(a) What would you reveal to Mrs Kong regarding your professional view about children with Down Syndrome and their future in Singapore? (4 Marks)
According to McTighe and Wiggins (2005), one of the six facets of understanding is empathy. Applying this facet of understanding, I would listen to Mrs. Kong, acknowledge her feelings and understand her perspectives on Nicky and Down syndrome, the challenges she faced/is facing and the concerns she is having. I will then provide an explanation of Down syndrome, “a congenital disorder characterized by mild to severe mental retardation, slow physical development, and characteristic physical features” (Columbia Encyclopedia, 2008, ¶1). I will also provide visual aids to facilitate her understanding on the cause of Down syndrome- chromosomal abnormality, whereby there is an extra chromosome and it appears as a third chromosome attached to 21st of the 23 pairs of chromosomes normally present in the human genome (Cambridge Encyclopedia, 2005).
(Picture taken from http://ezproxy.wheelock.edu:2133/entry/cupchilddev/down_s_syndrome)
I would also inform her that children with Down syndrome exhibit physical features such as upward slanting eyes and flattened nose and face.
(picture taken from www.healthbama.com/tag/down-syndrome/)
Then, I will reassure her that the future of children with Down syndrome in Singapore is encouraging as Singapore is progressing towards inclusion. For example, Singapore celebrates World Down Syndrome Day on 21 March 2009 early this year to build awareness and increase consciousness and respect for individuals with Down syndrome. Events such as Down Syndrome Association (DSA) Buddy Walk 2009 were also introduced.
In terms of education, DSA’s Children Services is making an effort to promote services for children with Down syndrome from pre-school ages up to the age of 16. Their team has “both conceptualised and implemented plans to provide more services and support to its members” (Down Syndrome Association, 2009, ¶1). With these, the teachers in the centre that I am working at and myself can undergo professional training which will enhance our development when working with children with Down syndrome.
In addition, I will update Mrs. Kong that the DSA’s Children Services team is presently working with two mainstream primary schools whereby six children with Down syndrome are enrolled in these schools. DSA plans to expand their consultancy services to other mainstream primary schools. This information is to enlighten Mrs. Kong when Nicky enters a mainstream school in the near future. There are schools willing to enroll children with Down syndrome in Singapore.
As cited in Lim and Quah (2004), with proper training and support, there are still jobs available for individuals with mild intellectual disabilities (which include children with Down syndrome).
Additionally, as mentioned in Lim and Quah (2004) with the vision of Singapore 21, the Ministry is working towards the aim to capitalize on the abilities and potential of individual Singaporeans. Programmes such as Buddy Reading and Learning Support Programme are introduced in primary schools to assist students in their learning and to maximize their learning capabilities.
(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)
Children with Down syndrome require more time and effort to learn and develop especially in terms of social and intellectual development. Nevertheless, I will strongly encourage Mrs. Kong to enroll Nicky into the centre’s toddler class because I believe that all children, regardless of their race, religion or abilities, should be given opportunities to learn. “Focus on their abilities and not disabilities” would make a strong and powerful statement. After which, I will inform her of my plan on what will be done on my part as a teacher when Nicky is enrolled into the Toddler class: I will understand the nature of Nicky’s learning difficulties and provide her with the necessary support so as to enhance her learning and development. As mentioned by Lim and Quah (2004), “Teachers can learn to identify their strengths and weaknesses, observe and be sensitive to their unique needs and adopt the appropriate steps to benefit their educational needs.”
(ii) Nicky's diagnosis of having Down Syndrome. (2 Marks)
I would agree with the doctor regarding the blood test result (and reinforce on the information I provided with earlier on, on the cause of Down Syndrome- chromosomal abnormality) and would strongly encourage Mrs. Kong to make an appointment with the doctor for further assessment. This is because according to Heward (2009), early intervention can reduce the effects of disabilities or prevent the occurrence of learning and development problems during the early years.
(c) What would you disclose to Mrs Kong about special education, special school and inclusive education in Singapore? (6 Marks)
Singapore has made remarkable strides and efforts in special education and we are progressing towards inclusion with regards to education. Firstly, I would explain to her what these terms mean. Special education is when students with disabilities are placed in special schools. Facilities and services are made available. Inclusion is when the curriculum is modified and the appropriate and necessary support is provided so that students with disabilities can participate actively and meaningfully in the mainstream classroom activities and lessons (Lim and Quah, 2004). Examples of special schools that enroll children with Down syndrome are Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) and Metta. These two schools cater to the needs of individuals with intellectual disability (including individuals with Down syndrome). Special materials, assistive technology, psychological assessment, physical and occupational therapy, medical treatment, counselling and special transportation are made available for students enrolled in Special schools. As for inclusion, Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School and Changkat Changi Secondary Schools are examples of mainstream schools which include and cater to students with disabilities.
Down's syndrome. (2005). In Cambridge Encyclopedia of Child Development. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. Retrieved August 14, 2009, from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/cupchilddev/down_s_syndrome
Down syndrome. (2008). In The Columbia Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Columbia University
Press. Retrieved August 14, 2009, from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/columency/down_syndrome
Down Syndrome Association Singapore. (2009). Social interaction skills support. In
Children services. Retrieved August 14, 2009, from
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
McTighe, J. & Wiggins, G. (2005). Understanding by design. USA: ASCD.