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Students of the All Saints Special Needs Unit admiring the work of their peers. (A. Miller/BGIS)

Cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, speech, hearing and visual impairment, as well as physical challenges, are all conditions affecting several children across Barbados. However, the occurrence of these disabilities does not signify the child’s inability to learn.

According to Article 28 of the United Nations Children’s Fund Convention on the Rights of a Child, "all children have the right to a primary education". It further states that "young people should be encouraged to reach the highest level of education of which they are capable."

It is in this regard that the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development operates its Special Needs Education Services. The initiative entails the provision of education to children with special needs through units which are located at eight public primary schools. ??Children who have been identified by their school or their parents for performing unsatisfactorily, or who have a disability, are evaluated and recommended for placement into one of the established Units. This process is facilitated through the Student Support Section of the Ministry.

One such body which was instituted to address the needs of the numerous children with disabilities is the All Saints Special Needs Unit. In 1999, as the Boscobelle and Indian Ground Schools, along with the All Saints’ Boys and Girls Schools, amalgamated to form the All Saints School, the unit was also founded.

Today, the Special Needs Unit caters to 32 children ranging from ages six to 12, with varying needs. Four teachers have the daily task of ensuring that the students receive the highest quality education, and one senior teacher, Cynthia Boyce, oversees the daily operations of the section.

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Senior Teacher Cynthia Boyce, looking over the students’ art work. (A. Miller/BGIS)

Mrs. Boyce, who has been with the Unit for over seven years, lauded the work produced there and asserted "we are very pleased with the children’s progress…we are very proud of our students, and I am especially pleased with the performance of the teachers in the Unit."

She noted that the students followed the same curriculum as those in the Primary School, but the subjects were "broken down to the level of the child’s ability."

"…After observing and evaluating the child, we realise what we have to do for that child and we write up an individual lesson plan, what we call IVP, according to that child’s needs and we work from that," the Senior teacher explained.

Mrs. Boyce disclosed that although some of the students from the Special Needs Unit are given the opportunity to take the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination, many of them move on to the Ann Hill School. She also mentioned that some students may even receive a bursary for the Children’s Development Centre.

In addition to the traditional subjects such as Language Arts, Mathematics and Science, which are offered at the Unit, Physical Education and Art and Craft are high on their schedule. Each year the children participate in the Special Olympics and according to a proud Mrs. Boyce, "they do very well each time".

The Special Needs Unit head also boasted of the student’s exceptional artwork. "The children did their artwork based on the subjects we dealt with,… I took down the work and I plan to put it in booklets…we have to keep them protected and get them somewhere so everybody can see them. You may not be academically minded but if you have a talent it should be seen," Mrs. Boyce affirmed.

She further highlighted the students’ success in a General Knowledge Quiz for Special Education Schools last year, and their participation in an annual Christmas Carol Singing event hosted by the New Testament Church, as added proof of the success of the All Saints Special Needs Unit.

Mrs. Boyce maintained that the unit provides quality care for its charges and will continue to be a valuable support system for special needs children in Barbados.

sharifa.medford@barbados.gov.bb

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