Concerned about the level of autism in Barbados, the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation is continuing to place emphasis on training and educating teachers about the disorder and effective ways to identify, manage and work with autistic children in the system.
To this end, the Ministry has scheduled two workshops during Education Month to address related issues. The first started today (Wednesday, October 4) at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College and the second will be held tomorrow, Thursday, October 5, at the same venue.
According to the Ministry, Barbados has not gone unaffected by this global trend; in fact, the number of children diagnosed with autism or autism-like characteristics has increased at a steady rate.
Senior Education Officer, Kaye Sargeant, providing the rationale for the initiative, said: “Over the past year, 21 per cent of the total number of children referred to the Ministry for special education were displaying behaviours similar to those on the autism spectrum. Additionally, the Ministry has engaged in various teacher training initiatives to equip teachers with skills in working with children with special education.”
Ms. Sargeant, who is responsible for special needs education in the Student Support Service of the Ministry, noted that in September 2016, a partnership was developed between the Education Ministry and the Department of Education in New Brunswick, Canada, to provide training for local teachers in the effective strategies used to facilitate students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Stating that thus far, 86 teachers had successfully completed this online course, she said some of the modules they were exposed to included characteristics of ASD; identifying learner needs; behavioural teaching approaches; and how to structure the classroom environment. “Teachers also were exposed to strategies in managing challenging behaviours while addressing communication and social skills,” Ms. Sargeant added.
The 86 participants of the online Autism Spectrum Disorders and Behavioural Intervention Course are now benefiting from a face-to-face encounter with their facilitators at the October 4 to 5 workshops, which run from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Learning Specialist, Autism and Complex Behaviour Education Support, Isabelle Cowan, and the Provincial Autism Coordinator, Catherine Breault, both personnel from the New Brunswick Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, are in Barbados to facilitate the workshops and tour select schools across the island which cater to children with autism.
The facilitators will also join officials in the Ministry at a graduation ceremony on Friday, October 6, for all teachers who have successfully completed the online course. It will be held in the hall at Queen’s College, at Husbands, St. James, from 4:00 p.m. Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, will deliver the feature address.