Manchester now has a diagnostic and care centre, which will cater to the special learning needs of children with autism and cognitive challenges. The Educational Assessment and Resource Centre, located on the grounds of Church Teachers’ College in Mandeville, was built by the Government at a cost of $35 million.
It boasts two play and learning rooms, an observation room, a nurses’ station, an administrative section, a lunch room, bathrooms, offices and laboratories.
On staff are a special-educational psychologist, a clinical psychologist, and special-education teachers. The spacious two-storey structure will be open to the public on March 11.
Minister of Education, Youth and Information Senator Ruel Reid said the establishment of the centre is in keeping with the Government’s focus on ensuring that the education system is inclusive and enables students to maximise their full potential.
“We are going to use the diagnostic centre to make sure that no child is left behind in the region,” he said, noting that it will customise learning through the use of technology.
He was delivering the keynote address at the official opening of the centre recently.
Senator Reid said that global figures indicate that one in every 10 students is likely to have severe special needs.
He noted further that there are persons with mild autism that goes undetected. “Indeed, one in every 42 boys is autistic, and one in every 167 girls is autistic. Autism is on a spectrum of mild to severe. Some of the challenges faced in the classroom are because this goes undetected,” he said.
The education minister said that in addition to establishing assessment and diagnostic centres, increased focus will be placed on an early-stimulation/intervention strategy that addresses needs during the first 1,000 days of the child’s life.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has said that the period spanning conception and one’s second birthday is when the foundations of optimum health, growth and neurodevelopment across the lifespan are established.
“Learning begins from conception because the first 1,000 days, from conception to age two, is a key age; two is the highest point of their cognitive neurological development (brain capacity),” Reid added.