Training to support autistic learners, special school for Reg. Two this year


Over the years there has been an increased awareness of autism and other challenges children face in classrooms, hence, the Ministry of Education’s Special Education Needs (SEN) Unit has embarked on multiple projects to provide the best practices for learning to children living with these disabilities.

National SEN Coordinator, Savvie Hopkinson explained new training activities during the ministry’s Spotlight programme on Wednesday.

“For this year we have trained 706 teachers. That’s for regions one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, nine and ten, and Georgetown. Later in this year, we will provide training for region eight,” Hopkinson said.

She noted that it is important that learning disabilities or physical limitations seen in children are discovered and the correct support is offered for them to overcome the challenges while providing coping mechanisms.

National SEN Coordinator Savvie Hopkinson

This is where the teacher’s training and child diagnosis comes into play. She further noted that the idea is not to have the children at separate schools because they have a disability.

Notably, each region in Guyana does not have special needs schools. However, Hopkinson said Region Two will be getting a special school by the end of this year.

“But children can access schooling in the mainstream setting. We are not encouraging building buildings so that we can isolate children but in the same mainstream environment that the support can be provided within that setting,” Hopkinson clarified.

Just recently the News Room met with a teenager who benefitted from being placed in a mainstream classroom. Shontay Hawker, who uses a wheelchair, sat her Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and acquired eight passes.

Hopkinson explained that it is common for children who have physical or learning disabilities to be kept from the classrooms. This is something that is not encouraged.

She noted that stigmatisation is among the multiple reasons these children were often kept at home or out of the classroom. This has been a trend that is being addressed through awareness and sensitisation.

“We do community outreaches and these are to help communities and help parents because if you have a child with special needs we want to help you know how you can help your child. We would have symposiums based on different areas like autism…helping you to help your child,” Hopkinson said.

With awareness about different learning and physical disabilities becoming more highlighted in society there have been many efforts to find out what is affecting the student’s ability to learn and provide suitable support.

Part of the support comes from the Ministry of Health. The subject minister, Dr Frank Anthony, earlier this month, highlighted that the ministry understands that each person who visits healthcare and rehabilitation centres have different needs and training must be provided for this.

“The patient must be the center of care and all the various departments must act as part of that patient’s team to help them to get better. Autism is one such area that we will have to pay attention to,” Dr Anthony had said during a meeting with rehabilitation managers.


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