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Dec 1, 2011

Healthy Living speaks to National Resource Center for Inclusive Education

This week is dedicated to Disability Awareness. Many Belizean children like others worldwide struggle with intellectual disabilities, that puts them at a disadvantage in regular classroom settings. The sooner you learn of the problem, the sooner you can work with affected children and ease their frustration. There are many issues to look out for and in this edition of Healthy Living, NARCIE (National Resource Center for Inclusive Education), identifies the warning signs.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

When we use the term “Disability” some of the images that may immediately come to mind is a person in a wheelchair or maybe a person with vision or hearing impairment. In fact it’s relatively recent that persons who face challenges in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior have been included as persons with disabilities. In Belize, the National Resource Center for Inclusive Education (NARCIE) is a department of the Ministry of Education that works with children who have any form of disability. Manager of NARCIE, Sharon August, explains how they classify children with intellectual disability.

Sharon August, Manager of NARCIE

“There’s intellectual impairment, foundation deficits and learning disabilities. Intellectual impairment the child has intelligence that is below average. You will notice that the child will have difficulty not only with learning but also with functioning the way they interact with other. The way they play with others. They may spend a lot of time alone or they may also have speech difficulties. Intellectual impairment has more than just the academic that they are giving problem. With a child with a learning disability; you’ll see it coming out in different aspects in that the child may have visual perceptual problems. So u might present the letter “b” to the child but the child might see it as a “d”.  It happens in the brain; the child has no control over it. They do not have a vision problem. But the brain may do those reversals automatically. it may also comes up with the auditory perception; for example, you may give the child a sound “r” “ah” “n” and tell them put that together and tell me what words it make and the child may try and try and try buts somehow they do not have the ability to process that information that and be able to tell u that that spells “ran.”

Learning Disabilities are most obvious in a child’s academic performance. The third classification NaRCIE uses is Foundation Deficit.

Sharon August

“These are children who for whatever reason just did not get the proper foundation in school. They may have started late, school at 6 or 7. Maybe they did not go to preschool and the parent did not provide sufficient stimulation at home. To counteract not attending preschool. The teachers did not teach in a systematic manner or they had frequent absences. What happens with foundation deficit is that the child lacks the necessary foundation and once that foundation is provided; usually the child is able to move on successfully.”

From their experience at NARCIE, August says foundation deficit is seen most often in the students they assess. The causes for intellectual disabilities can range from unknown factors to specific cases of faulty chromosomes: like in the case Down syndrome. But if your child is not born with a specific condition or experience head trauma then as August advises that parents are the key factor in diagnosis.

Sharon August

“I think children go to school and want to learn; they want to succeed. So when you see a child not succeeding in school not doing well. It’s a warning sign.  For intellectual impairment, from early once parents may notice that the child is not smiling. The child may also not want to play with other child and want to play alone. The Childs speech and comprehension may different or below what other children their age are doing. With learning disabilities we also offer a caution that children aren’t really diagnosed with learning disabilities until they are 7 or older. Some of the things you’ll see with children with learning disabilities, other children will have also. But they will outgrow it but a child with a learning disability, it persist and it keeps on; this could be an indication, If your child is not doing that you need to get involved u need to ask questions.”

NARCIE conducts assessments on children who present signs of Intellectual disabilities. There are a few schools in Belize that incorporate children with special needs within the classroom or in special learning centers. Children with intellectual disabilities can lead successful lives; the most important factor is that parents and teachers adapt to their learning abilities.

Disability Awareness Week culminates on Saturday with the Special Olympics National Games, an athletic competition for children with both physical and intellectual disabilities. The event kicks off with a torch run from the Pound Yard Bridge to the MCC grounds where the athletes will compete in the different events.

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