(a) What would you reveal to Mrs Kong regarding your professional view about children with Down Syndrome and their future in Singapore? (4 Marks)
I would first assure Mrs Kong that I understand her worries and anxiety, and provide her with a general overview of Down Syndrome, which is ‘a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome 21’ (Down Syndrome Association Singapore, 2009). More importantly, I would stress that Down Syndrome is not a contagious disease, and that the environment and upbringing play a vital role in the development of a child with Down Syndrome.
Children with Down Syndrome usually face a slowed development mentally and physically, of which the severity and symptoms range from mild to severe. Several symptoms of Down Syndrome include delayed language development and slow motor development, with physical signs such as slanted eyes, short neck, poor muscle tones and small hands and feet (National Institute of Child Health and Development, 2009). Although it is a condition that is incurable, early intervention for individuals with Down Syndrome can help them to lead productive lives.
To cater to these children, many early intervention programs and special schools in Singapore such as AWWAS (Asian Women’s Welfare Association) and the Rainbow Centre have been set up for children with diverse abilities. Early intervention aims to reduce the effects of a disability and to maximize the individual’s learning to his or her fullest potential (Lim & Quah, 2004). Mrs Kong will be assured to know that the various early intervention programs and special schools in Singapore provide specialized services to cater to the developmental needs and growth of different diverse learners. In addition, according to Lim and Quah (2004), a preschool integration program by the Down Syndrome Association (DSA) of Singapore was initiated in 2001, to integrate a small number of children with Down Syndrome into selected kindergartens. The DSA also provides support services to train individuals with Down Syndrome for future integration into the working society. This shows the effort in the move towards a more inclusive society in Singapore.
As such, there is an option for children with Down Syndrome to attend special or mainstream schools, depending on what deems best for the 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)
I would encourage Mrs Kong to enroll Nicky into the centre’s toddler class. This is so that the latter will be able to experience and learn about communication and socialization with students in mainstream settings. This, in turn, serves as a preparation for the child for future integration into the society, where interpersonal skills serve as vital factors to building relationships.
In addition, adaptations will be made to the curriculum so that Nicky is able to learn in a pace that suits him best. I would also inform Mrs Kong that it is important for her to work with the school as closely as possible, so that the best learning opportunity is provided for Nicky.
(ii) Nicky's diagnosis of having Down Syndrome. (2 Marks)
As a blood test was done to determine the possibility of Nicky’s condition, the result would most likely be accurate. However, I would also encourage Mrs Kong to go for further assessments to get more detailed information about Nicky’s condition.
I would provide essential information about the available resources, pertaining to early intervention programs and education in Singapore, for children with Down Syndrome, to Mrs Kong. This is so that she is better equipped with the necessary knowledge to plan for future decisions with regards to Nicky’s education.
(c) What would you disclose to Mrs Kong about special education, special school and inclusive education in Singapore? (6 Marks)
Special education is a purposeful intervention that is designed to help a child with disabilities to learn and participate actively in school and society (Heward, 2009). In the Singapore context, special schools (e.g. AWWA special school, Rainbow Centre, MINDS) are set up to cater to the learning and developmental needs of students with disabilities. In a special education program, only special education teachers who are trained and equipped with the requisite skills and certification are hired to teach in this field. An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is used on each child during the teaching process, to ensure that the child’s unique learning needs are met. Assistive technologies in the form of personal aids or learning devices are also integrated to aid in the student’s learning.
In an inclusive education, however, it requires the child with special needs to learn and work with other typical developing children. There are a few programs in Singapore that supports the inclusion of students with special needs into mainstream school settings (e.g. the Therapy and Educational Assistance for Children in Mainstream Education (TEACH ME), and the Learning Support Program (LSP)). In addition a few other projects such as Project ASSIST and the Integrated Childcare Centre Programme (ICCP) were implemented in Singapore over recent years, with the aim of including children with special needs who can benefit from mainstream education, into mainstream preschools to maximize their learning potential (Lim & Quah, 2004).
According to Lim and Quah (2004), there is a growing acceptance in Singapore towards the movement of including students with special needs into mainstream settings. Inclusion allows both children and adults to recognize and appreciate the contributions that each unique individual brings (Strully & Strully, 1996, as cited in Lim & Quah, 2004). As such, inclusive education benefits all as the mainstream children are able to learn about the communication methods, and characteristics of the child with special needs, and vice-versa.
Down Syndrome Association Singapore – Not Disabled Differently Abled. (2009). All you need to know about Down syndrome. Retrieved August 12, 2009 from Singapore Down Syndrome Association Website: http://downsyndrome-singapore.org/content/view/35/111/
Heward, W.L. (2008). Exceptional children: An introduction to Special Education (9th Ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Lim, L., & Quah, M.M. (2004). Educating learners with diverse abilities. Singapore: McGraw Hill.
National Institute of Child Health and Development (2009). Down Syndrome. Retrieved 13th August, 2009, from National Institutes of Health website: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/Down_Syndrome.cfm
Goh Yi Huey, Group A