I. SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION PROFILE
Government agencies with responsibility for disabled persons include the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Security. However, services rendered to disabled persons are carried out primarily in the private sector.
Efforts to plan special education programs in Jamaica have been supported by the following events: a Caribbean Regional Workshop in 1976 led to a 5-year plan for special education; a workshop on residential services for handicapped persons was held in 1977; and, a five-year plan has been designed for vocational education.
The Jamaica Council for the Handicapped is a governmental advisory body serving the Ministry of Health and Environmental Control, the Ministry of Youth and Community Development, and the Ministry of Local Government. The Council was responsible for initiating a vocational rehabilitation program in 1974. This program currently operates an assessment and guidance center which services physically handicapped persons aged 6-18 at the rate of 50 at a time, after a three month assessment period. The Council also maintains a training center for approximately 30 disabled persons and four production workshops for the total client population of 60. Another component of the vocational training unit is a horticulture project in which Peace Corps Volunteers have been involved in construction and materials gathering.
The Jamaica Association for Mentally Handicapped Children (JAMHC) is a voluntary organization providing services primarily to mentally retarded persons. The JAMHC was founded in 1956 and provides a number of important services to retarded children in a variety of settings. Diagnostic and counseling services are available through the JAMHC, in collaboration with the Council for the Handicapped and the University Hospital of the West Indies. The Lopez Home, a residential home run by the JAMHC, currently provides residential services for approximately 55 mentally retarded children. The JAMHC is planning to deinstitutionalize the Lopez Home.
The Mona Rehabilitation Center was opened 25 years ago as a result of an outbreak of poliomyelitis which created a large number of disabilities. It is now a major medical rehabilitation facility with excellent professional staff.
An Early Stimulation Program operated by the Caribbean Institute of Mental Retardation provides home-based services to handicapped children and their mothers.
The School of Hope, Jamaica's principal facility to educate retarded persons, is located in Papine, on the outskirts of Kingston. The School operates a pre-vocational unit, a developmental center (dealing with mentally handicapped students in regular schools) and has two workshops attached to the school (and a third located elsewhere in Kingston). There are approximately 160 students between the ages of 7-18 attending the school. Classes are organized for educable retarded students, slow learners and trainable retarded students. Students sell the products they craft by hand in the workshops.
A School for the Blind, opened in 1928, has graduated nearly ninety percent of Jamaica's blind. The school currently has 13 classrooms, a domestic science room, a music and audio room, and houses approximately 70 boys and 50 girls.
Teacher training in special education has been offered in Jamaica since 1976 at the Mico Teacher Training College. The program is partially staffed by Peace Corps Volunteers. In 1978 a diagnostic center for learning problems was established at the College. Short term in-service training is provided by the Caribbean Institute and the School of Hope with assistance from the Partners of the Americas.
II. PEACE CORPS ROLE IN SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION
Special education and rehabilitation volunteers have been involved in health, educational and social service aspects of special education and rehabilitation in Jamaica. Approximately 15 special education volunteers were working in Jamaica between 19771979. Eight volunteers had guidance and counseling assignments in which they ran workshop sessions and conducted surveys in health and nutrition.
The Peace Corps collaborates with Jamaican special education programs primarily through the Jamaica Council for the Handicapped. The Council has initiated a number of projects which have involved Peace Corps Volunteers. For example, an innovative early stimulation project was begun in Kingston in 1975 addressing behavior management of children. Peace Corps Volunteers work as part of a team with a target client group between the ages of 115. The early stimulation project also involves parent intervention in the education of preschool children.
The Peace Corps has also worked extensively with the Jamaica Association for Mentally Handicapped Children.
In recent years two project areas have emerged as dominant in addressing the needs of disabled persons in Jamaica: Vocational Rehabilitation and Special Education Teacher Training.
The growing concern for providing vocational rehabilitation services in Jamaica is due in large part to a social/political situation which has created critical unemployment, particularly in Kingston. Rural migration to Kingston has resulted in large pockets of poverty in the city. Central Village, a community of 7,000, grew up in the early 1970s as a result of an overflow of people into the poverty region of West Kingston. Unemployment in this particular region is as high as 70% and overpopulation a major problem.
• Peace Corps' vocational rehabilitation effort began when volunteers were requested by the Council for the Handicapped to expand design and commercial skills in a pilot project located in Kingston. In 1978 the project was staffed with four volunteers, two of whom dropped out in the first year of service. The volunteers who remained have worked directly with parents of disabled children teaching the development of cognitive and motor skills. The volunteers also worked directly with clients, giving screening and evaluation tests and demonstrating such techniques to Jamaican counterparts.
Peace Corps/Jamaica requested volunteers in vocational rehabilitation in some of the following job assignments: a special education work/study coordinator to work at the School of Hope in pre-vocational instruction; a psychological rehabilitation counselor to work at the Assessment and Guidance Center; a business educator to work at the Training Center for the Handicapped; a horticulturist/florist for the Vocational Training Center for the Handicapped; an industrial artist to design an experimental workshop; and an occupational therapist to work at the Mona Rehabilitation Center.
Teacher Training in Special Education
Insufficient numbers of well-trained teachers has limited Jamaica's ability to provide adequate services and meet the educational needs of disabled persons. Teacher training projects have addressed this problem directly through inservice training. The transfer of teaching skills and methodologies to teacher aides, youth corps workers, guidance counselors, agricultural education instructors and special education teachers has been a major priority.
• Twenty-three Peace Corps Volunteers were working on this project in 1979 in some of the following assignments: special education teacher trainer; special education teacher; behavioral scientist to work with a team on the early stimulation project; special education pre-school teacher for the early stimulation project; speech therapist in a special facility; early childhood education teacher trainer; teacher trainer/mobility instructor; and teacher trainer/special education teacher.
• One Peace Corps Volunteer worked at the Brown's Town Primary School approximately 70 miles outside of Kingston. A special education class had been organized at the school by a previous volunteer and during her assignment she organized a second class made up of approximately 30 children. The children were taken out of the regular class on the recommendation of the teacher and a few children were brought to the school when the volunteer learned that parents were keeping their exceptional children at home. Parents of handicapped children were, in general, unaware of their children's potential or the precise nature of their problems. The volunteer estimates that although the majority were educable, one-third of the children in the class had severe physical or emotional problems. The volunteer was in frequent contact with other teachers to obtain the names of students for the class. She developed a screening device to assist in the detection of slow and problem children which is still in use.
When the volunteer left the country in 1979, two Jamaicans who had trained at Mico Teachers College took over both classes.
• Peace Corps/Jamaica is developing an Advisory Committee which will determine Peace Corps' involvement in the International Year of Disabled Persons in Jamaica.
III. SUMMARY COMMENTS
In general, Peace Corps programming in special education and rehabilitation in Jamaica has been quite successful. Exceptions to this have generally been those assignments in Kingston where skill requirements are more demanding and daily life more turbulent. However, many volunteers have served in the capital city and their work has left lasting contributions. Jamaica has numerous kinds of institutions, agencies, and organizations attending to the needs of disabled persons but each of them has to struggle to survive. Peace Corps workers have helped expand services, train counterpart staff and create new program opportunities.
Due to a rapidly expanding infrastructure, the authors believe that Jamaica represents one of the most appropriate kinds of settings for Peace Corps work in special education and rehabilitation.
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