a) What would you reveal to Mrs Kong regarding your professional view about children with Down Syndrome and their future in Singapore?
According to Lim & Quah (2004), Down Syndrome is a common chromosomal disorder where the last pair of the chromosomes is a triplet instead of a pair. It occurs before the child’s birth and due to the change in the chromosomes, children with Down Syndrome need more time in learning things and they usually have special characteristics in the physical features which may include “slanted eyes, flattened features, shortness and a tendency to gain weight” (Lim & Quah, 2004, p. 325). Though Down Syndrome is categorized under intellectual disability and may encounter great difficulties while learning, with the right environment, strong support from teachers, parents and professionals and strong determination of the children, children with Down Syndrome are still able to learn and succeed in life. Every child is unique and precious and he/she has his/her own special needs. It depends on the people around them to provide the best environment that will cater to their needs for them to be successful.
Though Singapore has yet to fully include people with disability into the working forces, there are services in the community that does help to provide more employment opportunities for them. One of the services which are provided by the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) is called the Employment Development Centers. It aims to provide working experience and training for people who are intellectually disabled so that it will increase their job opportunities (MINDS, 2005). Therefore, Mrs Kong should not worry about Nicky’s condition too much and start immediately to work together with professionals to help to provide the best environment for Nicky. If she is willing to, I will always be there to provide her any information or help she needs for the best of the child.
b) Given the limited information provided, what would you advise Mrs Kong about:
i. Enrolling Nicky into the centre’s toddler class
As an advocate for inclusion, I will definitely not discourage Mrs Kong to enroll Nicky to our toddler class as I think that all children have equal opportunity in learning. Furthermore, given the information, his condition seems to be mild or may not has Down Syndrome as there were no facial signs that show that he has Down Syndrome. Hence, I will suggest Mrs Kong to enroll Nicky into the toddler class first for more observations of the child’s learning and interaction with other peers so as not to over diagnose his condition. If he really has Down Syndrome, it is also better for him to start early intervention as Heward (2009) says that “the first years of life are critical for children with disabilities, who, with each passing month, risk falling even further behind their typically developing age mates” (p.536).
ii. Nicky’s diagnosis of having Down Syndrome
Nicky has only did a blood test for the diagnosis of Down Syndrome and for it to be more accurate, there should be more assessments done like IQ tests and observation checklists. I will strongly encourage Mrs Kong to arrange further meet ups with the doctor soon to follow up with Nicky’s condition. First, it is to prevent over diagnosis of his condition. Second, if he really has Down Syndrome, it will be good to know his level of severity and get the doctor’s advice for his future development and study. I will also encourage Mrs Kong to do more observation at home to provide more information for the doctor and support his learning as much as possible as having developmental delay does not means that the child has Down Syndrome too. This will also help Mrs Kong to decide which learning environment is best for Nicky.
c) What would you disclose to Mrs Kong about special education, special school and inclusive education in Singapore?
Special Education is a system caters to the educational needs for children with disabilities in a range of settings, which includes the mainstreams and special schools (Lim & Quah, 2004). It aims to “prevent, eliminate and/or overcome the obstacles that might keep an individual with disabilities from learning” (Heward, 2000, as cited in Lim & Quah, 2004). Special schools provide education only for children with disabilities who have learning difficulties. Currently in Singapore, there are a few special schools that provide education for children with intellectual disability which includes MINDS and Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN). These schools provide learning opportunities for children with intellectual disabilities to become independent individuals. However, they may not necessary be enrolled into special schools. There are also children with disability placed in mainstream schools where diverse groups of children are able to interact and understand each other in a favorable environment.
In Singapore, most of the schools practice integration of children with disability into the mainstream schools as they need to adapt to the learning environment of the other children. However, the most ideal way of education for all children, including the child with disability, is inclusion. This means to adapt the curriculum and environment to the diverse needs of all the children to excel and perform. In this way, every child has an equal opportunity in learning and excelling in their own unique way. However, in order for inclusion to work in the class, it requires the parents, teachers and other professionals’ effort to work hand in hand to provide a safe and meaningful environment for every child to develop happily. Therefore, I will hope that Singapore’s education will practice inclusion and cater to the diversity of learners.
Heward, W. L. (2009). Exceptional children: An introduction to special education. (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education
Lim, L., & Quah, M. M. (2004). Educating learners with diverse abilities. Singapore: McGraw Hill.
MINDS. (2005). Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore. Retrieved August 14, 2009, from http://www.minds.org.sg/edcs/index.ph
Leong Min Zhi May