Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 24th 2014 Contents B2
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, April 24, 2014
"Usually when you have children whose academic
needs are not met in the classroom it manifests itself
somewhere negative," Cadette said in a recent interview
at the school, which is on Ariapita Ave.
Cadette said one of the major obstacles to diag-
nosing and dealing with many learning disabilities
is the notion, waning but still prevalent in T&T, that
only people with obvious physical or intellectual
handicaps are disabled.
"Children with hidden disabilities, they look like
you and I. When they look like you or I, nobody
knows that there s a challenge. So the expectation is
that it is a human failing on my part, and it isn t that
something is going on here," said Cadette, touching
Cadette tells the story of when Eshe s founder Esla
Lynch, who has dyslexia, first took the idea of the
school to a Ministry of Education official who worked
in special education.
"She was told that dyslexia is a name that rich
people give for the fact that their children were lazy,"
said Cadette. "For him, special education was the
vision impaired, the hearing impaired, the mentally
retarded, and the physically handicapped...She always
refers to that."
The situation in T&T has improved a lot since
then. More teachers are getting training in special
education, the Student Support Services is a depart-
ment of the Ministry of Education that was set up
to deal with problems that may be affecting children s
ability to learn, and a special education policy paper
is in the works. Cadette attended a recent stakeholder
consultation meeting on the policy.
But the country still has a long way to go.
At Eshe s, each teacher has a maximum of 14
students per class so that students with specific
challenges can be given particular attention. A
typical class in a public school can be twice that
number, which makes it more difficult to identify,
much less give additional attention to, students
who might need it.
Most of Eshe s students are referred from public
schools and are eligible for government assistance
in paying school fees, but this requires a costly
assessment from a psychologist. Parents who can t
afford it have to go through the public system and
this can be a long process---as much as two years.
And T&T s political system, which sees policy
and personnel changing with each new adminis-
tration, can also be an obstacle to improvement.
"Everything is so politicised," said Cadette. Touch-
ing a copy of the special education draft policy
paper, she asked: "If this present government does
not win the election next year what happens to
this document? Does this work come to a halt?
What has happened in the past (is that new gov-
ernments) put a halt to it."
Cadette, a Trinidadian who taught students and
trained teachers here before migrating, is on a two-
year sabbatical from the Howard School, a 64-
year-old special education institution in Atlanta,
where she d been teaching for the past 13 years.
When the retiring Lynch asked her to be interim
principal, she had reservations about leaving her
job in the US. But she believes in what Eshe s is
doing and has always wanted to help the school.
She facilitated a workshop at Eshe s in 2012 with
a colleague from the Howard School. The school
partnership also saw four teachers from Eshe s
spending a week at Howard last year for training.
Howard s assistant head, Allen Broyles, will be
a presenter at the conference, and Howard teachers
will help facilitate a children s camp at Eshe s in
July that will use ideas shared in the conference.
There s proof among Eshe s alumni that the sac-
rifice and effort are worth it.
"Many of our students have gone on to tertiary
level education, both nationally and internationally;
many of our students have opened their own small
businesses," said Cadette.
"We have produced students who are independ-
ent, successful contributors to the T&T society and
the larger world."
EYES OPEN WIDE from Page B1
'Hidden disabilities' may be
cause of crime/delinquency
• For more information on the conference
Hidden Disabilities: A Look Through the
Microscope---Prevalence and Intervention or
about Eshe's call 622-7206.
Principal of Eshe's Learning Centre, Kitts Cadette. PHOTO: MICHEAL BRUCE
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