Hundreds of special needs children across the island benefited from support through the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP) last year.
The intervention included the provision of developmental assistance, stimulation and therapy, assistive aids and educational support.
As contained in the Economic and Social Survey Jamaica 2021, there were 888 referrals to the ESP last year, with Kingston and St. Andrew recording the highest number at 400, followed by Portland, 84; St. Catherine, 77; and St. James, 70.
At year end, enrolment stood at 701 children, comprising 458 boys and 243 girls.
Of the total enrolled, Kingston and St, Andrew at 315, represented 44.9 per cent, Portland and St. Catherine each had 66 children enrolled, while St. James had 46.
Across the parishes, boys outnumbered girls as ESP beneficiaries.
“Parenting workshops, training and counselling sessions continued to be provided in support of parents and other caregivers, while the reach of the programme was broadened islandwide by use of a mobile intervention unit,” the survey said.
The document said further that a blended approach, involving physical interaction and virtual connections, was employed to maintain the ESP activities as the pandemic prolonged.
Provision of shadow caregiver assistance for children with special needs in the learning environment continued to receive the support of the Special Education Unit of the Ministry of Education and Youth.
The survey also noted that aspects of motor dysfunction continued to be addressed through procurement of adaptive equipment such as specialised wheelchairs, walkers, standers, special seats and other stimulatory equipment.
Local development partners played an integral role as funding sources to support early intervention initiatives, thereby improving the quality of service rendered.
“Client diagnosis for cerebral palsy and language delays also benefited from access to adaptive aids,” the report said.
During the year, a total of 102 children transitioned from the ESP into special education units or mainstream classrooms in the primary education system.
Some 2,514 intervention sessions were conducted through the Community-based Rehabilitation Programme using the blended approach of virtual meetings and physical contact time.
The ESP is an early intervention programme under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security for young children (0-6 years) with various types of developmental disabilities.
Among the disabilities managed by this programme are cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities ranging from sensory impairment, autism, Down syndrome, developmental delay, secondary to psychosocial deprivation and co-morbid behavioural problems, including attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder also known as (ADHD).