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)
Firstly, I will explain to Mrs Kong about the definition of Down Syndrome and some of the characteristics or symptoms associated with Down Syndrome. Taken from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2007), Down Syndrome is defined as “a set of mental and physical symptoms” due to the presence of another chromosome 21 or trisomy 21. I will inform her that there is an organization in Singapore, known as the Down Syndrome Association, Singapore, which aims to provide the best for people diagnosed with Down Syndrome by including them into the society. I will also quote from the Down Syndrome Association Singapore (2009), that not every person with Down Syndrome will have the common physical characteristics as these characteristics will differ from one person to another. Furthermore, it is also said that each child will take after his/her family’s “looks and characteristics”. Henceforth, Nikki may not have facial signs indicating that she has Down Syndrome.
Secondly, as advised by the doctor to bring Nikki for further assessment when she reaches 1 year old, I will further encourage her that it is important to do so. I will explain that it also helps to verify the condition of Nikki, if she is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. This is because with early intervention and support given, the child with Down Syndrome will be able to lead a better and more comfortable life. This is because the doctor will be able to assess Nikki’s condition and check if it is mild or severe, then, provide the assistance needed (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website, 2007).
According to the Down Syndrome Association Singapore (2009), as compared to the past, some people with Down Syndrome are open to vast opportunities available in the community as they lead “rich and varied lives” now. Henceforth, I will explain to Mrs Kong that her husband and herself need not worry, as long as early intervention is given to Nikki. At the same time, the most ideal approach will be that along with early intervention, individuals with Down Syndrome should go through lifelong learning to be equipped with knowledge and skills as well as being included with the main community (Down Syndrome Association Singapore website, 2009).Furthermore, with Singapore 21, which aims to “create an equitable and cohesive society” for all, I feel that she should not be worried about the future of Nikki, as Singapore is doing her best in moving towards inclusion (Lim & Quah, 2004, p.6)
(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)
Firstly, I will explain to Mrs Kong that it is important to bring Nikki for further assessment as instructed by the doctor, in order to determine the condition of Nikki. After determining Nikki’s condition and as a senior teacher and the teacher for the toddler’s class, I will be able to make the necessary arrangements to include Nikki into the classroom. For instance, I will employ more teachers into the classroom who are trained in the area of special needs or special education. This will also increase the teacher-student ratio in the classroom.
Secondly, I will explain that as an early childhood educator, I want to provide the best for every child and include Nikki into the mainstream classroom. Furthermore, as I am being trained during my degree programme in Special Needs Education, I will do my best in including Nikki into my classroom. I will also conduct research on Down Syndrome and if possible, upgrade my skills by attending courses related to Special Needs, in order to provide for Nikki. This is because according to the Down Syndrome Association Singapore (2009),presently, the opportunities for people with Down Syndrome is much greater than in the past, when many of them could not do much things. Henceforth, I feel that we should provide equal educational opportunities to the best we can for children with special needs, and in this case, for Nikki, who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
(ii) Nicky's diagnosis of having Down Syndrome. (2 Marks)
I will explain to Mrs Kong that I am not able to provide the diagnosis or arrange the necessary assessment and interventions for Nikki as I am not qualified to do so. However, as I studied in Wheelock College and have some knowledge and skills in the area of special education, I will do my best to provide the information that she needs. I will also conduct some research on Down Syndrome and explain to her the information that I have found:
Although Nikki does not have facial signs showing that she has Down Syndrome, she does have difficulties in sitting upright and show that she is a bit slow in learning. I will thus explain to Mrs Kong that not every child will display the common physical characteristics of Down Syndrome. Furthermore, as “Muscle hypotonia” and “delayed cognitive skills” are some of the developmental difficulties that a child with Down Syndrome faces, Nikki does show signs of having Down Syndrome (Down Syndrome Association Singapore, 2009). Henceforth, with early intervention, the necessary support and assistance can be given to Nikki to improve her condition. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2007) also states that children with Down Syndrome have the likelihood of having “delayed language development and slow motor development”
(c) What would you disclose to Mrs Kong about special education, special school and inclusive education in Singapore? (6 Marks)
Firstly, I will explain the definition for each of the following terms in the Singapore context.
Special Education and Special School:
According to Heward (2009), special education is described as “individually planned, specialized, intensive, goal-directed instruction” (p. 47). With that, special education aims to intervene and provide for children with disabilities, enabling them to participate in school or the society (Lim & Quah, 2004). According to the Ministry of Education of Singapore (2009), special school provides education to children with special needs, who are not able to “benefit from mainstream schooling” through various programmes. Henceforth, Individualised Education Plans are also prepared for all students in special schools, as they aim to include them into the society (Ministry of Education of Singapore website, 2009). I will also give her the website to go to, to have access to the special education schools in Singapore: http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/special-education/schoollist/.
Inclusive education: With reference to Lim & Quah (2004), I will explain that inclusion is a term, which believes that people with special needs, should be included into the mainstream classrooms. Henceforth, schools that adopt inclusion provide the “necessary support” to enable students with special needs to “participate in a meaningful way” (Lim & Quah, 2004, p. 31).
I will then explain that she should put Nikki into a mainstream school, to enable Nikki to integrate fully into the society. This is because, she will be able to interact with her peers and teachers in a mainstream class while at the same time, receive the support and assistance needed from the school and professional therapists or psychologists.
However, if she is uncertain and at the same time, if Nikki’s condition is severe, she could perhaps enroll Nikki into a special education school. Most importantly, I will tell her that her decision should benefit Nikki as well as the family.
2. Comment on 1 entry by your classmates. (1 Mark)
Commented on Lin Yan Yan’s post
Down Syndrome Association, Singapore. (2009). All you need to know about down syndrome. Retrieved 11 August 2009 from Down Syndrome Association, Singapore, website: http://downsyndrome-singapore.org/content/view/35/111/
Down Syndrome Association, Singapore. (2009). What is down syndrome. Retrieved 10 August 2009 from Down Syndrome Association, Singapore, website:
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.
Ministry of Education, Singapore. (2009). Special education in Singapore. Retrieved 12 August 2009 from Ministry of Education, Singapore, website: http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/special-education/
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2007). Down syndrome. Retrieved 10 August 2009 from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/down_syndrome.cfm