(a) What would you reveal to Mrs. Kong regarding your professional view about children with Down syndrome and their future in Singapore? (4 Marks)
First and foremost, According to the Down Syndrome Association Singapore (2009), Down syndrome is a condition where a newborn has an extra genetic material on the 21st chromosome. Although Down Syndrome is known to be caused by genetic reasons, however the impact that the environment where the child is in as well as the parent’s role in nurturing the child are all pivotal to the development of the child.
Children who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome have a significantly flatter facial contour. This refers to having their tongue jut out, a flat nose, eyes slanted upwards, a flatter surface at the back of the head, weak muscle tone, and undersized ears as well as wide, short hands with a crease on the palm. (Singapore Health Promotion Board, 2009). Furthermore, according to the Down Syndrome Association Singapore (2009), Down syndrome is also associated with several developmental problems such as a delay in the locomotors skills such as crawling and sitting and also in terms of cognitive skills such as a shorter memory capacity as well as the acquisition of language. Moreover, children with Down syndrome have a tendency to use certain coping strategies. For instance, structure in terms of routines as well as self-directed speech helps these children to gain greater control and make sense of their lives. To find out more, I would encourage Mrs. Kong to look out for upcoming seminars and talks about Down Syndrome and early intervention on the Down Syndrome Association Singapore’s website in order to help Nicky and herself to understand more.
Regarding the future of children with Down syndrome in Singapore, I would highlight to Mrs. Kong that there has been significant amounts of effort put in to create a more inclusive society in Singapore. For instance, at a recent event known as the Down Syndrome Association Charity Gala Dinner, the 2nd Minister of Finance- Mrs Lim Hwee Hua mentioned that the Down Syndrome Association Singapore (DAS) “engages the society to include individuals with Down syndrome into the schools, workplaces and community. This attempt to integrate children with Down syndrome shows us that it is possible for Nicky still grow up and experience life like any other regular child. In view of Singapore’s prospects, the society is willing to put in efforts to help children like Nicky have a healthy social and school life.
(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)
I would encourage Mrs. Kong not to place Nicky in a special school immediately. I would advise her to enroll Nicky in our centre first and see if Nicky is able to adapt in a mainstream environment. It is too early to segregate a child from the regular children. Both Mrs. Kong and myself should be more than willing to help Nicky grow in a healthy, mainstream environment. Nonetheless, I would assure Mrs. Kong that I have been trained to use multiple teaching strategies and assistive technologies to help children will special needs learn better. For example, I would show her the visual aids like picture cards, visual schedule and signage that I would use to help Nicky understand my instructions and learn more effectively. When Nicky faces difficulties in adjusting to the centre’s curriculum and teaching practices, then I will make conscientious efforts to discuss and suggest possible alternatives that can be made to the existing learning environment with Mrs. Kong.
(ii) Nicky's diagnosis of having Down syndrome. (2 Marks)
Although Nicky does not display any physical attributes of children diagnosed with Down syndrome, however Nicky’s official diagnosis is accurate as well. Hence, I would advise Mrs. Kong to bring Nicky for further assessments, rather than delaying it because early diagnosis and intervention will help to reduce, eliminate and overcome greater learning and developmental difficulties that can occur during the child’s preschool years. (Heward, 2009).
(c) What would you disclose to Mrs. Kong about special education, special school and inclusive education in Singapore? (6 Marks)
As stated by Heward (2000), special education is “purposeful intervention designed to prevent, eliminate, and/or overcome the obstacles that might keep a child with disabilities from learning and from full and active participation in school and society.” (p. 35.)
The Movement for the Intellectually Disabled Singapore (MINDS) has pioneered special schools like the Fernvale Gardens School, Towner Gardens School, Woodlands Gardens School as well as the Lee Kong Chian Gradens Schools to help children with special needs. The educators are trained to provide exceptional children with individualized attention in order to meet their needs. (MINDS, 2005) Basic self help skills, fine and gross motor skills as well literacy skills are developed in these children. (MINDS, 2005). Hence, the availability of professionals, required services as well as assistive technologies will render appropriate assistance to children with special needs and their families.
Currently in Singapore, partial inclusion is at work. There have been significant efforts in trying to provide children with special needs an individualized academic programme, which will match the learner’s learning pace and abilities. It has been slowly becoming a reality in Singapore. Providing an educational programme, which is individualized and relevant to the needs and abilities of these students. For instance Singapore has trained allied teachers to be stationed in some mainstream schools in order to cater to the learning and behavioral needs of children special needs in the school. (Ministry of Education, Singapore 2009).
However, integration and inclusion education is an ideal that would require a collaborative and progressive effort between members of the society, school, parents and the child to fulfill. Teachers like myself will put in our best efforts in including children like Nicky in our classroom. Hence, I would advise Mrs. Kong to be patient and hopeful in working towards making full inclusion a reality.
Health Promotion Board. (2009). Down Syndrome. Retrieved August 14, 2009 from the Health Promotion Board Website: http://www.hpb.gov.sg/diseases/article.aspx?id=494
Heward, W.L. (2009). Exceptional children: An introduction to Special Education (9th Ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Singapore Down Syndrome Association. (2009). All you need to know about Down Syndrome. Retrieved August 14, 2009, from the Singapore Down Syndrome Association Website: http://downsyndromesingapore.org/content/view/34/111/
MINDS (2005). Movement for the Intellectually Disabled Singapore: Introduction to Special Education School. Retrieved August 14, 2009, from http://www.minds.org.sg/schools/
Ministry of Finance – Singapore. (2009). Speech by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Second Minster for Finance – Down Syndrome Association Charity Gala Dinner. Retrieved August 14, 2009, from
Ministry of Education, Singapore. (2009). Allied educators careers. Retrieved August 14, 2009, from http://www.moe.gov.sg/careers/allied-educators/