(a) Professional view about children with Down syndrome and their future in Singapore.
I would first inform her that the main cause of Down syndrome is “the presence of an extra chromosome 21” and that a child with Down syndrome “has three copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two” (Down Syndrome Association Singapore, 2009). Since Mrs Kong is unsure about her child’s disability, I would address her uncertainties. Even though her other two children are normal, Mrs Kong has to understand that “While Down syndrome is genetic in that it involves an extra chromosome 21, it is not usually hereditary in the conventional sense” (Schoenstadt, 2008), which means that for most cases, Down syndrome “does not run in families” (Down's Syndrome Association, 2009).
Also, I would inform her of the characteristics of children with Down syndrome, such as “flat nose, upward slanting eyes, poor muscle tone and broad, short hands with short fingers and a single crease in the palm” (Health Promotion Board, 2009).I would assure her that even though Down syndrome hinders children’s learning capacity, their intellectual impairment ranges from “mild to moderate” (KidsHealth, 2009). Therefore, they are able to learn and improve their skills either on their own, or with the help of specialized staff and special services. Since every single child is unique, no matter if they are normal or with a disability, they function in their own ways and develop at their own pace.
Singapore is still developing, but there has been progress in the education system to maximize the abilities of children with Down syndrome. There are programmes, therapies and services that are offered by the Down Syndrome Association Singapore (DSA) for people with disabilities. These programmes help in the development of their skills with trained and specialized staff to support them.
In terms of the education, the Singapore government has made actions to include children with disabilities in mainstream schools. According to MCYS (2009), the Ministry of Education has included devices and resources in the mainstream schools to support and assist the children with abilities. Also, there are Employment Development Centres (EDC) in MINDS that offer “vocational training, social skills training and sheltered employment” (MINDS, 2005) to prepare them for the working life outside later on in life. Hopefully, majority of Singaporeans include and accept people with disabilities into the society in the near future.
b(i) Enrolling Nicky into the centre's toddler class.
As a teacher, I will accept Nicky in my class and do my best to support him. However, I should also stress that I need the cooperation and teamwork from Mrs Kong so that we could offer the best care and support for Nicky. At the same time, I would also encourage Mrs Kong to have Nicky get early intervention therapies as quickly as possible, and provide her with available services and centres. KidsHealth (2009) suggested that “Physical, occupational, and speech therapists and early-childhood educators can work with your child to encourage and accelerate development”. From there, Mrs Kong, the specialized staff and I can collaborate together to provide the best for Nicky.
(ii) Nicky's diagnosis of having Down syndrome.
Since I am not a qualified and trained special needs professional, I would suggest that Mrs Kong make an appointment with the doctor for further assessment so that I will have more information on Nicky. Through the assessments, Mrs Kong will know more about Nicky and also Down syndrome. I will need Mrs Kong to constantly update me on Nicky’s assessment so that I will know what to provide for him. I will also assure Mrs Kong that the doctors, specialists and I as the educator will try our best to provide for Nicky and his family.
(c) Special education, special school and inclusive education in Singapore.
There are a number of special education (SPED) schools available in Singapore that caters to children with different disabilities. The main aim of the SPED schools is to maximize and develop the abilities and potential of children with disabilities through the therapies and services that they offer (Lim & Quah, 2004). Such schools are like Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS), Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA) and Down Syndrome Association Singapore (DAS). These SPED schools are “operated by VWOs, with the support of the MOE and the NCSS” (Lim & Quah, 2004, p. 48).
I would inform Mrs Kong about the TEACH ME programme offered by AWWA. The programme offers assistance and services such as therapies, counseling and psychological services, to children with physical disabilities to facilitate the children’s “rehabilitation, educational and social needs” (AWWA, 2009). I would also update her on Singapore’s measures to give support to people and children with disabilities, such as project ASSIST, EIPIC and the “Many Helping Hands” approach. Mrs Kong will be assured that Singapore is doing its best to assist and facilitate people with disabilities in Singapore.
As for inclusive education in Singapore, a research project was done to study the possibility and the effects of integration in the preschool centres. According to Quah (1998) as cited in Lim & Quah (2004), there were “positive effects for the children, both disabled and non-disabled, their parents and teachers” (p. 92) which shows that there is acceptance of children with disabilities in Singapore. Singapore is still in the progress of having full inclusion; however, because of the lack of specialized staff and lack of resources and devices, Singapore can only provide partial inclusion. If there is already acceptance in the past, hopefully the acceptance will continue to build on and in the future, people will have a clearer understanding and support those with disabilities in Singapore.
Asian Women’s Welfare Association (2009). TEACH ME. Retrieved on 13 August 2009 from http://www.awwa.org.sg/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=102&Itemid=242
Down Syndrome Association Singapore (2009). What is Down syndrome. Retrieved on 13 August, 2009, from http://downsyndrome-singapore.org/content/view/34/111/
Health Promotion Board (2009). Down syndrome. Retrieved on 13 August 2009 from http://www.hpb.gov.sg/diseases/article.aspx?id=494
KidsHealth (2009). Down syndrome. Retrieved on 13 August 2009 from http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/genetic/down_syndrome.html#
Lim, L., & Quah, M. M. (2004). Educating Learners with Diverse Abilities. Singapore: McGraw Hill.
Ministry for Community Development and Sports (2009). Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim-
8th World Down Syndrome Congress Gala Dinner and Awards Night. http://app.mcys.gov.sg/web/corp_speech_story.aspszMod=corp&szSubMod=speech&qid=642
Movement for the Intellectually Disabled in Singapore. (2005). Employment Development Centers (EDCs). Retrieved on 13 August 2009 from http://www.minds.org.sg/edcs/index.php
Schoenstadt, A. (2008). Down syndrome. Retrieved on 13 August 2009 from http://down-syndrome.emedtv.com/down-syndrome/down-syndrome.html