Call to use special needs teachers properly

Sinanan told Newsday that research has shown that one in five students has a learning or physical disability that impedes them from studying. However, many of these students go undiagnosed.

“The research shows one in every five students is a special needs child. This means that 20 percent of our students have some sort of learning disability such as dyslexia, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), a hearing problem or a visual impediment. However, there is no sufficient system in place to do something about it,” Sinanan said.

He said many students with special needs go undiagnosed and are often labelled as disruptive “troublemakers.” He said in order to sufficiently diagnose students with special needs, specialists need to be in the schools constantly assessing the students.

“When you don’t know what a child’s problem is, and a child is acting out in class, then the teachers see them as miserable or problem children. We do not have that kind of support system in the schools to do proper diagnosis,” Sinanan said.

Schools should constantly test students at an early age for learning and physical disabilities, but Sinanan said there are insufficient resources for schools to conduct such tests.

“Regarding the testing of students, we do not have the support systems in the schools to do that kind of diagnosis. There has to be a team of specialists doing the screening. It has to be ongoing,” Sinanan said.

Currently, there are 14 government and government-assisted special needs schools and 11 private sector special needs schools which cater to almost 3,000 students. Sinanan said this is insufficient and calls on the Government to take full responsibility for special needs schools.

He said most of the schools that cater for children with special needs are run by non-government organisations (NGO), but he said the Government needs to create more special needs schools and provide more support for the NGO schools.

Stating that special needs teachers are underutilised, Sinanan said there are teachers who graduate from the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) with Bachelor’s degrees in education (BEd) who specialise in children with special needs, but these teachers are absorbed into the regular school system and are not given the chance to work with children they are trained to help.

“There are a lot of people who have done the BEd in special education but they need to create the posts. The University of Trinidad and Tobago has been turning out lots of people with BEds with emphasis on special education, but no real position has been made. Cabinet needs to create the post of special education so that they could do what they are trained to do,” Sinanan said.

On Thursday at the post-Cabinet press briefing, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said the country’s education system has an inclusive model that makes provision for children with special needs.

He said more than a year ago, Cabinet passed a note making provisions for 732 personnel from the Student Support Services Division to include behavioural psychologists, clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, special needs, assistant brail technicians, and teachers who are trained in utilising brail to help students.

Gopeesingh also said the ministry was in the process of moving the special needs teachers from regular classrooms and have them move throughout the education system so they could help identify and manage the students with special needs.

Gopeesingh said the ministry was mandated to construct special needs schools throughout the country


"Call to use special needs teachers properly"

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