Autism programme to welcome first pupils
An autism spectrum disorder programme for preschool children will welcome its first pupils next month.
The new programme at Prospect Preschool in Devonshire will open on September 10 — the first day of the new school term.
Sherri Bucci, the assistant director of early childhood at the Department of Education, said that the programme and training was “not about putting a label on a child, but about addressing individual's needs”.
Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, added that a “specially designed and resourced” classroom would serve the pupils.
He said: “This programme will close the gap in our ASD programme offerings between the child development programme and primary school as we have ASD programmes in the primary, middle and high school levels.
“It will not only offer specialised early intervention and support for students on the ASD spectrum but include students who may have similar support needs.
“With a 1:2 teacher-student ratio, the programme itself will provide focus on the social and emotional elements of development, while at the same time utilising the preschool curriculum that is taught in other schools, according to the child's level of functioning.”
Mr Rabain added that teachers, support staff and Department of Education employees were taking part in a two-day training session this week.
Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, announced in the 2019-20 Budget Statement in February that some of the $327,000 earmarked for preschools would be used to create an ASD programme.
Anthony Peets, then president of charity organisation Bermuda Autism Support and Education, said after the Budget announcement that early diagnosis was “imperative” and that “specific intervention programming is welcomed”.
Mr Peets added: “What is more than imperative is having trained personnel who implement the day-to-day interventions.
“Working with children on the spectrum is way more than just having awareness of a diagnosis.
“Interventions are tailored and targeted for that child.”
Tinée Furbert, the Junior Minister of Disability Affairs, said in an op-ed in April that services in Bermuda for people with autism had “come a long way”.
She added: “We will continue to work hard to improve access and services for persons with autism and their families.”
An information session for families and professionals will be held tonight at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute from 6pm to 8pm.