Par­ents of spe­cial-needs chil­dren urged to help each other

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Syranno Baines/Gleaner Writer

POINT­ING TO the many chal­lenges faced by par­ents of chil­dren with var­i­ous types of devel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties (DDs), Michael McKen­zie, fa­ther of a six-year-old who suf­fers from autism, has charged par­ents to play their part in the growth of all spe­cial-needs chil­dren, not just their own.

“Dis­abil­ity af­fects every child dif­fer­ently, and there’s also a ques­tion of what level of dis­abil­ity, whether mild, mod­er­ate or se­vere. So, dif­fer­ent par­ents will go through dif­fer­ent chal­lenges. Some par­ents can’t han­dle it, so we have to chip in to try and help that child re­alise his/her full po­ten­tial,” rea­soned McKen­zie.

His son, Markeano, was part of the lat­est co­hort that tran­si­tioned from the Min­istry of Labour and So­cial Se­cu­rity’s (MLSS) Early Stim­u­la­tion Pro­gramme, an in­ter­ven­tion pro­gramme for chil­dren up to seven years old with var­i­ous DDs.

The tran­si­tion ex­er­cise was held at the Apos­tolic Church of Ja­maica Bethel Tem­ple in cen­tral Kingston on Wed­nes­day for stu­dents who have reached a level to be­come part of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

MA­JOR ROLE

McKen­zie told The Gleaner that in ad­di­tion to teach­ers, parental in­volve­ment played a ma­jor role in bring­ing chil­dren to that point.

“When you go to the school and you see what is hap­pen­ing – some chil­dren who can’t walk, some with to­tal mus­cle shut­down with not even their eyes can move – you re­alise that we are all in this to­gether,” ar­gued McKen­zie. “You, as a par­ent, can’t just think about your child, be­cause some par­ents are go­ing through some se­ri­ous stress. You have to help out other chil­dren and par­ents in any way you can – money, food, clothes, any­thing,” said McKen­zie.

A com­puter sci­ence ma­jor, McKen­zie ex­plained that he re­searched the var­i­ous dis­abil­i­ties and used sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy to aid not only his son’s de­vel­op­ment, but that of the other chil­dren.

“I try to for­mu­late pro­grammes to bring out the speech in my child be­cause I can of­ten see what he’s try­ing to say,” he re­counted. “So, I use my back­ground and knowl­edge to make it a lit­tle eas­ier, and I bring that same ap­proach to the other par­ents dur­ing var­i­ous pre­sen­ta­tions at monthly work­shops. I’ve seen first­hand where they have im­proved greatly, and I’m very proud of all of them,” McKen­zie stated.

‘When you go to the school and you see what is hap­pen­ing – some chil­dren who can’t walk, some with to­tal mus­cle shut­down with not even their eyes can move – you re­alise that we are all in this to­gether.’

Michael McKen­zie with his six-year-old son, Markeano McKen­zie, at the an­nual tran­si­tion ex­er­cise on Wed­nes­day.

Sa­man­tha Mor­ris, teacher, walks with Shenell Aekins.

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