Special Needs Children Need Therapy to Thrive
Occupational therapy (OT) plays a significant role in supporting children with special needs. Its impact on these children can be profound and multifaceted, addressing various aspects of their development. Here are several ways occupational therapy can positively impact special needs children including; sensory processing, fine and gross motor skills, daily living skills, cognitive and perceptual skills, social and emotional development, assistive technology, school performance, behavioral support, family support and education, and an improved quality of life.
The impact of occupational therapy on special needs children is holistic, aiming to address not just specific challenges but to empower them to live fulfilling and meaningful lives to the best of their abilities. It’s important to note that the effectiveness of therapy can vary based on individual needs and the collaborative efforts of therapists, families, and other professionals involved in the child’s care.
The Sponsored Therapist
Our Sponsored Therapists Program provides room and board for licensed therapists from the USA to spend a minimum of 1 week and maximum of 12 weeks in Jamaica to work in the pediatric unit at one or more of the Smile a While Foundation partner facilities. Each therapist can serve 15 children during the course of one week. We hosted our first cohort of sponsored therapists in April 2023 for a specialized splinting clinic. Depending on the child’s circumstance, this access will improve the child’s mobility, ability to pursue education and cognitive functions create an overall positive impact on the family’s life.
We aim to grow this program throughout the Caribbean so that special needs children and families living there can receive continued therapeutic intervention at no cost.
On trips, we focus our therapist’s energy on providing therapy to children in need, connecting families to resources, and spreading knowledge of therapy techniques families and children can do on their own to aid their functioning.
As an example, if a special needs child was fortunate enough to receive an early diagnosis of autism as a toddler, but never received any behavioral intervention, occupational therapy, speech therapy, or physical therapy and was left to their own devices, by the time they are school age they would already be behind, and could seriously struggle cognitively and socially. A child who receives full-time, consistent intervention starting at infancy can enter the education system with the ability to learn.
This program has the ability to make huge impacts on children that otherwise would not receive the care they needed.
Adding Access to Care for Jamaica
About 30% of children in Jamaica have special needs, according to The Mico University College, yet “only 313 of Jamaica’s 23,000 teacher cohort are trained in special education.” (Dr. Polly Bowes-Howell, The Gleaner, March 13, 2019). Further, 52% of Jamaicans with disabilities live in rural areas where resources to address their needs are nonexistent.
Our goal is to improve education for skilled therapists on the island, get more skilled therapists to the island, and to remove barriers to therapy.
Help Fund our next Sponsored Therapist Cohort
We are excited to send our next cohort of our Sponsored Therapist program to Jamaica in 2024! Your donation will support our ability to fund this trip AND to make the trip as impactful as possible.
Give a gift of therapy to a disabled child today at https://smileawhilefoundation.org/donate/