Government is being urged to do more to support Barbadians with special needs and to stop treating them like second-class citizens.
The call has come from President of the Barbados Down Syndrome Association (registered charity #1354), Asha Alleyne-Renwick, who said functioning systems need to be put in place to ensure members of the special needs community have equal opportunities and access to the resources necessary to allow them to reach their full potential.
“We need to ensure that as we go forward and changes are implemented for the betterment of the Barbadian society, individuals with special needs are not left behind.
“As it stands, when a child is born with a special need – be it Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy or any other physical or mental disability – the parents of that child struggle and fight to provide the tools necessary for that child’s development. The necessary early intervention therapies are often financially unattainable and thus that child is immediately placed at a disadvantage. This cannot be allowed to continue,” she stressed.
The teacher and mother of a ten-year-old son with Down Syndrome stated that major changes need to occur within the education system if students with special needs are to become functioning members of society.
“Inclusion needs to be more than a fancy catchphrase bandied about year after year, while parents of children with special needs fight every day against an education system which is neither willing nor prepared to accept our children. Where are the teachers’ aides? Where are the speech, physical and occupational therapists within our public school system? Where are the child psychologists? We have to do better!” she insisted.
Alleyne-Renwick added that Barbados needed to act on the many principles outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“Barbados has signed and ratified this document which outlines that the discrimination against any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the inherent dignity and worth of a human being. This is not a special needs issue. This is a human rights issue,” she opined. (PR)