Trinidad and Tobago: The Opposition leader and Former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad Bissessar have observed World Autism Day 2022 in the country and issued a statement on the day on Saturday, April 2, 2022.
Kamla Persad Bissessar noted, “Today we join countries around the world in recognizing the annual World Autism Awareness Day. This year’s theme is “Inclusive quality education for all.”
She stated that Autism refers to a series of conditions related to cognitive development. As per the World Health Organisation, one in every 100 children has Autism.
Bissessar further highlighted that Children with Autism have special challenges as it pertains to education, which may affect their future employment and other life opportunities.
Outlining the significance of Autism Day, she emphasized, “Trinidad and Tobago has made strides in recognizing that children with Autism require special care and attention; however, there is still so much more work that needs to be done if we are to truly achieve inclusive quality education for all.”
Kamla Persad further encouraged the people of Trinidad and Tobago and affirmed that Parents with Autistic children face lengthy delays in diagnosis, as well as significant costs associated with therapy and education. This means autistic children are especially vulnerable to falling out of the education system completely if their parents lack sufficient financial resources.
“These inequalities have been greatly exacerbated over the past two years as our school children have been unable to attend physical classes due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many parents themselves are struggling with either reduced earnings or unemployment. If there is no substantive plan to close the inequality gap, the negative ramifications to our society could last for generations to come”, underscored the opposition leader.
She also outlined the work done by the UNC and said that the UNC had put forward a number of proposals to assist parents of children with special needs, including the introduction of free psychological assessment for preschool children in 9 categories – academic, behavioural, social, emotional, adaptive functioning, fine or gross motor, speech and language e.g. autism, dyslexia. From these assessments, teaching can then be adjusted to suit the child’s needs, preventing problems from occurring later on.
Kamla Persad encouraged the people of the Caribbean country and highlighted the importance of the Autism Season. She reiterated, “Our nation can only succeed if everyone, including those with Autism and other special needs, is able to access the education and healthcare services they need to fulfill their true potential. I also urged the Government to do more to ensure that all our nation’s children are provided with opportunities to learn and grow.”