1. Based on the information given (which was adapted from a recent real incident with additional contributions from experts in the field of early childhood education and special needs), please answer the following questions with justifications (including in-text citation/referencing) for your answers:
(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, as an educator who is very much an advocate for both children and their families, it is vital to first acknowledge Mrs. Kong’s concerns and empathize with her situation. I will also reassure her that no one is to be blamed for the child’s disability. This is further affirmed by the Down Syndrome Association, Singapore (2009), in which it states that “Nothing done before or during pregnancy can cause Down Syndrome. It occurs in all races, social classes and in all countries throughout the world. It can happen to anyone.” After which, I will address her concerns by sharing my professional view and knowledge about children with Down Syndrome and their future in Singapore so as to enable Mrs. Kong to gain further insights into the disability.
According to the Down Syndrome Association, Singapore (2009), Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of an extra chromosome. This extra chromosome thereby affects individuals’ normal course of development. On a side note, Down syndrome is characterized by varying degrees of physical impairments and other developmental delays, and these vary from child to child.
In addition, I strongly recognize children with special needs are unique individuals who are able to function in various aspects of life with the presence of support from family, school and the community, early intervention as well as the relevant training and education. At present, in Singapore, a range of comprehensive support services is readily available. They include early detection and intervention, education and training, medical services as well as other relevant support services such as financial aid, counseling etc. that cater to the needs of families with disabled children.
Though there is no specific cure for Down Syndrome, the availability of support services will thereby develop sustainable solutions for individuals with Down syndrome. Lastly, I will refer Mrs. Kong to the following organizations which may further help to address her concerns and they are Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) as well as Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS). To cite a relevant example, Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) has a range of family support services, out of which it includes parent support group sharing sessions to educate parents of Down syndrome children as well as provide a crucial platform for emotional support and guidance. I will again reiterate to Mrs. Kong that help is readily available and that she could feel free to approach me or other staff should she require further assistance.
(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 the Toddler class teacher, I would definitely encourage Mrs. Kong to enroll Nicky into the centre’s toddler class. On a side note, I will also be frank with Mrs. Kong that with reference to Nicky’s enrolment I will need to further discuss with the centre supervisor and other fellow co-workers in order to reach a consensus. Meanwhile, as a teacher who advocates for inclusive education for learners with diverse learning abilities and needs, I would then formulate Individualized Education Program (IEP) that caters to Nicky’s individual educational as well as non-academia needs. Additionally, to enhance Nicky’s educational experience, it is vital to establish a collaborative home-school partnership.
(ii) Nicky's diagnosis of having Down Syndrome. (2 Marks)
Despite the photograph of Nicky not revealing facial signs that he has Down syndrome, blood test conducted by the doctor has proven otherwise. Therefore, I will advise Mrs. Kong to bring Nicky for further assessment as soon as possible for early intervention yields innumerable benefits to the child’s overall development as well as provides support services for families with disabled children.
(c) What would you disclose to Mrs Kong about special education, special school and inclusive education in Singapore? (6 Marks)
I will explain to Mrs. Kong the above terminologies as well as address the similarities and differences pertinent to each of these terminologies. Children with disabilities who are placed under inclusive classrooms are full-time members of the general mainstream classroom settings. (Lim and Quah, 2004). Inclusive education refers to the process of integrating children with special needs into the academic and social activities of general mainstream classrooms (Heward, 2009). Special education (SPED), on the other hand, is individualized instruction designed to meet the needs of children with diverse needs and abilities.
To date, there are several special schools which cater to children with autism, intellectual, sensory, physical or multiple disabilities. SPED Schools are operated by Voluntary Welfare Organizations (VWOs), with the support of the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the National Council of Social Services (NCSS). (Lim and Quah, 2004). In Singapore, inclusion was previously not a very significant agenda until recent years, and as Nomanbhoy, Lim and Vasudev (2000) observed, there has been a slow but growing trend of including children with diverse abilities and needs in mainstream classrooms. This is substantiated with the new curriculum framework for kindergartens in 2003 by the Ministry of Education that supports the provision of education for all children, regardless varying needs and abilities.
In addition to explaining the above terminologies, I will also share my personal views towards special education and inclusive education. No doubt both approaches strive towards improving the quality of education for children with disabilities, ultimately placements should be primarily based on each individual child’s needs. Personally, I feel a multi-pronged approach should be put to place in incorporating both inclusion and special education to better benefit children with disabilities. To cite an example, in future when Nicky enrolls in the toddler class, it is advisable that he attends relevant external rehabilitative and therapy sessions at special schools or private specialized clinics.
Furthermore, I will let Mrs. Kong know that other than educators and allied health professionals, ultimately parents hold the key to their child’s future. As an educator, I will render the necessary support and assistance towards empowering parents to take charge of their child’s overall holistic development and education. Thus, effective home-school partnership needs to be established and it is crucial that there is regular communication between parents, teachers and allied health professionals so as to create a dynamic individualized learning program for the child. At its simplest level, with the presence of a unified system where mainstream and special education schools co-exist, we are one step closer towards building an inclusive society. At its simplest level, inclusion in early childhood care and education requires commitment and conviction from all parties to realize the dream of building a cohesive society.
Down Syndrome Association, Singapore. (2009). What is Down Syndrome. Retrieved August 14, 2009, from http://downsyndrome-singapore.org/content/view/34/112/
Heward, W. L., (2009). 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.
Nomanbhoy, D., Lim, L. and Vasudev, R. (2000). 'Promoting quality care and education for preschoolers with disabilities in mainstream settings: The TEACH ME services' in Tan-Niam C. and Quah M. L. (Eds.), Investing in Our Future: The Early Years. Singapore: McGraw-Hill Education.