(a) What would you reveal to Mrs Kong regarding your professional view about children with Down Syndrome and their future in Singapore? (4 Marks)
Firstly, I personally feel that it is important for me to empathize with Mrs Kong to reassure her that I understand her uncertainties and fears regarding the diagnosis as her 2 older children are typically developed. Next, I will sit with her to share my knowledge and understanding on Down syndrome and provide her with addition information sites from relevant books and websites. I will reassure her that even though children with Down syndrome are likely to have learning deficits, this does not mean that they are cognitively-disabled altogether. Down syndrome is not a disease, According to the Down Syndrome Association Singapore, (2009), Down syndrome is a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome 21. A baby born with Down syndrome has three copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two. As yet it is not known what causes the presence of an extra chromosome 21.
Also, I personally feel that even though a blood-test was done on Nicky and the results should be accurate to a large extent, Mrs Kong should seek second opinions and supported diagnosis from a specialist or pediatrician to validate Nicky’s condition so as not to over-diagnose him. Meanwhile, Nicky could be enrolled into my class as the process for diagnosis can time up a certain amount of time.
People with Down syndrome should are able to learn and function like any other person in society. In a rapidly progressing country like Singapore, opportunities for people with disability may seem limited. Nevertheless, there are still many types of jobs that they can competently do with appropriate support and aid provided (Lim & Quah, 2004). To support this statement, Singapore was involved in the "UN Convention on the Rights of a Child" (MCYS, 2009) and is currently working towards providing equal education opportunities for children with special needs. Thus, I will encourage Mrs Kong to be optimistic about Nicky’s future in Singapore and to view his abilities no different from any other child.
(b) Given the limited information provided, what would you advise Mrs Kong about:
(i) Enrolling Nicky into the centre's toddler class; and (2 Marks)
As a senior teacher who has studied the importance of inclusion during my course of study in Wheelock College, I will definitely advocate for an inclusive learning environment. Thus, I will assure Mrs Kong that the centre will do its utmost best to include Nicky into the toddler classroom. We will work together to adapt our curriculum in order to cater to the learning needs of Nicky as well as all the other children. Observations in the form of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), anecdotal records and video-recordings can be done on a regular basis to assess Nicky’s ability to learn and gain useful social and life skills such as basic communication, interaction as well as adhering to simple instructions given. These documentations may also be snet to the specialist as concrete assessment tools for the diagnosis. I will also highlight to Mrs Kong that parent-teacher partnership is extremely crucial in order to provide the most ideal education and learning experiences for Nicky. Thus, I would meet with her every fortnight to discuss Nicky’s progress in the mainstream classroom. From there, we will then discuss whether inclusive education is beneficial to Nicky.
(ii) Nicky's diagnosis of having Down Syndrome. (2 Marks)
Personally, I feel that Early Intervention is very essential for children suspected of having any form of special need. According to Lim and Quah, (2004) and I quote, “early intervention may be defined as any form of early or preschool education and services for young children and their families”. Thus, I would strongly advise Mrs Kong to seek medical advice from a specialist to verify if Nicky has Down syndrome. I feel that without an official diagnosis, it is unfair to over-diagnose a child based on general characteristics which in Nicky’s case, is not apparent- physical appearance. If Nicky is officially diagnosed with Down syndrome, both the parent and teacher can then source for and discuss the best services which the child requires.
(c) What would you disclose to Mrs Kong about special education, special school and inclusive education in Singapore? (6 Marks)
I will highlight to Mrs Kong that special education may not necessarily be the best option for a child with special needs. The learning needs and style of a child differs from another. Thus, it is important for parents and teachers to understand the child’s condition before determining the best education services for him or her. For Nicky’s case, I feel that the diagnosis is not very concrete yet. Once it has been verified, I would advise Mrs Kong to place Nicky in an inclusive learning environment first, having understood the benefits of inclusion. I will explain to her that inclusion allows a child with a mild condition of his/her disability is still able to learn cognitive concepts in a mainstream classroom given the necessary support. Inclusion may not only benefit Nicky but also Mrs Kong and her family, the teachers, as well as the typically developed children.
On top of that, MINDS provides its services only to students aged 4 to 18 years. Hence, Nicky is too young to be enrolled into the school.
I would recommend that Nicky be enrolled into a special school only if his condition is severe or that he is unable to cope or learn in an inclusive environment. In that case, I feel that Nicky will benefit more in a special school which provides in depth services by its trained instructors. According to MINDS, (2005), its services help to promote the development of every child by providing education and training in self-help, social, basic academic skills and other functional skills to prepare them for independent living, integration into society and future employment. Hence, I feel that it is important for Nicky to be enrolled to grasp the fundamental skills for independence in society once he reaches the age of four.
MCYS. (2009). UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Ministry of community, youth and sports. Retrieved August 13, 2009, from http://app.mcys.gov.sg/WEB/indv_uncrc.asp
MINDS. (2005). Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore. Retrieved August 13, 2009, from http://www.minds.org.sg/edcs/index.ph
Down Syndrome Association Singapore. (2009). What is Down Syndrome?. Retrieved August 13, 2009 from Singapore Down Syndrome Association Website:
Lim, L. & Quah, (2004). Educating Learners with Diverse Abilities. Singapore: McGraw Hill.