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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 21, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesTerry Hears from Parents of Students with Disabilities

Terry Hears from Parents of Students with Disabilities

Gerri Hanna (from left), Kristie Coonrod and Lisa Bass chat at the VIAN discussion.Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry was on the verge of laryngitis at a discussion sponsored by the Virgin Islands Autism Awareness Network (VIAN) Wednesday. That was fine with attendees — they were there to talk to her.

The meeting at the Palms at Pelican Cove was attended by 20 parents, grandparents, educators, and caregivers of children with all sorts of disabilities.

Participants introduced themselves and briefly spoke about their child while Terry listened and took notes in a journal. The tone was one of joy at a child’s accomplishments, and sadness at a recent diagnosis.

“We want parents to become better advocates for their kids,” Terry said. “This is how we can deliver better services to the territory.”

Most of the conversation was on what progress has been made this school year with Individual Education Plans (IEP) set up for each child. One parent who asked not to be identified said her son was not getting what he needs. She said only now, in February, he is getting psychological testing.

“What they offer is not acceptable.” she said, adding that all he is getting is speech therapy a few times a week. The issue of a paraprofessional accompanying a child all day was also brought up. The parents told Terry physical and occupational therapy on St. Croix is problematic and inconsistent.

Terry, whose background is in special education, said she was surprised to hear about some of the issues.

“Any time you see something happening, don’t assume the superintendent knows about it,” Terry told the group. “ It must be brought to our attention.”

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, which may result in the reversal of a diagnosis of autism with early detection, was discussed after viewing a brief video on it. In ABA a therapist and aide work with the child on behaviors they might not pick up on their own, teaching social, motor, verbal and reasoning skills.

“This is a tragedy that there isn’t an ABA therapist in the territory,” said Dr. Trevena Moore, acting as moderator. She added this is why parents have to be active and involved in their child’s education.

Terry admitted the department has a hard time getting therapists because there is a nationwide shortage. She said the department has a few special education teachers recruited internationally. She added the Education Department would try to hire additional staff with specialized training.

“We must continue to fight until our kids get the same therapists as our counterparts in the States,” said Stephanie Barnes, founder and president of VIAN and mother of an autistic son. “Don’t expect a miracle — you are your child’s miracle.”

For more information on VIAN call 626-3330

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