Jamaica Association on Intellectual Disabilities (JAID)
The JAID story begins with a father’s love for his child. Randolph Lopez did not know much about his daughter’s condition of Down’s syndrome, but he knew he loved her.
His love led him to England, where he learned as much as he could about intellectual disabilities. He identified a teacher, Ms. Caunce who was sent to England to hone her skills to begin the first programme. In 1956, Randolph Lopez along with a group of parents and friends of children with intellectual disabilities developed the constitution for the Jamaica Association for Mentally Handicapped Children. Following this, the first programme was established.
This first school operated as a centre-based programme three days weekly. On the other two days, Ms. Caunce and her assistant, Ivy Allen rode on their bicycles all over St. Catherine, Kingston and Port Royal on a “child-find mission”. The Lopez School and Home was “born” in an old wooden house at 6 Norman Road. Rev. Beryl Prince-Brown was one of the first staff members of the Home.
Randolph Lopez and his team funded the activities of the Lopez Home and School with grand tea parties, Mardi Gras balls and raffles. In 1970, the school received its first grant from the Government of Jamaica largely because of the advocacy of the new president of the Association, Paul Levy.
The school grew and in the early seventies was relocated to 7 Golding Avenue on lands acquired from the National Water Commission. The volunteers and parents worked hard and raised funds to build the school and dormitory as well as the first official home of the Association. Located in the Hope River valley, the new school was named, School of Hope. The name clearly had significance to the hundreds of parents across the island who felt alienated and hopeless at the realization that their child would never find a place in the regular school system.
In 1974 the Government of Jamaica joined the partnership and provided funding to allow free education for all children in Jamaica. Unit classes and branch schools for intellectually disabled children mushroomed across the corporate area and the island. By 1980, there were 29 locations in operation across the island, covering eleven parishes. Today, the five (5) Schools of Special Education are jointly operated by the Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities (JAID) and the Ministry of Education and have a network of units/satellites at 28 locations in thirteen parishes across Jamaica.
In the 1980’s the Association was significantly strengthened under the dynamic chairmanship of the late Robert McFarlane. The decade of the nineties also brought phenomenal growth for JAID under the leadership of the dynamic and visionary team with the young John Thompson as president, the financially astute duo Ryland Campbell as vice president and Sonia Jackson as treasurer. Without a doubt, one of the greatest achievements of the period was the blue print for the restructuring of the one school entity, School of Hope, to reflect five autonomous schools. This restructuring allowed for the upward mobility of many of our staff members who filled the newly created positions which resulted from the restructuring.
During this period, the Association’s ambit soon expanded to include adults and the organization was re-named The Jamaica Association for Persons with Mental Retardation (JAPMR) and later, The Jamaican Association on Mental Retardation (JAMR). In March 2010, the Association was officially renamed the Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities.
In 1990, Parents and Professionals in Partnership (PProP) emerged as the umbrella organization under JAID to support and channel the efforts of parents and professionals towards effective advocacy. Volunteers, parents and professionals constitute a significant proportion of JAID’s membership. They all share Randolph Lopez’s love for persons with intellectual disability and work through education, advocacy and research to improve their development and the quality of their lives.
JAID works closely with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security as well as other Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to ensure development of programmes and effective support to children and adults with intellectual disability and their families. JAID, an organization started by parents to meet the needs of a vulnerable section of the population, remains committed to being “ …the national unifying organization creating communities where persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities are empowered and fully integrated” (Vision).See more