UNESCO Autism Project Culminates in Opening of Early of Intervention Centre

MOU signed for autism centre

Basseterre, St. Kitts, July 31, 2012: An early Intervention Centre to identify and assist children with Autism and other developmental disorders was opened recently for use by teachers, parents, nurses and others who interact with such children daily.

The centre will also be the Federation’s main site for testing and therapy of such young persons.

Chief Education Officer Ms Clarice Cotton who spearheaded the project which was submitted to UNESCO said the benefits of early intervention for young children with such disorders have been proven in several studies and thus she welcomed the opportunity for technical and other assistance.

Children using the services of this centre will be screened and where necessary access special programmes designed to advance their learning and communication abilities with a view to bringing them to the level of their peers in time for primary school. Screening is therefore being done at the pre-school level.

Commenting that “Education For All” is at the forefront of his Ministry’s mission, Minister of Education and Information Hon. Nigel Carty told persons present at the opening ceremony that autism affects 0.6% of all children born. He emphasized the critical need for the resources that will be available at the intervention centre.

The Minister saluted partners in this venture including the Ministries of Social Development and Community Affairs as well as Health which will comprise a multi-disciplinary team assisting with activities of the centre.

Representatives of each of these Ministries including Permanent Secretary of Social Development Sharon Rattan, Finance Officer in the Ministry of Health Ms. Vivette Brownbill, and Permanent Secretary of Education and Information, Ms. Ionie Liburd-Willett, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to guide its operations.

Secretary General of the National Commission For UNESCO, Antonio Maynard said that the his office was very pleased to have realized three very important outcomes including the introduction of an expert to train local care providers; the development of the necessary Memorandum of Understanding and the establishment of the early intervention centre.

Mr. Maynard emphasized that UNESCO was not a funding agency but the organization charged with the responsibility of managing a collaboration governments across the globe who have specific obligations and set specific developmental goals to which they commit.

He added that the opening is timely given that it comes at a time when UNESCO’s member states are being urged to ensure that early childhood development programmes are expanded and children are provided access to proper facilities and offered safe, secure and stimulating environment by 2015.

Chief Education Officer Cotton revealed that one of the screening tests are available on-line and will be available at early childhood centres in St Kitts and Nevis, the Curriculum Development Unit and “Special Schools” in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Another test is available for children as young as four months and focuses on tracking their development to identify those who are falling behind in an effort to give them urgent assistance.

Over 200 parents attended recent meetings which were held to raise awareness of developmental issues experienced by children. In St. Kitts, over 60 children were tested based on concerns raised by parents and of these, about half of the children have continued to attend classes at least twice a week to assist them in their learning.

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