June 29, 2022

Special Needs Foundation Cayman (SNFC). Coast to Coast challenge

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By Derek Haines

To iNews Cayman

 I have accepted a challenge to trek, in company with Mike Burcombe, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean along the Pyrenees to raise funds for the Cayman Islands SNFC. All funds received will go to the charity as all expenses for the effort will be covered by Mike and myself. 

The trek is quite arduous, covers approximately 560 miles of mountainous terrain and will take about 7 to 8 weeks to complete. As a member and past president of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman (RCGC) I am grateful that, as in previous fund raisers, the club has agreed to support this fund-raiser. 

On three previous challenges, including the 2014 ‘Hospice 6 marathon appeal’ H.E. Helen Kilpatrick agreed to be my patron. I am very grateful for this and sincerely believe that her support made a huge difference to the success of the appeals. I am very pleased that H.E. the Governor Martyn Roper has agreed to being the patron of this challenge. As with Governor Kilpatrick I believe his support will add weight to the appeal 

Please see below a SNFC case statement for information..

Derek Haines MBE, QPM, CPM,

Case Statement

Expanded Support and Educational Services

Vision
Given the substantial number of children with special needs in the Grand Cayman community, the Board of Directors of the Special Needs Foundation Cayman (SNFC) is committed to increasing the resources available for addressing the existing vacuum in special needs advocacy, education, professional development, and supportive services.
We plan to set a new standard for the impact and value of early, aggressive intervention.
We seek to extend and accelerate our impact by opening a preschool that will be a hub for education, family services and training for Grand Cayman professionals and educators.
Our House, The Inclusion Academy
Early childhood inclusion is about community, and the right of every infant and child to seek and achieve community regardless of his/her abilities. Values, policies, and practices that support this right are the foundation of inclusion.
Inclusion is important for every child, and every child is capable of inclusion. The sense of community, the social relationships, and the friendships created by inclusion are the materials from which lives are built. Learning to include and respect and engage with those who are different—by physical appearance, by language, or by other characteristics—is an essential life skill that will be the focus of the proposed preschool.
What is not special about special needs children is their need to be included. That is a universal human need. It’s important to recognize that their inclusion is an opportunity for every child to learn compassion, patience, tolerance, respect and other essential skills that can only be taught by doing.
The preschool is a beginning, but not the endpoint. The larger vision is a continuum of services throughout the lifespan, using evidence-based research combined with innovative strategies to fundamentally change the course of lives for those with special needs, their families, and all who are part of their lives whether continuously or casually.

Why?
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Nelson Mandela
No society can be both great and moral without caring for its less-advantaged members—those who cannot speak or do for themselves, those who depend on others to be their advocates, teachers, caretakers, and those whose contributions to the lives around them are different but no less important than that of any other person.
Compassion is a currency that should be spent often and generously because unlike money, it increases rather than decreases with each investment. Each individual, and each society, ultimately decides on how and where and when to make that investment.
Those with special needs—children born with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disorders, those with attention deficit disorder and other neurological abnormalities—these children are an opportunity, not a burden. They are an opportunity to make an investment of compassion that will be returned in innumerable ways as benefits to society.
Today, we understand far more about these special needs children than we did even a decade ago. We know they have enormous potential. We know they respond to educational and other efforts. We know that while in some cases their ability to communicate may be affected, their ability to learn is intact—and so is their joy at being recognized as capable, and engaged with, and invited to be part of a social world from which they have too frequently been routinely excluded.
There exists a rare opportunity in Grand Cayman. There are few services for special needs children, but there are also few barriers to rapidly advancing the state of the art for special needs education. There are no entrenched providers who will resist innovation. There are few existing facilities that might protect their territory for economic or political reasons. There is a blank canvas on which to draw the programs and resources that will maximize the lives of every special needs child in Grand Cayman. In a relatively short period, Grand Cayman could go from underserving its special needs children to being an exemplar, test bed, and template from which the rest of the world will draw lessons about what is possible.
This is not about simply building a preschool. It is about creating an innovative and comprehensive infrastructure that will ultimately offer a full suite of supportive services that help students with special needs, students without special needs, and the families and friends of all the students. This is about making accessible all the resources—from educational to psychological, from medical to financial—that a family and special needs person require while assuring that they are fully included as members of their class, their school, and their community.
About SNFC
The Special Needs Foundation Cayman (SNFC) was officially incorporated in December 2008. It is a charitable, nonprofit organization of parents, educators, community leaders and professionals committed to supporting children with a range of special needs across the Cayman Islands.
SNFC was established to address the circumstances of children and young persons aged 18 years and younger who have special needs. Initially, SNFC advocated for these individuals and their families by providing community education about special needs issues. In the last three years, the Foundation has grown considerably. It now supports more than 225 families and provides a range of free support including parent support meetings, Connect Group (age related) social events, quarterly community education sessions, a family support worker (social worker), respite care, sports & leisure activities, and financial assistance.
The primary focus of the Foundation continues to be advocacy for individuals and families and ongoing education of the public about the needs of the special needs community.
Advocacy alone, however, does not provide the comprehensive resources that are required. It is time to go beyond—far beyond—where we have been. SNFC is committed to implementation and action through the development and provision of appropriate and comprehensive support services for children and young persons with special needs.
We understand that this is a large goal and a challenging process that involves changing minds as well as raising funds and finding human resources. We also understand that it is something that requires extraordinary commitment by those who choose to participate. Their vision as well as their commitment must be clear and their belief in the urgency and necessity of the vision being implemented must be unwavering.
Some of the resources—human, physical, and fiscal—exist in Cayman. Many do not. Our mission is to identify what is needed and seek what is missing while being careful stewards of all the resources entrusted to us for the benefit of special needs children in Cayman.
Partnership
SNFC’s intent is to find the most informed, innovative research wherever it exists internationally and incorporate that into a long-range plan of action. Inspired by that point of view, we decided to explore options and opportunities with the renowned Experimental Education Unit (EEU) at the University of Washington’s College of Education.
The EEU has produced volumes of research information regarding effective educational service delivery models for special needs children over the past 50 years. A generous contribution from the Haugh Family Foundation enabled SNFC to engage EEU to explore and evaluate special needs services provided to children on Grand Cayman.
The EEU is staffed by scholars, education professionals and university students who conduct important research and refine/develop new educational approaches and techniques that improve children’s outcomes. EEU programs promote the development of children’s cognitive, motor, and communication skills in classrooms that include typically developing children as well as children with various developmental delays or disabilities.
The goal of the classroom programs at the EEU is to provide a positive educational experience to children with diverse abilities in a setting that enhances the strengths and supports the needs of all the children and provides children with opportunities to build membership in a community of peers, establish relationships, and develop functional skills.
Special Education Needs Assessment
Executive Summary
A site visit to undertake a feasibility and current practice study was conducted by Dr. Jennifer Fung in November 2016. Dr. Fung is affiliated with the University of Washington’s Haring Center, of which the EEU is a part.
The results of the study are intended to inform the development and implementation of a pilot inclusive early childhood education program on Grand Cayman. This report provides the results of the study and specific recommendations related to program development.
Study Results
Feedback regarding the strengths and weaknesses of Special Educational Needs (SEN) services on Grand Cayman provided by stakeholders was consistent across interviews, regardless of stakeholder affiliation (i.e. parents, private school teachers, private service providers, government school teachers). The following eight themes were clearly identified during data analysis:
• Need for increased provision of early intervention services
• Services in this area are severely lacking, despite strong evidence supporting the critical importance of intervention in the early years, and increased identification of children in this age group on Grand Cayman
• There is a need for early intervention services that are:
• Timely
• Intensive

•   Variability in qualification and training of SEN professionals
•   There is a high level of variability in the requirements related to professional preparation, training, and certification for SEN professionals
•   This was particularly apparent for government school professionals (SEN teachers, SENCO’s, inclusion specialists); there do not appear to be standard requirements related to training and/or experience in the area of disability, special education, early intervention, or challenging behaviors, which is detrimental to the student experience and quality of service they are able to provide
•   There is very little access to meaningful, high quality ongoing training and professional development for professionals currently working in the SEN field
•   Challenge of accessing services
•   Many families are not able to access services in a school that meets their child’s needs and that are of sufficient quality and intensity to help the child make progress
•   Most parents need to supplement school services with privately-negotiated services (OT, speech/language therapy, psychology, etc.
•   Lack of service options
•   Accessing appropriate school-based services is a challenge for many families, both in the government and private schools
•   The school programs that are available to children who need SEN service are limited in the range of ability level and learning needs the programs are able to serve
•   In general, services for children with moderate to severe needs are especially limited
•   Quality of service provided by SEN professionals
•   The quality of and methods used for SEN service provision is highly variable across agencies and providers throughout the system. This variability is apparent in the amount of inclusive service delivery offered and the extent to which high quality, evidence-based practices are utilized by SEN professionals
•   Variability in the strategies used to address persistent challenging behavior demonstrated by students is especially concerning
•   Low public awareness and acceptance of disability
•   Overall, there appears to be a stigma associated with having a child with special needs, and little public awareness of people with special needs, including their potential, strengths, needs of individuals and their families, how to support and interact with individuals, and the benefits of including people with disabilities in the community
•   There is a significant lack of awareness of inclusion, including what true inclusion is and what the benefits are for all people, including those without disabilities
•   High cost of services to parents
•   To meet their child’s learning and developmental needs, families generally access services from many different agencies, including schools, medical agencies, and therapeutic service providers
•   These services are quite expensive, which makes it difficult for families to access them, or impossible for some, and creates a great burden on the families who do access them
•   While there are many different types of services (school-based, therapeutic, medical, mental health, etc.) available to children with special needs and their families, there appears to be little coordination between the agencies and organizations providing these services
•   This has led a to duplicated efforts focusing on similar goals, but in a “siloed” manner
•   This also has also led to a situation where little agreement exists on which agencies “own” or handle which services
•   Within this complicated system, there is no guidance for families navigating the system so they can best access the services needed for their child and family

Where Are We Right Now?
There is an estimated 400 children under 5, and another 1,000 children over 5 qualify for special needs education. Existing private and government run programs are estimated to cover no more than 25% of the total special needs population.
Families living in Grand Cayman that include children with special needs are challenged by the limited availability of services and opportunities for educational support. Parents who have resources can home school, send the child to a costly private school or seek services off the island, which requires splitting up the family. Those lacking accesses to such resources often opt to mainstream the special needs child, which almost inevitably results in frustration and ultimately educational failure.
There are currently no fully inclusive educational programs in the Islands.
Why Open a Preschool?
The assessment confirmed a very clear case for the work of the Special Needs Foundation Cayman in increasing the quality of and expanding access to special education services on Grand Cayman. The SNFC Board’s immediate goal of opening a pilot program to provide high quality, inclusive early learning services is well supported and will meet a great need in the community.
The notable achievement of the pilot preschool will be enriching opportunities for preschool children and their families. Research over the past 50 years at the Haring Center (EEU) shows clearly that special needs children grow strong in an environment that provides encouragement and engagement combined with the appropriate support services. A high-touch environment for children with diverse learning abilities produces a community for learning that encourages personal and educational growth.
Expanded services by SNFC will also be offered through a central resource hub for evening programming. The hub will provide community members a focused “one-stop shop” location for assessment services, professional development, support services and general education for families. Establishing a preschool facility will provide SNFC a community presence and create a center of learning and teaching innovation in Cayman.
And beyond an innovative preschool and expanded services for special needs children and their families, SNFC will also provide training services for educators and educational administrators in Grand Cayman.
These training opportunities will have a positive impact by increasing awareness of the need to provide comprehensive transitional support for students moving between schools and grade levels.
This initiative’s ultimate result will be an improved standard of education for special needs children in Grand Cayman.
Priorities for funding 2017
Financial Support
The Special Needs Foundation Cayman seeks private support to develop the needed seed funding that will enable the pilot preschool to open for the 2017-2018 academic year. With the demonstration model in place, we believe the school will find sustained support through a blend of financial resources including student fees, private philanthropy, grants from corporate and private foundations, and government engagement.
Opening the preschool will provide SNFC the opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of this creative and innovative model, and its applicability to the Cayman population. Demonstrated success is the most commanding argument for ongoing financial and in-kind support from a wide variety of sources.
The immediate funding needs include staffing, facility renovation, equipment, furnishing, technology, marketing materials, and both professional counsel and fundraising counsel.
We estimate that initial startup funding of $2.3 million will provide the opportunity to open a fully functioning pilot school and maintain it for two years. The bulk of the costs (73%) are related to facility buildouts, infrastructure, rent and utilities. The remaining costs will cover staffing and materials. Financial projections will show that over a five-year period the preschool will grow in the number of students and it will become self-sufficient through fundraising, tuition and grant support.
Outline of the Preschool Model
• Develop high quality early education program that promotes the learning and development of all children rather than a ‘special needs’ program that happens to include typically developing children in the classrooms.
• The focus of the program will be for children who are under compulsory school age, pre-Year 1.
• Pilot program will consist of 2-4 classrooms, with at least 1 classroom per age group. The number of children in each classroom should allow for a manageable caseload for classroom staff, as some children will have educational plans that require ongoing management and oversight.
• Ratios: 50/50. Children with special needs should not exceed the number of typically developing children in each classroom.
• Disability status: Inclusive of all ability levels, children with a variety of developmental delays and disabilities, and that level of functioning (i.e. minimum IQ or developmental level) is not a factor requirement for program admission.
Key Employees
• Head of school/program administrator (first hire to coordinate role out)
• Lead teachers, one lead teacher per classroom.
• Assistants, minimum of one per classroom
• Allied health professionals
• Physical therapists
• Speech-language pathologists
• Occupational therapists
• Psychologists
• Behavior analysts

In Summary
SNFC seeks to expand its services to include an educational service hub and a preschool, which will establish an inclusive environment. Private support is an essential component for accomplishing this extraordinary task.
This is a rare opportunity to inspire innovation, effect substantial systemic change, and benefit a population that for far too long has been underserved and ignored, rather than included.
We invite your review of our business plan and vision for sustainability. We then invite your investment in the futures of thousands of children who want nothing more than to be included.

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