Every parent thinks his/her child is the most special little person they have ever met, but what if your child is ‘different’? What if your child is not developing at the pace you think s/he should be? Our Tip Thursday post is geared towards those of you responsible for raising children with special needs.
- Get your child diagnosed. If you do notice that ‘something is not quite right,’ bring it to his/her doctor’s attention as soon as possible. The sooner s/he is diagnosed and treatment begins, the better chance you have of minimising the impact of the disability. There are some disabilities and challenges that present themselves physically like Downs Syndrome or paralysis, but there are others that might be more subtle.
- Get informed. Read as much as possible on the specific condition affecting your child, which may be a physical disability or a mental/intellectual challenge. Being well informed will help you to make wiser decisions regarding the care of your child.
- Special education – inclusion or exclusion? Under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, to which Jamaica is a signatory, every child has the right to an education, this includes children with varying levels of disability or challenges. Inclusion is the practice of teaching students with special needs in regular classes with the necessary accommodations and services, while exclusion is the practice of teaching students with special needs at facilities that only offers special education. Both methods have their pros and cons, so do your research and speak to someone at the Ministry of Education’s Special Education Unit to help guide your decision.
- Physical activity. Once the child is healthy and is physically able to do so, then let him/her play. At school, teachers should allow children with physical limitations to participate in regular school activities. At home or at school, the level of supervision required will depend on the severity of your child’s disability. If you have any questions or concerns, speak to someone trained in working with children with special needs.
- Be kind. Do not use corporal punishment on children with special needs as they are not in control of their behavior. Don’t call them names like ‘dunce,’ ‘slow,’ and ‘retarded’ and make sure no one else does it either. Take time to investigate what is wrong if your child’s attitude or behavior changes.
For more information, check out our Special Education Parent’s Guide.