(a) What would you reveal to Mrs Kong regarding your professional view about children with Down Syndrome and their future in Singapore?
As an educator, I would inform Mrs Kong that children with Down Syndrome can still enjoy and learn in mainstream environment provided the severity of the disorder. As Down Syndrome affects the children’s cognitive ability to think and communicate, it also very much again depends on the severity of the child’s condition. Children diagnosed with Down Syndrome in this case as Nicky has Down Syndrome, he has to undergo various medical assessment before the doctors and therapies certifies and suggestion what form of education would suit Nicky better. A child diagnosed with Down Syndrome can be either placed in a special education school or in a mainstream depending on the severity and the cognitive level of the child.
If the child is able to cope with the psychological, emotional, intellectual and adaptive skills he or she can be placed in a mainstream school. However, if the child is unable to cope with such skills they are referred by mainstream school to special education schools. Many students in special schools who were once in mainstream schools have been referred by their teachers and schools placement within the special education system because of their inability to keep up with the rigorous curriculum in mainstream schools (Rao, Li, & Nam, 2001).
Assuming a child with Down Syndrome is able enter a mainstream school, a lot of environmental and curriculum changes has to be made in order to cater to the all children rather than just the child with Down Syndrome. If the child is unable to interact and the condition worsen, it would be more ideal for the therapies, teachers and the child’s parent to work together to meet the child’s needs by placing in a special education school where the child is given one to one attention. There are various special education schools that cater to children with learning disabilities and such schools would be Movement for the Intellectually Disabled (MINDS) and Association for the Persons with Special Needs (APSN). These schools meet the needs of the individual by working with the parents and the professionals to educate them.
(b) Given the limited information provided, what would you advise Mrs Kong about:
(i) Enrolling Nicky into the centre's toddler class; and
I would take 3 steps to advise Mrs Kong about enrolling Nicky into the toddler class.
Firstly, I would like Mrs Kong to accept the truth about Nicky and his condition. As they are still in the state of denial though they had a tough time coming to terms to their child having Down Syndrome. The reason being as Mrs Kong’s other two children are normal and why Nicky has to be diagnosed with a disability. If Mrs Kong has a hard time accepting the truth it would definitely not benefit the child. Changing the mentality, accepting the truth and sourcing for various solutions to provide early intervention for the child is the best solution Mrs Kong could take.
Secondly, Nicky is still young and does not have any symptoms shown on his physical features though the doctor his diagnosed her. As such Nicky can still be enrolled into the centre, but going for daily consultation on his development is also vital. As Mrs Kong stated that she is a bit slow in learning and has difficulties sitting upright, it is important for Mrs Kong to place Nicky in the centre with the aid of a device to help his posture in sitting. Nicky could be cared for at home till she reaches 18months. After which Mrs Kong can reconsider if it is suitable to place Nicky in the centre or provide care at home. Though as an educator i would definitely encourage Mrs Kong to enroll Nicky into the centre. As he is unable to sit upright he would require special devices to help in his sitting posture so that he can enjoy education in mainstream classroom.
Thirdly, parent involvement is also important. Mrs Kong has to work together with the therapies and teachers in planning the activities at home and school. This would further benefit Nicky as he is able to gain support from the home and school environment. In addition parents and teachers can work together to identify the child’s strength and work on it. Furthermore environmental modification can also be made where it can cater to all the children rather than solely on Nicky.
If Mrs Kong is able to work on the three advices, Nicky will be able to enjoy school just like the other children.
(ii) Nicky's diagnosis of having Down Syndrome.
Mrs Kong has to change her mentality about her child’s condition. She has to firmly accept Nicky’s condition so that she can allow Nicky to receive early intervention. Though Nicky does not have any facial characteristic that of a child with Down Syndrome, it is still vital to bring Nicky for daily medical checks and involving him in assessment so as to see the progress and development of the child till he grows up to the age of 3-4years old.
c) What would you disclose to Mrs Kong about special education, special school and inclusive education in Singapore?
As an educator I have to be honest about the education system in Singapore. There are various special education schools in Singapore. Furthermore inclusive education is also being implemented in various schools where the educators changes the curriculum to educate all the children rather than focusing only on the child with a disability.
A child undergoes various forms of assessment and medical checks before they are diagnosed with a disability. As special education only caters to children with severe disability, children who require special attention, interventions and instructions are enrolled into such schools. According to Hallahan and Kauffman (2003) in Lim and Quah (2004), defines special education as “specially designed instructions that meets the unusual needs of an exceptional student”. However, to ensure that a special education is effective, other related facilities or services should be available. Such services and facilities would be special materials, teaching methodologies and equipments, on-going assessment and various therapies and medical treatment and counseling.
If Mrs Kong were to place Nicky in a special school to receive special education, although Nicky can be in a mainstream school it can cause a positive and negative effect on Nicky. As only children above 2 years are generally offered services and programmes, Nicky would have to wait till he turns 2 years old. Moreover if Nicky were to be place in special school he would be segregated from the society and his peers at a later who leads a normal life. In addition the child would not return to mainstream education if he/she is in a special education. Once placed in the special education system, many of them do not usually return to the mainstream school system (Rao, Lim, & Nam, 2001)
Whereas if Nicky were to be placed in an inclusive setting if his condition permits, it would be ideal for children with disability to be part of the society. They are able to be with the normal children and be in the class learning together. The benefit of being in an inclusive school would be it allows the children to mix and work together with the other children in an inclusive setting. Furthermore it would also create awareness to the other children about children who are different than them. Nicky would also benefit as well.
As such Mrs Kong has to decide together with the other professional in providing the best for Nicky.
Lim, L., & Quah, M. M. (2004). Educating learners with diverse abilities. Singapore: McGraw
Heward, W. L., (2009). Exceptional children: An introduction to Specail Education (9th ed.).
Upper Saddle, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall
Anisa D/O Seeni Sulaiman