Trinidad mum chopped ten times before cops killed her husband
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My name is Josanne Look Yee and I have the nicest-smelling store in town.
I am from Palmiste, San Fernando, a great place to grow up, serene and green. It’s safe now and, back then, it was even more safe. A Westmoorings of the South: yes, it’s posh, but, more than that, it’s very beautiful, with lots of parks and natural spaces, and you can go walking.
It was just my mom, my dad and me. I’m an only child but not a lonely child. It allowed me to develop a lot of independence. I think I found ways to occupy myself.
In a month or two, if all goes well, I’ll have my very first child, a girl, and I’m very much looking forward to her.
My boyfriend and I are having this baby as a couple.
So far, my pregnancy has been such a beautiful experience, I can easily see myself going through it again. Of course, I haven’t done the hard part yet!
I love to visit Tobago. My boyfriend is from Tobago.
I always had my eye set on working in Port of Spain so, when I finished university for the third time – clearly, I was a good student – I got a job, first in Valsayn and then Port of Spain itself.
I lived in Aranjuez, St James, Curepe before settling in Fort George.
The view is magical. Waking up and seeing the sea is good for the soul.
I won a scholarship to do math at UWI St Augustine. Thereafter, I went to McMaster University in Ontario, where I did a BA in religious studies. Which is what led me to my current vocation. When I came back from Canada, I taught math at secondary school for a few years before I moved north and started my best-smelling store in town five years ago.
My religious studies degree was more like a comparative religions course than a theological one. I learned about Eastern religions primarily but spent a lot of time studying Christianity. I myself was raised Anglican, a very tolerant faith.
I was one of a few people in the class who knew about Divali, Eid-ul-Fitr, Phagwa, everything.
Anglicanism didn’t satisfy my curiosity about what happened after death. Nor did Catholicism, or Presbyterianism, and I went to a Presbyterian high school! Nobody else but those who follow the Christian path would find themselves in “Heaven.”
Which meant we were excluding a billion Chinese, a billion Indians – and that just can’t be right!
I found myself drawn more to Eastern religions. [In] Hinduism, Buddhism and the various strains in between, I have found the answers I was looking for. I don’t need to look any more.
My study of religions has strengthened my faith in God immensely. When something makes sense to me, I can subscribe to it better.
I take a lot from Eastern religions but I have no qualms about eating meat. I won’t eat snake, horse and alligator – but nothing wrong with 'gouti and tatou!
I go to all places of worship, temple, mosque, church when I (can), but I don’t believe you have to go to a particular place on a particular day and wear particular clothes to practise your spirituality.
Through the filter of my own morality, I take a little bit of truth from each religion because it feels right to me – and THAT is my belief system.
It is because I feel so strongly about my individual way of practising spirituality that I was led to my store.
[caption id="attachment_761590" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Josanne Look Yee has the nicest-smelling store in town.[/caption]
I needed that space and I know now, five years in, many people need that space.
People of every imaginable religious background visit us, including the ones that shouldn’t, according to their own religion.
And they find comfort, relief or an answer when they come.
My store sells incense, sage, crystals, essential oils, wood chimes, books, the full works. A lot of it comes across as “Eastern” to those of us in the West not very familiar with these things, but things like crystals have been around for thousands of years.
Nowadays you get more crystal use in the East but, starting with the explosion of yoga in the West, it’s becoming more popular.
My store smells as good as it does because of the combination of incense, essential oils and candles. I enjoy combining different scents. It lifts my spirits, and, anything that makes me feel good can’t be bad. Not anything illicit, though!
I love soca so much and I’ve always been the biggest Machel Montano fan – so imagine my joy when his family began visiting my store! I’m always telling his mom and his girlfriend, “Bring him!” I hope, when he reads this, he comes.
The best thing about having the best-smelling store in town is probably the same thing you’d hear from any business owner, no matter how their store smelled: you’re working for yourself.
Although you have an obligation to your customers, you can craft the experience you offer based on what you like and believe. You don’t have those terms dictated to you by a boss.
The bad thing is the buck stops with you. Responsibility.
I’m very impressed with our new Commissioner of Police. I hope he continues to do the fantastic job he is in a safe way and there is no blowback for him.
I don’t agree with every single thing he and his “administration” have done but, overall, they’ve really put a pin to stem the tide.
My father tells me I should look at migrating. He is a very serious business person and understands, perhaps more than I do, the real implications of what’s happening in Trinidad.
Maybe it’s blind faith, but I feel things will get better. I love Trinidad and can’t imagine not being here on a permanent basis.
To me, a Trini is somebody who loves their belly and their music. A Trini will never pass up on a curry or a pelau. And can’t hear soca and not bust a little wine. Trinis have rhythm and passion and our love for both comes out most clearly in our food and our music.
For me, TT means “home.” It’s by no means perfect but it is unique. Nowhere else is like Trinidad.
Luckily, I’ve been to a few places and have lived in a First World country, but no matter how convenient life might be, it could never compare to Trinidad. I don’t think I could replicate my love for TT anywhere else.
Read the full version of this feature on Wednesday at www.BCPires.com
Letter to potential employer of someone with autism
DR RADICA MAHASE
Dear Potential Employer,
You don’t know me – yet. And I can assure you that when you do get to know me you will never want to let me go. My name is Roger. I am 21 years old and I am high functioning on the autism spectrum. If you look at me you won’t be able to tell that. I look like any young man out there.
I am writing to you because I believe that you are missing out by not having someone like me working in your business. You see, I am unique! And I mean that in a good way. Usually when we say someone is unique or different we think it’s a bad thing. Trust me, it is not. One of the traits that I have, as a person with autism, is that I pay very special attention to details and everything has to be very accurate. That means I will do my work very well. I don’t mind repetitive tasks so while one of your other workers might get bored, I won’t. I will actually enjoy doing repetitive things and I can be very productive then.
Also, I tend to see things differently and I think outside of the box. Because my mind works differently, I often look at things in ways others won’t. This will actually benefit your business because I might be able to see issues and analyse things in a way that your other employees might not. You might also like to know that I can be very focused and I have an excellent memory; this will help me to perform well when you employ me.
[caption id="attachment_761585" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism; are we teaching them the skills they need to lead fullfilling lives?[/caption]
You have to know though, that everyone talks about the bad part of my autism. They keep saying that because I have autism it means that I have problems with social interaction. Yes, it is true that sometimes I don’t understand body language or facial expressions; sometimes I might not recognise how others are feeling and most of the time I might stick to myself. However, I can assure you that I will be polite and professional to everyone. That matters more right?
I think someone like me will actually be able to influence your other employees to be better people. When they interact with me and they begin to understand me and appreciate me just the way I am, they will become more open and accommodating. Maybe when they see that I am reliable and productive in the workplace they won’t judge people with special needs. Maybe you might even want to employ other individuals with special needs once you give me a chance and you see that I am actually a professional, productive employee.
Potential Employer, you can’t even imagine the happiness you will bring to my parents when you employ me. Me having a job? Gosh, that will give them a sense of relief, knowing that I can actually lead a fulfilling life, that I have an opportunity to get an income, no matter how small, that there is some hope for me to have a career-based future. They love me more than anything in this world and I know they worry about me but once you employ me they will be the happiest parents in the world! I really want them to be the happiest parents in the world!
This is not a job application, just a letter to explain to you how your business can benefit by having me as an employee. Yes, I have unique traits; yes I am different in many ways; and yes, I can be productive in a work environment. The thing is most people don’t take the time to see beyond my autism or to understand that autism or not, I can be productive, I can earn a living.
Ban Ki-moon said, “People with autism have enormous potential. Most have remarkable visual, artistic or academic skills… Recognising the talents of persons on the autism spectrum, rather than focusing on their weaknesses, is essential to creating a society that is truly inclusive.”
Potential Employer, listen to him, he was the former secretary general of the United Nations. He wants companies to hire more people like me so that we can lead fulfilling lives. If you listen to him and employ me then you will help to make TT more inclusive! You have the power to do that!
Dr Radica Mahase is founder/director, Support Autism T&T
SHANIA Abdool guided TT out of trouble to lead the defending champions to a seven-wicket victory over Windward Islands and claim the Cricket West Indies (CWI) TT Women’s Cricket Association 19 and Under T20 title at the National Cricket Centre in Couva, yesterday.
It was TT’s second youth cricket title in as many days after the TT Under-15 boys team won the CWI Regional Under-15 50-over title, on Saturday.
Windward Islands may have had the psychological edge going into the match after defeating TT in the final round of the preliminary stage on Saturday, but TT showed their mettle when it counted.
Batting first, Windward Islands started briskly in getting to 51/1 in the 11th over with Qiana Joseph and Jephenia Joseph at the wicket. However, when Jephenia was bowled for 21 by Djenaba Joseph, TT roared back to reduce Windwards to 66/4 in the 14th over.
A 32-run partnership between Qiana and Shawnisha Hector left the match hanging in the balance. TT then snatched four wickets for 19 runs, including the prized wicket of Qiana for a top score of 65, as Windward Islands closed on 117/8 in 20 overs. Qiana faced 49 deliveries and struck ten fours and one six.
Djenaba was the best bowler for TT, grabbing 3/18 in four overs, Alysha Gomez snatched 3/25 in three overs and April Ramoutar took 2/15 in four overs. Other than Qiana and Jephenia, no other Winadward Islands batter got into double figures.
The TT top order has been scoring heavily throughout the tournament but early wickets reduced the home team to a disappointing 9/3 in the second over. Shunelle Sawh (duck), Gomez (seven) and Reanna Farrow (duck) were all back in the pavilion early in the chase. Abdool found an able partner in Anjani Goordeen and the pair batted for the rest of the innings, getting TT to 120/3 in 13.2 overs to prevail with a seven-wicket win.
Abdool ended on 59 not out off 40 deliveries with ten fours and Goordeen made 25 not out off 36 balls. Zaida James ended with figures of 2/10 in two overs.
Team chemistry would have been crucial to TT’s success as all the players came through the Secondary Schools Cricket League Girls Hardball Programme and most of the team went on the SSCL tour to Canada last year.
SUMMARISED SCORES: Windward Islands 117/8 (Qiana Joseph 65, Jephenia Joseph 21; Djenaba Joseph 3/18, Alysha Gomez 3/25, April Ramoutar 2/15) vs TT 120/3 (13.2 overs) (Shania Abdool 59 not out, Anjani Goordeen 25 not out; Zaida James 2/10).
INSTEAD of seeking ways to fix its debt crisis, as requested by Fifa and Concacaf officials in a recent visit, the TT Football Association (TTFA) will discuss the legitimacy of outspoken member Keith Look Loy's appointment to the board of directors in 2017, at a board meeting on Wednesday.
Newsday received a copy of an email of the agenda of the meeting. It showed recently appointed TTFA general secretary Camara David tabling "Board Appointment Issue" as item number two.
However, there has already been major push back from several other board members and ordinary members, who have questioned the president and general secretary's motives, especially as there are current and potentially crippling issues plaguing the association, including its mounting debts, the bank accounts ordered frozen by the courts, the lack of activity by several national football teams, non-payment of salaries, among others.
David informed Look Loy of the query on Saturday, saying the issue arose because of his receipt of legal advice, sought from attorney and former chairman of the constitution committee, Elton Prescott SC, after an enquiry was made by a member, Mike Awai.
Awai wrote to TTFA members in February, citing article 24.3 of the TTFA constitution, which he said indicated that a quorum was required for Look Loy's election.
It states: “A quorum is not required for the second meeting of the General Meeting unless any item on the Agenda proposed the amendment of the constitution, the election of a member of the Board of Directors, the dismissal of a member of a body of the TTFA, the expulsion of a Member or the dissolution of the TTFA.”
David subsequently wrote Prescott for advice, to which Prescott responded, "It appears to me that the cited passage from Article 24 of the constitution of the TTFA makes it obligatory that a quorum is required at a reconvened meeting which includes on the agenda, the election of members of the Board.
With this response, Camara wrote Look Loy with the legal opinion attached and said he would be required to respond by Wednesday's board meeting.
That e-mail was shared with the board and other members, several of whom quickly responded with questions of their own to the general secretary and president David John-Williams.
They included Sharon Warrick and Joseph Taylor, as well as ordinary member Clynt Tayor, who said the move appears to be part of an effort to muzzle Look Loy, a most vocal critic of John-Williams' style of leadership.
Look Loy recently won a lawsuit against the organisation for access to documents pertaining to the Home of Football project in Couva, including contracts and the list of contractors connected to the project – information which John-Williams, for months, refused to release to his own board.
Incidentally, when FIFA and Concacaf officials visited TT last week, they requested TTFA's board of directors offer solutions to address the body's debt.
Look Loy gave the visiting contingent a three-part proposal. The first part he said would require the immediate resignation of John-Williams and vice-president Ewing Davis, so that the football body can once again begin speaking to creditors.
"(There are creditors) who will talk, but not to them (John-Williams and Davis),” Look Loy told the officials.
Look Loy also told the visiting officials that an interim president should be appointed on Wednesday, an election called within 60 days, and a forensic audit be conducted into all TTFA finances, including the Home of Football and income generation project.
The proposal was supported by Central Football Association’s Colin Partap, Northern Football Association’s Rayshawn Mars and Women’s League representative Sharon Warrick.
Up until press time, four board members and one ordinary member have responded by email, questioning the motive behind the agenda.
"I hope this is an attempt to openly deal with the issues plaguing the TTFA and seek a solution whiles (sic) obeying the Court order, rather than an attempt to silence board members like Mr Look Loy," wrote Clynt Taylor, Central Football Association general secretary and an ordinary member. "Keith is not the problem, so let's look for a solution. Any move to silence members rightfully seeking answers must be resisted."
Warrick responded with questions of her own.
"Some food for thought here: Is this an attack on Look Loy or what he is standing for?" Warrick asked.
"Why a year later this is an issue? If due diligence was the order of the day, then this issue would have been dealt with a long time ago."
But the most hard-hitting reply came from Joseph Taylor, head of TT Referees Association, who suggested that had Awai been interested in respect for the constitution and electoral procedures, he should have first sought legal advice on the legitimacy of the 2015 election, which saw John-Williams win the president's post.
"Is this again another attempt at distraction from the very important matters that face the TTFA at this time. The records/minutes of meetings from the induction of the TTSL and its representative to the Board of Directors and the subsequent changes to the Constitution would have dealt with this matter, and all was quite above board," Taylor wrote.
"I agree with the representative for Women's Football. Why now? Because there are several other decisions/things that can be queried constitutionally, starting with the elections in 2015, that I would ask Mr Awai to seek legal advice on and bring the findings back to the general membership for debate and voting on," Taylor wrote.
He also questioned why Look Loy's "appointment issue" would be important enough to precede all other matters which have direct implications on the future of football.
"The listing of this as the second item is quite alarming to me and others, as the matters of the financial status of the TTFA and the impromptu Thursday meeting (by Fifa and Concacaf officials) for me as a board member, about suggestions for ideas/plans to deal with the growing debt of the TTFA are more relevant and pressing.
"There were at least six members who called for an emergency board meeting to specifically deal with the financial situation after learning of the garnishing of the funds from the TTFA bank accounts.
"We got no response to the request. Where is the Finance Committee? On the agenda, we have listed the Emergency Committee. Why is this, I am now provoked to ask?
"Mr President and General Secretary, several board members also requested the inclusion of other matters on the agenda. Can I respectfully get a response to these requests and also for the umpteenth time, can I and others who have requested a later start time with reason get a definite response for the board meeting on Wednesday 24th April, 2019."
Before the issue of Look Loy's appointment began receiving attention, serious questions have been asked about the legitimacy of the entire TTFA presidency, dating back to the 2015 elections.
Former general secretary Phillips, who took the TTFA to court for wrongful dismissal, wrote a document, which said non-compliant members were allowed to participate in the election process. He also outlined a number of electoral code breaches which were ignored through the election process, which he said he feared would leave a dire and lasting impact.
TT Olympic sailor Andrew Lewis created history yesterday when he won a bronze medal at the Hempel World Cup Series 2019 in Genoa, Italy, the highest placing for a TT sailor at a world series event.
“You had sailors like Tonci Stipanovic of Croatia and Pavlos Kontides of Cyrpus who are world champions and Olympic medallists," an ecstatic Lewis said after his race.
"The level of sailing was very high as the best in the world came out here to compete. This is a surreal moment for me to have competed amongst these sailors and to have ended up on the podium. It is a dream come true,” said Lewis.
He will take several days' rest, before he enters a training camp in Tenerife, Canary Islands, along with his coach Javier Hernandez in preparation for the 2019 Laser Senior European Championships and Trophy, which will take place in Porto, Portugal from May 18-25.
"It is humbling to see the fruits of your hard work in the form of performances like this," said Lewis on his progression.
"There is no rest as we need to continue to build on this and improve with the goal of Olympic qualification being the ultimate focus."
He thanked his sponsors for their support and also expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Sport, Sport Company of TT (SporTT) and the Sport and Culture Fund. "Finally (thanks) to the people of TT who continue to send love and support to me. This really keeps me going and motivates me to continue to strive for greatness," he said.
This was the view of Dr Catherine Minto-Bain who said in the Caribbean every one in six couples who want a first or second baby could not get pregnant.
In an interview with Sunday Newsday on the occasion of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) (April 21-29), the medical director of the TT IVF and Fertility Centre said about 10,000 patients had been evaluated at the centre, and estimated 30,000 people or more were currently dealing with infertility in TT. She said the stigma surrounding the issue meant few people talked about it openly. Because of that, many people did not know how much of a problem it was, especially in TT where many young women were having unwanted pregnancies, and did not know their options.
Minto-Bain said many people, especially couples, felt shame and embarrassment about not getting pregnant so they delayed finding out why. Also, friends and family often said hurtful, unhelpful, and often incorrect things when they find out about the problem.
“People are afraid of talking about it. They don't want their family and friends to know and infertility is, of course linked with sex which is something we are bad about talking openly about in TT. There are many complex things linked in to the stigma, and it is different for everyone. There is a feeling that women are ‘not good enough’ if they cannot get pregnant or if they miscarry, and men sometimes feel less masculine if their sperm count is low.
“The media internationally perpetuate the problem by not talking about the issues celebrities face - many people have to see a fertility doctor. I was delighted to see Michelle Obama opening up and talking about their IVF as it will help other couples feel more normal and perhaps more able to talk about it.”
She said awareness was key because there were many misconceptions around infertility. For example, she said people believed stress was a cause but medical science research showed that was not true. She noted that “stressed” people at refugee camps and war zones got pregnant all the time. Their problem was that they had no access to contraception. Also, many people believe polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and fibroids caused infertility. However, she said most fibroids did not and many women with PCOS conceived without help.
“The other problem is that doctors don’t get fertility training so people often end up with the wrong doctor. I was quite amazed when I arrived in TT 15 years ago to see that non-fertility specialists are keeping private patients in their practice, giving obsolete treatments for years. Some of these treatments, like testosterone injections, actually cause infertility and make things substantially worse for the couple. Other treatments like Clomiphene tablets just waste time if the tubes or the sperm are the problem. In the UK you do not see an OBGYN or urologist for infertility – they do not have the skills. You go to your GP (general practitioner) first and then a fertility clinic.”
“The solution for your infertility problem depends very much on figuring out what the cause or causes are in your case. This is why coming to a fertility centre is so vital. Other doctors forget to look at both of the couple or do not do the correct or up-to-date tests. This often leads to years of wasted time or, just as bad, having surgery that does not help your fertility or in some situations might even make it worse.... There is a huge need in TT to get good, evidence-based advice out to the public so that they can help improve their own fertility, and access proper advice from a medical professional when it is not happening easily for them.”
Causes and treatments
Minto-Bain said the most common infertility causes in TT were sperm and tube problems but many other issues, such as thyroid problems, diabetes, polyps, immune issues, erectile dysfunction, and endometriosis, could cause infertility.
She said recent research by the centre showed that, unlike other countries, in TT, male causes were the number one reason for infertility. Sperm problems that cause infertility could include low sperm count due to hormonal issues, poor diet, or heavy drinking; sperm that could not swim well and get to the egg; poor quality sperm that got to the egg and inside but could not make a healthy embryo leading to infertility or miscarriages; antibodies that made sperm stick together and not get into the egg; the use of drugs or gym supplements that contained ingredients that killed or harmed the sperm’s ability to fertilise the egg; and much more.
Tube issues, she said, were more complicated. “They have a complex role. First they have to find and pick up the egg and then they have to nourish the sperm with the correct environment and then let the sperm find the egg, bind to it, and get inside.”
She said tubes could be blocked, or damaged, unhealthy, or full of fluid which could find its way into the womb and wash away healthy embryos.
As with any other fertility clinic, the centre offered a variety of tests to find the cause for the infertility, and a variety of medical treatment options to try and get a couple pregnant.
She said insemination, diet, and lifestyle advice were common for minor sperm issues. Other treatments could include medication to grow eggs, keyhole surgery (laparoscopy), insemination, or sperm injection. The tubes may need by-passing with IVF (in vitro fertilisation) or repairing with surgery by a specialised fertility surgeon, of which there were only one or two qualified in TT.
According to Minto-Bain, it was a myth that expensive treatments were needed for everyone. “Some of our patients get pregnant with simple advice, and many can get their family with the more inexpensive insemination treatment. Others get referred into the public hospital for a surgery that can help them get pregnant at no cost. It is hugely variable and my advice is to get expert advice and then you will know what your options are. If you do need IVF and are under 34, there is the option of egg sharing to reduce your costs. Other couples are suitable for minimal stimulation IVF which cuts the cost by reducing the medications used.”
She noted that after looking at treatment options, costs, success rates, and their own chances, some people chose adoption. She added that it was common for the situation and process to cause anxiety and other emotional issues so the centre has expert counsellors on hand to assist couples.
“The first step is to get information by coming to see us and getting expert advice. Information gives you options. With knowledge about your situation, you become emotionally stronger. Once you know what the problem is you can face the next decisions.”
YEARS of fighting to get their autistic son into a school or being taught academics at school left Kevin and Halena Kong Ting disappointed and frustrated, but they were determined that their son Zachary would receive an education, as is his right.
Eventually, Halena, who used to be a secondary school teacher took a beginners' certificate course in autism education with the Autistic Society of TT (ASTT), and she made all the visuals for Zachary’s classes so she could teach him at home.
“Something amazing happened in the first month of homeschooling Zachary," she recalled. "I remembered in the ASTT course it said autistic learners were structured learners. I found a free, structured reading programme online and I said, 'This programme is going to be great for us.' We tried it – and after one month of doing this reading programme, Zachary read for me, speaking his first words...And as he learned more words he started speaking for himself.”
Around that time her other son, Rafael, began to be bullied at primary school. After talking to him she realised the students were not supervised during lunch. She started going to the school at lunchtime to supervise Rafael, leaving Zachary with Kevin, who worked at home.
When Kong Ting went to the school security officer about the fights she saw, he told her his job was to secure the property, so he would close gates if necessary, but he was not responsible for the children’s safety or breaking up fights.
She then spoke to the principal, who told her teachers were not obligated to be on the compound outside class hours and so could not guarantee her son's safety.
“Again my husband said, ‘Well, if you are homeschooling Zachary, why don’t you just homeschool Rafael?’ And that's was how I decided, after more research, to homeschool both of them.”
Lucky or not
Kong Ting told Sunday Newsday her family was fortunate to be able to afford speech therapy for Zachary, but many times they could not cover the cost of occupational therapy. As a result, she bought books on the topic online and worked with him at home.
She said many members of ASTT could not afford either therapy. Fortunately, every year, a speech therapist visits TT and spends a month with the ASTT, giving speech therapy, facilitating training workshops with parents, and giving the society advice on how to incorporate speech into the free sessions it provides. Also, this year, the ASTT found a sponsor which allowed it to access free occupational therapy for ten people.
[caption id="attachment_761499" align="alignnone" width="576"] Kevin Kong Ting displays a visual Halena made for their children to express their feelings about their homeschooling lessons.[/caption]
In addition to a lack of therapy, very few were able to access public education, with the majority of autistic students being asked to leave at the pre-school or primary school level.
“So basically the kids are at home," Kong Ting said. "A lot of parents don’t homeschool their kids because they lack the confidence.
"Many of them can’t afford a sitter, which means someone, usually the mother, stays at home to mind the child.
"So just at the time you have to spend more money to take care of the child, and you’re happy to do it...at the same time, the earnings in your household goes down to one parent. That is the reality of living with a person with a disability, whether it’s a child or a relative.”
Kong Ting said some parents could not afford to stay at home, but were fortunate enough to have a willing older relative care for the child. She said although that relative took care of the child physically, they often could not help with developmental activities, and the child suffered.
This lack of education and development, she said, left an autistic person vulnerable because they remained dependent on other people to take care of them for the rest of their lives. She said she knew of many cases where the parent or primary caregiver died and no one else stepped up. The State had to take responsibility and the person with autism was placed in St Ann's Psychiatric Hospital.
“Because autism is classified as a neurological or brain-based disorder, they are placed in St Ann’s, whether the person is a child or an adult. We have children with autism who live in the children’s section of St Ann’s. That is not a suitable place for a person with autism.”
For the best
Kong Ting now believes homeschooling was the best form of education she could give her children because she tailored lessons to their needs. Although it was a financial sacrifice, she found comfort in the fact that they were safe and were “getting the best education they can get.”
[caption id="attachment_761500" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Zachary, nine, who has autism, can now read and write well because of the love, patience, and persistence of his parents. PHOTOS BY JANELLE DE SOUZA[/caption]
She said she wanted to help guide her children into professions that would make them happy, so if they needed a degree, they would eventually do the SEA and CXC exams. If they preferred to be a technician, she would work with them to become certified.
In the meantime, she was using her degree in theatre to pioneer therapeutic support for autistic people through theatre at ASTT. She said it broke down social and non-verbal communication skills such as handshakes, high fives, and even smiling through play.
“I think had they been exposed to some sort of education at all, reading and writing would have been an excellent form of communication for them, other than just pointing or non-verbally trying to get our attention. I am hopeful that when they go out that skill can translate so they can interact with other people.”
She also hoped that soon, the government could find a way to regulate private special-needs schools with respect to price, protocols, procedures, and equipment.
At six years old Abigail Subrath has been doing something about the monumental problem protecting the ocean in her own little way for the past three years. For her, protecting the oceans is a lifelong mission and her parents have helped her turn her passion into a movement to inspire others to do the same.
The Abbytopia of Hope Foundation was formed when Abigail’s mother, Maria Subrath noticed that during trips to the beach, Abigail would pick up the garbage on on the shore to properly dispose of them. After showing that initiative at such a young age, they decided to start the foundation. The non-profit organisation’s work is focused on educating children on the diverse ecosystems that live in the waters surrounding TT, areas of conservation and how to curb the pollution taking place. “We help the less fortunate and educate people about marine life” said Abigail. “It is important to me to take care of marine life and to take care of the ocean.” She explained that the foundation also helps underprivileged children get school supplies, as well as hosts workshops at the Chaguanas library on reducing marine pollution and the different types of animals and organisms that live in the waters around the country that are affected by pollution.
[caption id="attachment_761490" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Abigail Subrath, right, and her mother Maria at the 1 2 3 Kids Expo in Tacarigua on April 23.[/caption]
Abigail’s mother explained that they are currently working on a project to replant corals in Charlottesville, Tobago, and are in the process of researching and getting approvals for the project, which they hope to kickstart this year by July. With the help of family and friends, corporate sponsors and friendly volunteers, the foundation often hosts beach clean up events at beaches throughout the country. Abigail has a love for animals that she thoroughly enjoys sharing with others and her empathy for animals moves her forward. “When you litter, the garbage goes into the water and fish eat it and die. I don’t like it when they die,” she told Newsday Kids. When she grows up she hopes to continue her work with the foundation, and has aspirations of becoming a marine biologist and the captain of a cruise ship.
Anyone who wants to volunteer to help Abigail on her mission to save the TT beaches can visit her Facebook page to get more information on upcoming project and events.
Shamla Maharaj never allowed Cerebral Palsy to rob her of a childhood. In fact, she told WMN, it was not until time for her to begin a formal education that it occurred to her she had a disability. “When I was really young I didn’t realise I had a disability, because when I wanted to do something with my brothers and my cousins they accommodated me. My parents always made sure I was involved so I always felt normal.”
As an adult, the 33-year-old still refuses to allow her disability to dictate what she can and cannot do. Every Tuesday at 6:15 am she hosts Unique not Different, a segment on NOW, the morning show on TTT. “I went to an interview on TTT in their segment called Leaders of Now,” and was interviewed by host Lisa Wickham. About one week later Wickham contacted her and asked if she would be interested in hosting her own segment to interview people with disabilities who were successful at what they do. “I never imagined that I would be doing it. I still can’t believe it. I had no training and was just thrown into the lion’s den. Each time I do it it’s like the first time and when I complete the segment I get excited all over again,” she chuckled.
Maharaj graduated from the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine with a BSc in agribusiness management, an MSc in agribusiness and marketing, specialising in business and marketing analysis. She is currently pursuing an MPhil in agricultural economics, which she plans to upgrade to a PhD and specialise in marketing. But with all her accomplishments, like many people with disabilities, there was always one challenge after another when dealing with the education system.
“Children with disabilities who are allowed in the system now is due to the fight put up by their parents. There is no equal opportunity when it comes to education and children with disabilities. How many children in special Ed graduated and went on to do other things? I think the entire system needs to be redone to include people with disabilities. Once children can do the work, they should be allowed to.
“The people in TT should treat everyone equally and see them for their worth and not their outlook and what they can give. We are humans and we want things for ourselves and we want to work for it. We want the same as anyone else, success and progress.”
Maharaj said had it not been for her family’s tenacity and continual support she would never have been allowed to reach her full potential.
“I grew up in Barrackpore. My dad was a cane labourer and my mom, a housewife. I have two younger brothers and growing up I wasn’t aware of the full extent of my disability. At the beginning, they too had no clue about what it was. I was diagnosed at six months old.”
When she was four and a half her father insisted she had to go to school and tried enrolling her into Rochard Douglas Presbyterian School.
“They told him they couldn’t accommodate me in the school. He asked a lot of questions and someone told him about the Princess Elizabeth special school in Woodbrook. He enrolled me in the clinic and my parents were told that my IQ level was pretty high. I was accepted into the centre.” She said they commuted to and from Woodbrook for a while, but eventually, she had to stay at the centre because the commute became too much.
“It was very institutionalised. Everything was about timing and that experience truly opened my eyes about my disability. Some days were better than others and as in any institution, some nurses made the experience difficult, but there were some that were motherly and treated us like their own children.”
Maharaj stayed at the centre for ten years until she wrote the then Common Entrance exam and passed for Barrackpore Secondary Comprehensive. “That was another learning experience for me. The principal did not want to take me in. He made all sorts of excuses but my father refused to take no for an answer. He went in and made all accommodations for me.” Her father built ramps for the downstairs classroom, as well as a special desk for her, and he ensured her classes were switched from upstairs to downstairs. “He insisted that what the principal was doing was against law because I had passed for the school.” Eventually, Maharaj said, she was allowed into the school.
“Some students were very curious at first and asked a lot of questions about my disability. When they got accustomed to me they said, ‘I don’t see you as having a disability’. The teachers were nice and treated me like any other student.”
After completing A Levels, Maharaj was accepted into UWI in 2007, but was faced with a similar situation – no proper accommodations for people with cerebral palsy. But she made do, pushed ahead and graduated in three years.
She is planning on completing her PhD by 2021, when she plans to expend more energy into using her voice to advocate for people with disabilities. “I want to use my brand to initiate things in the corporate world like inclusive policies for people with disabilities and vulnerable groups. I plan to take my segment further and spread my wings for opportunities in the media. It’s like a whole conundrum in my head.”
But her love for agriculture also has a sacred place in her future. “I want to help the agricultural industry. The industry itself in this country is going down. There is no progress. We are just sitting by and watching it getting grimmer and grimmer.”
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common disability of childhood that affects movement and motor skills. It is a neurological condition with brain damage as the underlying cause. The damage may occur while the baby is still in utero, during labour and delivery, or shortly after birth.
Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term, which means it refers to a group of disorders and symptoms. While all the possible symptoms, disabilities, and complications are related, one child’s experience is unique and different from another’s.
Having cerebral palsy can lead to other medical conditions, depending on the severity of the disorder and what parts of the body it affects: