of the child. Having achieved this the teacher goes ahead and establishes the academic skills which include reading, , spelling, written phrase, handwriting capability, mathematics, listening intellectual capacity and oral expression skills.
A school psychologists is also trained to identification of children with a array of developmental, behavioral and educational disabilities, these disabilities including learning and intellectual disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and the learning challenges related to inspiration and other social-emotional challenges (Zita, 1986).
Apart from schools these children are privileged to have after school programs, they include group and play dates, they have centers for them where they meet to get psychological support. Sport centers where they get into sport activities as they exercise and interact with each other. In the US many are involved in the less able games, they are meant for those who are disabled, they have even taken teas to the Olympics. The local churches and support groups incorporate them into their activities. Today the under privileged and disabled is involved in many social activities.
There are also support mechanism in place for the parents and care givers. The presence of the educational psychologist in the school has helped bridge the gap between the parent and his child. The reason as to this is because; the educator is in a position to assist the parent in learning ways of interacting with their children. They are taught ways of reaching out to their child; it is the interaction of the child and other children in the school that also helps them to open up. The psychologists also help other teachers know how to interact with their students who are under privileged. They are taught how to handle and learn a child's reactions and interests in the class. In the school set up the school activities that require the presence of both the parent and the child are very important, it is at this point when the child is presenting their school work that the relationship between parent and the child grows. The fostering of a relationship built on activities that the child likes getting involved in the class.
There is also group support, where parents and care givers of the under privileged and the disabled children find emotional and psychological support. These groups are found in the school, as this is the place in which they meet most. The groups offer a chance for the parents and care givers to express themselves and the challenges they face from the raising of a disabled child, these challenges they feel can be understood by this group of people as they are also going through the same. The shared experience is what they crave for in these groups and which they feel they cannot get anywhere else. The support groups also create and expose to the parents and care givers, the exposure they receive makes them access facilities and materials for their children. It is these same groups that seek sponsorship for the less fortunate (Schools Council, 1989).
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The administration in this schools also support the parent and child in that, while offering lessons for the child and the development of skills, the administration gives the child and its parents the emotional and psychological support by providing for counseling facilities. The administration provides facilities for the child to use and interact with during his learning process.
The government also has made provision for the disabled and the less privileged on the society, the laws governing them help protect them fro discrimination this is found in section 504 of the department of education. This section seeks to recognize and described disability and help the provision of all educational benefits to the disabled. The disabled are not to be excluded form the learning process, they are not to be given all the benefits and the resources that other student enjoy in the education sector. The provision of this law helps the disabled and the under privileged child to access and learn from the school. They are also included in the schools activities and programs; it is for this reason that the administration is viewed as having supported them.
In comparison of the assistance these children receive in the US to that they receive in the Caribbean countries; we look at them in the same manner as we have discussed above.
The availability of institutions that help the under privileged and the disabled in the Caribbean countries is limited. There are very few schools that specialize in the care and education of these children. The children on the other hand rarely attend school for learning purposes, even the main stream schools; where there is no special program to incorporate them into the system. This is different from the US where the main stream schools make provisions for these children as it is provided for in the education act. Even though there is the desire to educate these children, the provision of facilities and trained personnel to work with them is limited. Most of the children are taken to special centers where basic cares is given without the emphasis on education.
These centers are sporadic and far between and their accessibility is hard, while most parents do not take their child to school, those who do have to make do with a system where there are few special education teachers available. There is no emphasis on the education of these children and the government or the authorities are not in a hurry to enforce the law of education for all. These children are at a disadvantage as they cannot learn the basics things like speech, simple math, writing and personal hygiene, this is so as they receive little or no training from the home. There are no extra curricular support mechanisms in place in the society. This cannot be blamed on the parent as they have skills learnt on the care of this special child, it is the role of the government to effectively campaign and provide the necessary social amenities for these children. The provision of this should then be followed with and education of the society on the importance of educating these children.
In comparison to the US these countries do not have the support mechanism in place for the parent and the child. The provision of social amenities for this is not in place or has not been considered as a priority. It is the role if the health care provider who diagnosed the child to try and explain to the parent the condition of the child. There are very few if any psychologists in the field who can assist the parent and the child. Those who do show up are a few volunteers who are here for a while and who also have to contend with very few if any facilities. It is these people who give little training to the local institutions and the children in their homes that assist the parent know how to establish a communication line between him and the child (Sue, Jayne & Judy, 1997).
This is clearly different from the situation on the ground in the US, where immediately a child is diagnosed to have a disability, they and their parent receive counseling and help to enable them cope with the situation. There are many trained specialists even in the social department, and the education departments, whose role is the aiding of these children. There is in place methods, procedures and ways of helping the child and parent, unlike the Caribbean counties where they are few. The child in the Caribbean set up can go through life without going to school, the only training they receive is the on the get from home. At the same time those who go to school do not get specialized training, as there are few trained teachers in the school to deal with such a school. it is in developing countries such as these that the best educational help fro an under privileged and disabled child is found I homes, who are supported by donations and volunteers.
According to Barbara and Winifred (2007) the provision of a parallel education for the under privileged and the disabled should be run counter to the British curriculum. In this paper they examined the issues that hampered the learning process in Jamaica, and how the learning process was to be viewed by fellow educators in the region. They suggested the improvement of the existing main stream education institutions to cater for the exiting disabled and disadvantaged in their schools.
According to UNICEF (2006), a deaf student in Costa Rica suggested that it is more than just the helping of the disabled to adapt to the main steam schools but it should be the making of disability and diversity a topic of discussion in the schools and the whole society at large so that there was no discrimination of the disabled.
It is evident there are issues that are common to the three Caribbean countries, these need to be addressed in a conscience manner. The decision on what needs to be done to change the situation needs to come from all concerned parties. As in the case of the Costa Rica's deaf child, where the under privileged and the disabled, along with their care givers and the policy makers need to seat and come to an amicable solution on what needs to be done. The provisions and the laws that need to be changed to cater for the children, the facilities that need to be put in place for the implementation of their plan; and the education of the child.
The society also need to change its attitude towards the under privileged and the disabled. There should be a massive educational campaign to enlighten the society about these disabilities, this will enable the elimination of discrimination and the eradication of the stigmatization that the parents and the child used to got through, it will enable the parent to bring the child out in the open and out of hiding.
- BarbaraB. &Winifred,H. (2007). Education for all: A curriculum design for special needs learners. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
- Catherine, S.H. (2008). A comparison of kinesthetic and visual methods for remediating letter discrimination problems of learning-disabled children under two feedback conditions.
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- Hall, W.M. &Figueroa, M. (1998). Disability & Society. Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group, vol.13,no.2, 1998 , pp.269-278.
- Sanders, P. (1994). Disabled People (Let's Talk About). Berlin: Franklin Watts Ltd.
- Schools Council. (1989). Learning Through Science: Children with Learning Difficulties.
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- Sue, H.,Jayne, C.,& Judy, O. (1997). The Social Skills Handbook: Practical Activities for Social Communication. Washington: Speechmark Publishing Ltd.
- UNICEF. (2006). Children with disabilities: get involved! Retrieved 6th May 2010 from http://www.unicef.org/voy/discussions/ Zita M.A. (1986).The Child Under Stress - Dyslexia? 2nd revised ed. Boston: Hyperion Books.