Ten teachers and teachers’ assistants at the Every Child Counts School graduated from a CAET Institute course on July 26 following a period of intensive training over the past eight weekends. The CAET Institute (Communication Assistant Education Training) course is designed “To educate and increase the knowledge and skill of persons working in the capacity of communications assistant to a designated speech and language pathologist. It is also designed to reduce the professional and service needs requirement gaps that exist between the significant prevalence of communication disorders in the Bahamas and the amount of adequately trained and qualified interventionists available.”
Although some members of staff were unable to take this course since they were off-island, the teachers who did participate were, according to Mrs. Lynn Major, Principal of ECC, teachers of the younger children which is where the need lies most.
“I am excited about this training as it is a way to offer language intervention strategies under the guidance and direction of communication specialist where there are none physically present. It is a service badly needed for students with disabilities,” stated Mrs. Major. She also commented that this workshop had come at a good time since most of the older students have now graduated and the population of the school is much younger. The majority of students are 14 and under with half of these being under the age of 11 years.
The lectures were presented by Ms. Shameka Johnson, Ph.D. Professor in Speech and Language Pathology at Howard University. Ms. Johnson stated that this course was given as part of her private practice and that she has been pushing to come here for some time as a result of the charge given by the Prime Minister on disabilities.
It was the first time such a course has been conducted in The Bahamas. On the final day of the course guest speaker was Ms. Priti Haria, Assistant Professor, School of Education, Richard Stockton College, New Jersey, who focused on literacy and showed techniques and strategies to enhance literacy skills with special focus on reading.
An extensive amount of information was given during the entire course and the lectures were interactive with hands-on experience.
Upon successful completion of the course each of the participants was presented with a certificate stating that they had completed 32 educational hours with the CAET Institute and were now recognised as a Communication Assistant. These graduates will have input in restructuring the programs for when the school reopens in September
Ms. Nathalie Ramstar, teacher of the 4-11 year-old age group stated that having completed the course she now feels better prepared to help the students.
“It is always important to upgrade one’s skills and I feel that I have enhanced the skills I already had and learnt current methods of literacy especially regarding reading and communication issues. I feel that this very valuable course could also help children in regular schools,” she stated.
Ms. Serena Hardy, who is a volunteer assistant teacher, was very enthusiastic about what she had learnt in the course and found that it had been very informative and enlightening. She has a son who attends ECC and she had already been using the practices at home and found that they have been very effective with her son.
The course was sponsored with a grant from the international Apex Foundation and private individual companies with a commitment to improving the lives of children with special needs.