PHILIPSBURG–Often children who act out excessively or challengingly in the classroom and their social sphere are labelled as being touched by mental illness. However, a just-concluded three-day workshop aimed to put the spotlight on a little-recognised part of the learning spectrum – mental intelligence disability (licht verstandelijke beperking LVB in Dutch).
Trainers Denise Pestana and Malvina Cecilia of Federatie Antilliaanse Jeugdzorg (Antilles Youth Care Federation) conducted the workshop attended by nine persons who carry out work in the youth care and enforcement field. The workshop originally catered to more youth care workers in the non-profit and public sector fields, but resulted in only representatives of Voice of the Youth Foundation (also known as the St. Maarten Youth Brigade) attending the sessions along with a social worker from St. Maarten Vocational School.
Pestana told The Daily Herald that LVB is not a mental illness; rather, it is a disability with which some in the community are born, while others may develop it from the lack of care, nurturing and guidance.
Informing the participants about those fundamentals, equipping them to recognise LVB signs and how to work with those with the disability formed the core of the workshop. These central points were dealt with in a very interactive setting; the participants were schooled in theory and then had to apply this to cases they have encountered and share how these were tackled, Cecilia said.
Voice of the Youth Project Leader Patricia Arrindell said the approach used in the workshop and information combine to bring about a better understanding of the challenged young people her organisation is committed to assisting in the community. “The training has helped me understand the why and the how of their behaviour,” she said.
Foundation coach Rudsel Kemper said the sessions had been eye-opening on how to tackle LVB issues, especially in the somewhat-paramilitary setting of the Youth Brigade.
Both Arrindell and Kemper said they want to see similar workshops throughout Government departments that handle youth matters to instil understanding and knowledge about LVB challenges.
“I want Government to see this problem and understand the reason why our prison is full. Sometimes they are not aware of what is going on,” said Kemper.
St. Maarten Vocational School social worker Claire van Putten said the workshop had strengthened her knowledge of LVB and had given her cues to recognise even more now the challenges with which students are battling. Knowing their stumbling blocks will greatly help in catering to their unique situations, she said.
At the end of the session on Tuesday, all participants identified priorities they want to see Government champion to help young people and adults living with LVB. Topping the list were the need for research into LVB and increasing awareness of the disability, more communication and feedback between Government and non-Governmental organisations in the youth field, the development of related policy and support for training to tackle LVB issues.
This same LVB-focused workshop was conducted two years ago for the Court of Guardianship, parole officers and other sectors of the Justice system. Participants in the most recent workshop are keen on networking with the Justice agency officials who underwent the training two years ago to develop a network to assist challenged youth.
The training was requested by Voice of the Youth Foundation and was financially supported by Samenwerkende Fondsen (Cooperating Funds) via its Kansen voor Jongeren (Opportunities for Youth) programme.