Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday stressed the need for the government to increase early interventions and diagnosis for students with disabilities especially now since the COVID-19 pandemic is hampering their access to these essential health and education services.
Gatchalian, who had earlier filed Senate Bill No. 171 or the proposed Inclusive for Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Act, said interventions should be made available to children aged zero to four at child development and daycare centers.
He said establishing early detection and interventions in these centers can help learners with disabilities in their developmental milestones, particularly 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 (As the closest institution to young people with disabilities, our child development or day care centers should be capable of measuring the ability of these children),” Gatchalian said.
“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 (Through early detection, we would know what steps we can do to ensure that children with disabilities were appropriate for the education they received),” he said.
During a Senate hearing, the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture head learned that less than 10 percent of child development workers are trained to manage children with disabilities in daycare centers, citing a study done by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Program Management Bureau (PMB).
But 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 can be done with screening tools such as the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) checklist.
At the same time, the lawmaker said he finds it necessary to train child development workers effectively so they can address developmental delays and provide minimum interventions for students with disabilities.
Gatchalian noted that there is an estimated 5.1 million children with disabilities as in the Philippines as of 2018, based on the figures provided by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
However, data from the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Learner Information System reveals that as of July 15, only 51,375 learners with disabilities are enrolled for this 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 measure.