Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie Campbell Tuesday made an appeal for the country’s speech, behavioral and occupational therapy specialists to partner with the government in the treatment of Autism by offering their services “gratis” to REACH Bahamas as a way of giving back to the community. “I also urge students who are passionate about helping others to pursue these areas of study, as they are much in demand in this country,” Minister Campbell added.
Minister Campbell said while there is no cure for Autism and the causes are unknown, treatment is available through therapy and behavioral interventions that address the core symptoms of Autism which are impaired social interaction, challenges with verbal and nonverbal communication, and obsessive or repetitive routines and interests. The Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development is a “proud partner” of REACH Bahamas, providing an annual subvention. Minister Campbell pledged that his ministry will “continue to do our part in this worthy effort.” REACH Bahamas is the country’s resource and educational source for Autism and other related challenges. A non-profit organization, its aim is to provide parents with comprehensive knowledge and tools in all areas of this neurological disorder.
Addressing the Annual World Autism Day Awareness “Light it up Blue” Ceremony hosted by REACH in Rawson Square Tuesday (April 2), Minister Campbell said speech, behavioral and occupational therapies are imperative for autistic children to progress. “While the government offers these services, there is always a need for partnerships in this effort,” Minister Campbell said. “REACH offers these services during its summer camp, however, ongoing treatment is needed.” Minister Campbell said private agencies offer help, but that the help is costly. “As a result, the autistic child does not receive the imperative interventions necessary.”
Minister Campbell said the Ministry of Education, through its Special Services Division, offers Placement, Assessment, and Speech Therapy to Autistic students in New Providence. Additionally, they provide a three-phase programme: the Willard Patton Primary School caters to the preschool student; the Garvin Tynes and Palmdale Primary Schools, to elementary students, and The Stapledon School as well as Anatol Rodgers Pre-vocational Unit, offer services to older students. Grand Bahama and Eleuthera are the only other islands that provide specialized services. “In some instances, Autistic students attend both public and private schools. Those students who are in the special units are mainstreamed for some of the subjects, based on their level of competence.” Minister Campbell said while the exact number of Autistic children within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas is unknown, the Department of Statistics “has assured that this question will be included in its upcoming 2020 Census.”
“Once the results are tabulated, the government will have in its possession reliable data that will inform and drive policies and programmes that would be of even more assistance to this group. I invite the community to celebrate with REACH, as April is Autism Awareness Month.”Among the activities planned for the month: an Easter Egg Hunt; T-Shirt Day (every Friday throughout the month); a Fun/Run/Walk at Montagu Beach; a Jazz Concert, and a Parent Support Group Meeting. “I applaud REACH for the free services and ongoing training offered throughout the year to parents, teachers, and caregivers, in addition to the Parent Support group sessions that are held every fourth Wednesday of each month. Continue to do your best. “I am cognizant of the barriers as well as challenges that parents face: embarrassment; difficultly accessing services; an insensitive community; costly or unavailable services; long waiting lists; among so many others. Thankfully, organizations such as REACH are slowly breaking down these barriers. I
More images from the ceremony below: