State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Alando Terrelonge met with Kimberly Francis and Dwayne Stewart, parents of Soul-Heart Francis, at the Ministry’s Heroes Circle office on Monday July 22, 2019.
Earlier this month there were reports in the media stating the parents had a struggle to find placement for Soul-Heart in schools. The Jamaica Star July 12 story headlined “Baby genius too bright for school - Parents struggle to find space for 3-year-old” also highlighted that the 3-year-old had High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s Syndrome.
The State Minister had open discussions with the parents which revealed that despite earlier reports, there was no direct communication with any ministry official regarding the challenges faced by them. Stewart conceded that he made a few calls to the ministry two years ago but never had dialogue with any senior personnel or educational specialist at the Ministry.
Minister Terrelonge also invited Dr. Morgan, assistant Chief Education Officer for the Special Education Unit, to the meeting to observe Soul-Heart and give her professional opinion as to the best way forward. Several options were explored in the meeting to find suitable solutions in getting Soul-Heart into a school that would be able to cater to his special needs.
“I have repeatedly said that an education is the best gift that we can give to our children. All our children are special and we must ensure that we devise educational programmes so that every child, irrespective of socio-economic background; race; religion; special gifts or disability, gets an opportunity to learn and maximize their full potential. Autism, or any other developmental disorder, must never be a barrier to an education or placement in a learning institution. I am pleased that Soul-Heart has parents who are dedicated to his education, and they have my full support and that of the Ministry of Education, that we will partner with them to ensure his growth and prosperity” Terrelonge added.
It was concluded that the Ministry would assist in getting a full assessment done by qualified professionals who would help in having a curriculum developed specifically for Soul-Heart. This will be followed by getting him placed in a school that is equipped to cater to his special needs.
The State Minister and father of two, was very impressed with Soul-Heart and reassured his parents that the Ministry of Education and the Early Childhood Commission would assist in ensuring Soul-Heart gets the assistance he needs.
CAPTION ONE: State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Alando Terrelonge engages baby genius Soul-Heart Stewart during a visit to the Education Ministry.
CAPTION TWO: State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Alando Terrelonge in a playful mode, with baby genius Soul-Heart Stewart and his father Dwayne Stewart. Soul-Heart's father met with Minister Terrelonge on Monday. The
Ministry has pledged to assist the three-year old.