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– says passionate Educator—calls for yearlong support By Sharmain GraingerRegardless of how people feel about them, Special Needs children have been and will always be a part of society. This was the assertion of Principal of the Gifted Hands Learning Centre for Special Needs Children,From left: Marcia Smith, Jewel Smith and Celeste Belgrave.Marcia Smith.The school is located at Parade Street, Georgetown, and caters to children with a number of special needs including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD),Jerseys From China, Down Syndrome and even slow learners.But according to Smith,Wholesale Jerseys China, they all must be counted as individuals in the society, regardless of the extent of their contribution. “Come elections time, when they are eligible, they will be registered, and I am sure they will be taken to vote. They have to be counted,” Smith insisted as she pointed out that “If they (special needs individual) are a part of society, why not include them in everything?”Smith’s remarks were forthcoming during a recent interview she afforded this publication. Being the mother of an autistic child has allowed her to embrace a special ability to appreciate and care for children with special needs or who are differently-able. It was because of her keen focus on helping her son that he is currently in a mainstream school.But ensuring that children with special needs are properly cared for could in fact be a costly undertaking, especially for some less fortunate families.Smith understands all too well the challenges associated with raising a child with special needs. “Lots of persons are single parents and they can’t afford to care for disabled children but they want their children to be a part of a school environment…that is the child’s rights,” said Smith as she considered that many families are in need of support to care for their special needs members.A typical school dayIt is for this reason that Smith has been doing all that she can, in her own way, to help educate the children who are entrusted into her care at the Gifted Hands Learning Centre.But Smith can only do so much for the more than two dozen special needs children currently enrolled at her school, and given this reality, she has been soliciting support from a number of organisations including the Ministry of Education. This, however, has not been an easy task, she divulged. In fact she described her attempts to meet with the relevant education officials as a “royal run around.”ENTITLEDThis is in spite of the enactment of a Disability Act which accentuates that persons with various forms of disability are entitled to so much. “A lot of people don’t know about the Act…they are entitled to housing, they are entitled to water, they are entitled to an education, and in that same Act it says if the parent or guardian has that child locked away, that parent or guardian can be charged and placed before the courts…”Smith explained.Support has however been forthcoming from some organisations. Smith reflectedDigicel staffers having fun with students on International Literacy Day.that it was on International Literacy Day (October 8) that staffers of Digicel Guyana took the time out to treat her students to a session of reading. The students were also presented with bag packs and even snacks.Other support that has been forthcoming from the Ministry of Public Health and the Cheddi Jagan Dental Centre which allowed her students to benefit from medical and dental checkups recently.“Any attention they get, it is exciting for them,” disclosed a smiling Smith. She however lamented that not too many other companies and individuals have been willing to offer needed support to the Special Needs School.“These children need consistent love and support…they may not be able to do much,Wholesale Stitched Jerseys, but they expect a certain level of treatment,” said Smith as she recalled how one of her students would usually make it his duty to bring her a flower or even a piece of grass each day as his way of showing affection.“I greet them (students) with a high-five…One little boy, every afternoon before he leaves he kisses me and says ‘love you sweetheart’ and I would say love you too. It makes your day, because this is what they have to give you, and its genuine…their love is very sincere,” added Smith.A student gets a dental check-up.She is therefore on a keen mission to find ways to help expand her school in hopes of being able to cater to even more special needs children, especially those from less fortunate families. Smith is hoping that she will be able to find a better location for her school, a level of support she’d anticipated would have come from the Education Ministry. According to her, “persons have called and some who have come in to us have asked ‘Miss you don’t have a bigger space?’”“All I’m asking for is the space…an area with yard space for the children to play; they shouldn’t be ‘cooped up’ in a classroom all the time as they are now.  I am willing to pay all the bills, because we are getting more children and they need the space; they shouldn’t be confined to a space like this,” said Smith as she glanced around the single classroom that accommodates her students.A PROCESSThis publication first highlighted Smith’s work in 2012. At the time she only had eight children in her care, but that number today stands at 28, with one of her students having recently left.In addition to facilitating swimming sessions by a professional coach,Cheap Jerseys Free Shipping, Smith is able to offer her students language, phonics and mathematics.  She disclosed that for the children with Down Syndrome, a modified nursery curriculum is used.“We at Gifted Hands believe that tailored, specialist education and support can make a difference to a person with special needs,” added Smith who points out in her school’s brochure “They can learn to maximize skills and achieve their full potential.”In fact one of her students with a learning disability was recently incorporated into the regular school setting because of the support he received from Smith’s school.“He will always remember his beginnings and I want to reward him…I will get him a trophy. His mother is just an ordinary cook and she said ‘Miss I can’t thank you enough’,” recounted Smith.“They all do learn, but things have to be taught to them repeatedly,” she said of her students, adding that “you don’t change the topic every day or every week…we work with them until they are able to grasp the concept.” Smith also explained that visual aids are an important aspect of teaching her students whose ages range from six to 47.Smith has high hopes for her students. She even envisages that some of them will be able to participate in the paraplegic sports slated for next year.“They might not be able to do it with a book but maybe they might be able to do it swimming, or on a bicycle. My aim is to teach them some lifelong skills even if it is planting cash crops…I want to help them to have a fulfilling life,” added Smith.According to her, an increasing number of people have been hearing about the school and they have been coming. But Smith has made it clear that “if you want to get to really know a special needs child you have to go into his or bubble; you can’t take them into your space…it simply wouldn’t be a smooth transition, but if you come to their space they will be comfortable.”And Smith is able to do this with the support of her two employees –her daughter Jewel and Celeste Belgrave. Belgrave has mothered a visually impaired child and is as passionate as Smith in teaching those who are differently-able.Smith and her staffers have all been able to benefit from training from the National Centre for Educational Resource Development’s Special Needs Education Department.Like Smith, her employees understand all too well that the service offered is not about earning a major profit.  In fact Smith has been working to ensure that her school can be accessed by all strata of society. This however means that she is unable to pay herself salary.“My passion to care for these children…this is what keeps me going,” she intimated as a satisfied grin formed on her face.The operation of Gifted Hands Centre has however not been going unnoticed. A lecturer,Cheap Jerseys, Ms Christine King,NFL Jerseys China, at the Adult Education Association has been using the Centre as a practical training ground for students. Smith had herself gained some of her knowledge at the very institution under Ms King, whom she views as her mentor.But it is not only for this reason that she is elated to lend support, but rather because she has a keen interest in helping others learn more about catering to children with special needs.  “They are able to get hands-on experience here,” asserted Smith.On December 3, the world will celebrate International Day of People with Disability. The aim of the Day is to encourage a better understanding of people affected by a disability, together with helping to make people more aware of the rights, dignity and welfare of disabled people, as well as raise awareness about the benefits of integrating disabled persons into every aspect of life, from economic to political, to social and cultural.The Day is one that is promoted by the United Nations since 1992 and is not exclusive with either mental or physical disabilities, but rather, encompasses all known disabilities – from autism to down syndrome.Smith is however hopeful that persons would not only remember those who are differently-able on special occasions such as on International Day of People with Disability, but rather, it should be a year-long occurrence.“These people don’t only need love on a few days, they need it every single day.”
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