Minister of Education encourages Special Education training to fill a skills gap.
Nassau, The Bahamas – The Ministry of Education (MOE) is increasing opportunities for more persons to pursue studies in key areas of special education, and increasing the amount of special education units at the pre-school and primary levels at public institutions throughout the country.
The Minister of Education, the Hon. Jeffrey Lloyd said more persons who are trained to address all disabilities are needed, and the Ministry recognizes the realities of supply and demand which sometimes result in children having to be placed on a waiting list to see a Special Education specialist.
Currently, public schools have 105 Special Education teachers and 72 teacher's aides dedicated to the special needs programme. The Special Services Section has six Psychologists, three Speech Language Pathologists/Therapists and two Special Education Officers. There are no Early Interventionists.
Minister Lloyd gave a brief address at World Autism Awareness Day 'Light It Up Blue' Ceremony, Tuesday, in Rawson Square, Bay Street. The event was organized by REACH (Resources & Education for Autism and Related Challenges) in recognition of World Autism Awareness Day to show support for people who are affected by the disability.
He announced that the Ministry will offer financial support to current teachers who express an interest to retrain in Special Education.
“The current reality is that we need more persons who are trained to address all disabilities,” he said. “We want to ensure that any child, who may be displaying tendencies which could indicate a disability, is able to be properly evaluated by a Special Education specialist within a reasonable time frame,” said the Minister.
The MOE has also committed to encouraging teachers to pursue Master's and Ph.D. degrees with specialization in areas that will prepare them to become Behavioral Therapists, Speech Therapists, Psychologists, Early Interventionists and Special Education educators.
Furthermore, opportunities for professional education grants will be provided to allow teachers to take short courses and seminars to allow them to stay up-to-date with new trends in Special Education disciplines.
“Ladies and gentlemen, because autism can result in challenges with social interaction, we also appreciate the importance of our students being in an environment where they can be stimulated and allowed to model the behaviour of the typically developing child,” said Minister Lloyd.
“Currently, there are several schools with classes catering to children with special needs. These include units in select pre-schools, primary, junior and senior high schools.”
Minister Lloyd commended the REACH organization for leading the charge to sensitize the community about the challenges faced by persons with autism here in The Bahamas.
He said, “The MOE recognizes the importance of public stakeholders like your organization. We cannot fulfill our vision of preparing our students to make meaningful contributions as nation builders who are globally competitive, without working with external stakeholders like REACH. The work you do is appreciated and we acknowledge your contributions.”
Minister Lloyd said with an expanding population there is a continual growth in the number of children who are being diagnosed with autism and other related challenges. He said “partnership” is key as the MOE alone cannot address the challenges of autism in schools.
Minister Lloyd assured attendees that MOE is committed to working with REACH to ensure all children receive a quality education that prepares them with the necessary skills required to manage throughout life.