Their story begins with a father’s love for his only child. Randolph Lopez did not know much about his daughter Laura’s condition of intellectual disability, but he knew he loved her. His love for her led him to England, where he learned as much as he could about intellectual disability and other developmental disabilities.
At that time there was no facility in Jamaica equipped to address the special needs of intellectually disabled children. In 1956 when Randolph Lopez returned to Jamaica, he and a core group of parents and friends of children with intellectual disability, worked to set up the first such establishment, The School of Hope, recently renamed the Schools of Special Education.
That core group and a number of volunteers formed The Jamaican Association for Mentally Handicapped Children. The Association’s ambit soon expanded to include adults, and the organization was re-christened The Jamaican Association on Mental Retardation (JAMR). In 1974 the Government of Jamaica joined the partnership and today The Schools of Special Education, a network of 28 Schools Island wide, are jointly operated with the Ministry of Education.
In 2004, JAMR celebrated fifty years of advocating and creating opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. During the same year the organisation, along with other global entities, signed the Montreal Declaration on Intellectual Disabilities. JAMR therefore dedicated itself to the resounding commitment of being part of a global community to address the rights and needs of the intellectually disabled worldwide.
In 2009, The Jamaican Association on Mental Retardation was re-christened again to The Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities, to reflect the international commitment of the Montreal Declaration.
Volunteers, parents and professionals constitute a significant section of JAID’s membership. They all share Randolph Lopez’s love for special children, and work through education, advocacy and research to improve the development and the quality of life of persons with intellectual disability and developmental disabilities. JAID also works closely with the Government as well as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).