Minister of Education Priya Manickchand on Friday said children with disabilities must be incorporated into the regular classrooms and be given opportunities as an adult in the workforce.
Manickchand was speaking during a walk to mark Autism Awareness Month.
April is recognised annually as Autism Awareness Month but Minister Manickchand believes it is time to stop raising awareness and treat persons with this developmental disability equally.
“My real desire is to live in a world where we no longer have to raise awareness about how equal autistic persons, particularly children are, so that has to be our aim, that has to be our pledge,” Minister Manickchand said.
Manickchand explained that while autism disallows communication, it does not disallow learning. She revealed that more special needs school will be built but not every child with a disability should be placed in such a school.
“It is best to include children in the regular classroom and that is how everybody benefits best, the child with a disability and the child without a perceived or actual disability,” the minister said while revealing that very soon education in the classroom for children with disabilities will be rolled out.
Meanwhile, she also called on business men and women to consciously leave space for the hiring of people with autism and those with a disability.
Manickchand said that companies can rework their terms of reference “to accommodate the talent and skills of people with disabilities without losing the effectiveness of what service they have to offer.”
She also noted that the government must also put systems in place at various in to cater for persons with disabilities.
Autism affects communication and behaviour; early signs of autism might include a lack of interest in other people and a lack of eye contact.
This year, the Special Needs Education Unit of the National Centre for Education and Resource Development in partnership with the Guyana Power and Light launched a month of activities with a walk and rally.
There, the News Room met Marcia – the mother of 16-year-old Jared Smith -who is a student of the Kingston Secondary School. Jared has autism and has been performing well.
“First we have to accept, we have to love our child for who they are and try not to live in denial, that is the big thing what is my neighbour going to say about my child,” Smith said.
Smith is also the owner and founder of Gifted Hands Centre for children with special needs. She said the centre was inspired by her son.
“It all comes back to parents, the community, to the home, the environment in which the child lives, to help that child develop,” Smith stated.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Power and Light Bharrat Dindyal hopes that the event will continue annually.
“We are hoping that the event that we have today would actually continue to be remembered, continue to be pursued in the years to come, the light that was lit today would continue to shine for the rest of the year,” Dindyal said.