MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday said he has filed a bill seeking to increase access to early interventions and diagnosis for learners with disabilities, especially now that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic threatens their access to essential health and education services.
In filing Senate Bill 171 or the Inclusive for Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Act, Gatchalian said interventions should be available to children aged zero to four at child development and daycare centers.
The lawmaker stressed that early detection and interventions in these centers can help learners with disabilities in their developmental milestones, especially when they join regular classes.
“Bilang pinakamalapit na mga institusyon sa ating mga kabataang may kapansanan, dapat may sapat na kakayahan ang ating mga child development centers o day care centers upang masuri ang kakayahan ng mga batang may kapansanan,” said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture.
“Sa pamamagitan ng mga maagang pagsusuring ito, malalaman natin ang mga hakbang na dapat nating gawin upang maging angkop sa isang batang may kapansanan ang edukasyong kanyang natatanggap,” he added.
Child development workers, however, need to be capacitated so they can address developmental delays and provide minimum interventions for learners with disabilities, Gatchalian said.
He also noted that during a Senate panel hearing, it was learned that less than 10 percent of child development workers are trained to manage children with disabilities in daycare centers, as shared by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Program Management Bureau (PMB).
In the absence of developmental pediatricians to provide medical diagnosis, Gatchalian said child development centers can conduct assessments to identify risks of developmental delays. These assessments are done with screening tools such as the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) checklist.
The senator also noted the estimation made by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), stating that there were 5.1 million children with disabilities in the country as of 2018.
Data from the Department of Education’s Learner Information System, however, reveals that as of July 15, only 51,375 learners with disabilities are enrolled for the coming school year.
“Every child has a right to an education commensurate with his abilities and to the development of his skills for the improvement of his capacity for service to himself and to his fellowmen,” Gatchalian stressed in the explanatory note of the proposal.
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