UNLIKE obvious physical disabilities in children which may be easy to diagnose and treat, there are other ‘hidden’ ones that specialists may need to pay more attention to so as to be able to determine, accurately, just what the problem is.

This is where the Regional Special Education Needs/Disability Diagnostic and Treatment Centre makes a real difference in the lives of such children and their families.
“A centre like this makes a difference in everyone’s life. It helps you to understand who has a disability and who doesn’t. It differentiates the kinds of disabilities, because not all disabilities are disabling,” acting Coordinator of the centre, Keon Cheong told the Guyana Chronicle.

Located inside the compound of Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara, the centre had its start in 2017 subsequent to a Caricom Heads of Government summit where the programme was proposed.

Its purpose is to provide an interdisciplinary approach to identifying, treating and preventing disabilities. In this space, each individual has the opportunity to access a comprehensive evaluation.
It does not only cater for Guyanese children but all those in the region — in the CARICOM member states — can access the services.

“We have an agreement signed among the CARICOM Secretariat and the Governments of Guyana and Cuba that paved the way for Cuban specialists to be on the ground in Guyana and for persons to be trained to continue the work of the project,” Cheong shared.

The Cubans were here for three years and, after the programme ended, the Guyana Government decided that it wanted to sustain it. So the Ministries of Education and Health collaborated to do just that.
The Ministry of Health built the building and the Ministry of Education helped with furniture and staffing. The decision to keep the programme going was both worthwhile and practical as each year the number of children being helped continues to grow.

According to Cheong, in 2021, the centre was able to diagnose 145 children and by June of 2022, would have already done one hundred. “So we will be surpassing 145 by the end of this year. We also do outreaches to various regions,” he informed.

Meanwhile, according to its mission statement, the centre is there to provide effective care for children, adolescents and youths with disabilities by preparing socio-educational agents of the region; promoting prevention, diagnosis and early intervention to ensure that all children are included at every stage of their learning.

Various specialists are on hand to work with the children including a physiotherapist, social worker, occupational therapist and psychologist. “The doctors may be able to speak to physical disabilities but the centre is there for those disabilities that have to do with intellectual, learning, and emotional disorders,” Cheong explained.

Some of the services offered at the centre include counselling for individuals and families; speech, occupational and physical assessment; speech, occupational and physical therapy; cognitive evaluation, diagnostic evaluation, ASD screening/assessment, learning disability assessment, intellectual disability assessment, behavioral assessment, and individual education plan.

Interventions and programmes include early stimulation, school consultations, teacher and parent training, and home visits and plans. An assessment may be recommended when there are concerns about a child’s cognitive, emotional or behavioral functioning; academic achievement, problems paying attention, difficulty following through and completing tasks.
Persons can call 220-2018 to make inquiries about accessing the services or making an appointment.