32 Percent Students Intellectually Challenged

By VERDEL BISHOP Tuesday, August 4 2009

In Trinidad and Tobago there are many children that have learning disabilities that go unnoticed or ignored on a daily basis. According to research, learning disabilities (LD) often lead to long-lasting psychological harm unless they are caught early, yet still, in this country, many children slip through the system undiagnosed, leaving them unable to function later in life.

LD refers to a group of disorders that affect a broad range of academic and functional skills including the ability to speak, listen, read, write, spell, reason, organise information, and do math. The disorders are neurological in origin and reflect information processing problems in the brain. LD’s may co-exist with various conditions including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioural disorders, sensory impairments, or other medical or neurological conditions like autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Tourette Syndrome.

The Ministry of Education 2004 survey of students aged up to 19 years indicated that 32 percent of students were learning, behaviourally and/or intellectually challenged. A survey conducted by Families In Action (FIA) at a Port-of-Spain primary school in 2006 led by a project team of Medical Psychological, Social
Work and educational partners, showed that 70 percent of the children 7-13 years, in this primary school, were characterised as academically impaired.

Of these children, 15 percent had medical problems that could affect learning.

Such problems deserve a comprehensive evaluation by an expert who can assess all of the different issues affecting the child. However, in Trinidad, there is usually hell to pay for parents with such children, because professionals in the field are few and far between.

In an effort to bring an awareness of the spectrum of disabilities and the different types of therapies available to treat them, FIA has teamed up with the Blueballoon Health Services, a Canadian Group of doctors and therapists, to bring a special week of assessments, workshops and intensive therapy for
children with learning disabilities, which will begin from August 8 – 23, at the VIP Room, Jean Pierre Complex, Port-of-Spain.

Blueballoon Health Services specialises in paediatric assessment and direct treatment for children experiencing developmental physical cognitive behavioural emotional learning social and communication challenges. Their goal is to make available a range of interdisciplinary, yet integrated paediatric services,
including Occupational Therapy, physiotherapy, speech language therapy, music therapy, psychology and behavioural therapy.

The seminar will be conducted in two segments – one for parents with children with LD and another for professionals in the field including teachers and occupational therapists. According to the seminar’s organisers, Ivis Gibson, Executive Director with FIA and Melissa Deane, “There are currently nine practising speech and language pathologists and two paediatric occupational therapists in Trinidad and Tobago. Not enough.” “There is need for a clinic for children
with disabilities, so that children can benefit from treatment using a holistic approach. Teachers are also targeted to attend the seminar. Often you find that teachers are teaching children, and haven’t been trained to work with children with various forms of LD. Through the seminar, parents would be able to detect the different problems their children are faced with so that they could get the help they need,” Gibson added.

“Not only are parents excited to have these therapists visit Trinidad, but also our local therapists are extremely enthusiastic to have an opportunity to partner with the Blueballoon, to emulate their integrated approach and continuously liaise with them, to ensure our children’s future remains a priorityand that.”

Gibson said a lot of the times, not even parents understand what is going on with their children, which also contributes to a child not getting the necessary help,” Gibson said.

Cost of the seminar is TT $1200 for professionals, while parents pay $850 and includes lunch and snacks. Topics to be discussed will be Speech Language Communication, where discussions will be held on the normal development of speech, language and communication skills. Participants will acquire strategies
for facilitating development of oral motor, articulation, language and social communication skills with children experiencing either a delay or disorder in any of these areas. The Music Therapy in Principle and Practise workshop will review the history of music therapy and discuss various philosophies and methodologies related to the practise. Participants will be introduced to ways to access children with special needs through music. The Sensory integration: Assessment and Treatment workshop will discuss tools for assessing and treating sensory integration disorders with intervention strategies for children
experiencing sensory processing challenges with videotaped examples of children engaged in therapeutic listening and related sensory integration therapies.

The Physiotherapy and CME workshop, participants will learn general strategies for facilitation gross motor development as well as gain a basic understanding of CME.

For further information contact 760-3818, 622-6952 or families@tstt.net.tt.

Reproduced from http://www.newsday.co.tt/features/0,104929.html