Dr Lenisa Joseph, a Programme Coordinator/Researcher in the Office of the Prime Minister, said children with developmental challenges in Tobago are receiving better treatment than those in Trinidad.
Speaking at a workshop hosted by the Ministry of Health at the Scarborough General Hospital last Friday, Joseph noted that access to services were free for children with disabilities in Tobago and the waiting time was not very long.
“Unlike in Trinidad, most children in Tobago how have disabilities access services free of charge at the hospital and the waiting time is not very long. That’s one of the difference between Trinidad and Tobago, I have noticed. Most children in Tobago receive occupational therapy, speech therapy, physiotherapy free of charge at the public hospital,” she said.
The workshop, which targeted parents of children with developmental challenges from the age of two to nine, was a result of an intervention by Reema Carmona, wife of President Anthony Carmona. It was intended to equip parents and caregivers with the skills needed to interact with and support their young children who have developmental needs and disability.
“The programme has not been rolled out yet, but we realise so far from our training and discussions that there is a need for focus on this type of development and identify the issues through data collection. Through this level of data collection, services will be available to alleviate some of the issues to deal with the needs of children with developmental challenges,” said Joseph.
Joseph said Tobago needs a proper data collection system.
“We have yet to identify children in early childhood centres and primary schools to see who are coming up with these challenges, who would benefit from these initiatives and so conversations are on the way with some NGOs on what can be done towards collecting that additional data,” she said.
“We want to launch an initiative that would give us a good idea of which area children come from and that’s just to look at the numbers, to be able to report and analysis that data. What we need to do is develop a screening of children in the near future to get more data,” she said.
She said the initiative was launched in Trinidad in August 2017 with the training of 14 master trainers, two from Tobago.
At the workshop, parents raised concerns about the lack of information available for them to help care for their children with developmental challenges to which one child developmental specialist noted the historical low turnout of mothers and parents to programmes which were held to help provide support to them.
The solution was arrived at whereby a group was formed with parents, supported by specialists, to assist with informing other parents of available programmes for their children. The parents also pointed to a need for a skills training programme.