Andrew’s Story, St Lucia
Beverly-Anne Barthelmy and Alma Harris
Andrew goes to school in Castries, the capital of St Lucia in the eastern Caribbean. Including children with Down’s Syndrome in primary schools is unusual in St Lucia. At the age of three months, Andrew’s parents took him to the early stimulation programme at Dunnottar School, one of four schools which cater for mentally challenged children in St Lucia. Andrew attended the programme once a week until he went to pre-school. Staff from Dunnottar monitored him throughout his pre-school years.
But where would Andrew go next? Dunnottar School was interested in beginning a new programme to include children with Down’s Syndrome in regular schools. In September 2001 a school was identified, the principal and teachers were interested in facilitating the programme and Andrew was offered a place. A teacher from Dunnottar School provided support in the regular primary school and four children with Down’s Syndrome were included in the programme.
Andrew is now eight and has almost completed three years at the school, two in the mainstream class with occasional reinforcement of learning in the shared resource room. In this room the Blind Welfare Association supports visually impaired children, and others with difficulties in learning receive extra help.
We discuss Andrew’s progress on a daily basis. His self-confidence is increasing, he is becoming more independent and is able to mix with others – not just family members. In the following conversation we (Alma, Andrew’s support teacher and Beverley, his mother) reflect on the progress he has made:
Alma: How did you feel when we first suggested that we should move Andrew into a regular primary school?
Beverley: Although I felt elated, I was concerned about how he would adapt to being in a class of 35, with children whose learning ability was more advanced.
A: But we told you that he would be in a small group in the school’s resource room – were you reassured?
B: Oh yes, that was part of the elation! But even though I knew there was support, I worried about whether the children would accept him and whether he would get along with the teacher.
A: Having met the resource room teacher and seen the school, did you feel that he would ‘make it’?
B: When Andrew was born, I didn’t think he would ever learn to read or write, but he is able to write his name, read his reading book, and his speech is developing – not perfectly, but I can see him progressing.
A: That’s because he is exposed to children speaking well. He would not have had such positive role models if he had gone to a special school.
B: He’s also much more confident. He no longer lets his father walk him to the classroom – now he says goodbye to him at the school gate!
This conversation took place in Castries during a SCcOPE course, attended by Andrew’s mother in March 2004. His teacher attended a course in Trinidad in 2003 and carried out a community development project – ‘Empowering Parents Through Education’ – before graduating from the course. Andrew’s parents are actively involved in the St Lucia Association of People with Developmental Disabilities (SLADD), which has its own special education centre, Dunnottar School.
Contact SLADD at:
PO Box 849