BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Parents who suspect their children might show symptoms of autism now have somewhere to go and someone to turn to with the Sept. 4 opening of the St. Kitts Spectrum Services Centre located at the Industrial Site Pre-School.
The centre will deliver screenings, early diagnostic services and ongoing care to children diagnosed with autism.
The centre’s opening is the culmination of four years of autism therapy development led by St. Kitts-based autism advocate Ms. Mauricer Marshall, Florida-based Certified Autism Specialist Dr. Sheryl Rosin, and the Ministry of Education. St. Kitts Spectrum Services is the first of its kind to open in the Eastern Caribbean.
Dr. Rosin has been conducting workshops and free clinic screenings for families in St. Kitts and Nevis with autistic children. She said there is definitely a need for having this service in Federation and the centre will surely serve the nation’s youth effectively.
Assessment, intervention are key
“Our aim is to provide assessment and intervention, resources and services that each child can perform to their full potential,” Dr. Rosin explained.
“Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the world with a prevalence of 1 in 59. It affects 1 percent of the world, and St. Kitts and Nevis are no different,” said Dr. Rosin. “I identified 58 cases on Island, but believe there are many more. The opening of this Centre will change the landscape of disability in St. Kitts and Nevis and provide opportunities for children and families to receive the quality and effective services they deserve.”
There is no cure for Autism, but many evidence-based practices can be used to change the course of a child’s life and help them to reach their full potential. A Christophe Harbour employee and parent of an autistic child brought the need for local services to the Christophe Harbour Foundation.
Only the beginning
“After talking with Dr. Rosin, I was surprised to learn how much there was still to do to develop autism programs here in St. Kitts and Nevis,” said Katherine Verano, Christophe Harbour Foundation board member and marketing chair.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Vincent Hodge noted that this service will be beneficial to all the families affected by the developmental disorder.
“The Ministry of Education is excited about this project reaching this point. We are eternally grateful and indebted to Dr. Sheryl Rosin for her relentless pursuit in ensuring that this project happens,” the permanent secretary said. “Our families don’t have to leave St. Kitts and go abroad to receive the treatment for autism, they are going to receive treatment right here.”
Minister of State within the Ministry of Health, Hon. Wendy Phipps echoed sentiments on behalf of her ministry.
Tolerance, inclusiveness necessary
“In life in St. Kitts and Nevis and the rest of the world, it is about adopting a spirit of tolerance and inclusiveness, especially with persons who we deem as being different,” Hon. Wendy Phipps said, while congratulating the Ministry of Education and all stakeholders for playing an instrumental role in the opening of the centre.
“The message we (Ministry of Health) would like to send to the general public is that illnesses, disorders and diseases can happen to anybody. We owe it to our citizens, colleagues and residents to put things in place that recognize differences and appreciate the diversity in differences. Look towards the solutions that we can bring.”
Minister of Education, Hon. Shawn Richards, thanked all who played a part in ensuring that the centre was established.
Special education services
“It is no accident that the Ministry of Education has embraced the expansion of special education services to provide services for children with autism,” Minister Richards said. “The autism project is one that demonstrates the power of partnership. My Ministry continues to provide financial resources to ensure the development of this worthwhile initiative, designed to support the social, emotional and educational well-being of this category of our student population with special needs.”
“There is no doubt in our minds that the opening of this facility is a significant one, an event that will change the educational landscape of our country as it serves the many families who will receive treatment here,” assured the Minister.
Key individuals that were also in attendance were the Minister of Health et al, Hon. Eugene Hamilton; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, William Hodge; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mrs. Delores Stapleton-Harris; Reverend Hilton Joseph; and Mrs. Josephine Claxton Richardson, Director of the Spectrum Services Centre.
The Ministry of Education, recognizing the invaluable contribution that many individuals and organizations made over the past four years would like to express its sincere thanks and appreciation to the following individuals: Dr. Sheryl Rosin and family; Mr. and Mrs. Verral Marshall; Dr. Warren Ross and Michelle Peres of the University of Medicine and Health Sciences; Mr. John Zuliani of the Royal St. Kitts Hotel; Rotary Club of Liamigua St. Kitts; Paediatric Assistance League of St. Kitts (PALS); Christophe Habour Foundation; Source Relief; US Embassy in Barbados, through USAID; Cathleen McFarlance Foundation Inc.; Mickey’s Hope; and America Speech-Language Hearing Foundation.