Children with Down Syndrome may face “physical impairments and developmental delays”, however, these severities vary among each individual (Singapore Down Syndrome Association, 2009). Firstly, not every child with Down Syndrome possess all distinctive physical characteristics. Secondly, their cognitive and motor development may differ from one another’s. Thirdly, taking into consideration that they may suffer from other health implications, these also affect children with Down Syndrome’s overall development. However, with proper guidance to learn the basic life skills, they can still perform daily tasks independently (Lim and Quah, 2004).
Although Singapore has not fully included people with Down Syndrome into the mainstream schools, we are working on it. There is an increase in the number of organisations for children with Down Syndrome over the years (Lim and Quah, 2004). In fact, some schools are integrating children with Down Syndrome. As seen in the year 2007, Down Syndrome Association had embarked on a research to include children with Down Syndrome in mainstream primary school.
In addition, Down Syndrome Association (2009) had listed various services to aid in the growth of children with Down Syndrome. Such as the Integration Facilitation Support Programme (IFSP) “serves to support children with Down syndrome in mainstream pre-schools and primary schools”, and social interaction skills support and educational support to reinforce learning in school.
Subsequently, there are continuous support programs provided for a “more independent and productive” life ahead (Singapore Down Syndrome Association, 2009). In which, these programs encourage people with Down Syndrome to reach out and achieve higher with their capabilities. The programs are open employment/social enterprise, project-based, and leisure-based.
As an early childhood teacher with no certification in the special needs field, I would suggest Mrs Kong to bring Nicky for more assessments so as to have an assurance of her child’s condition before enrolling Nicky into the toddler class. Ideally, seeking help from professionals through the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) provide insights of how to carry out early intervention procedures. This should be done as soon as possible because “findings support the commonly-held view that early services to young children with special needs will enhance their abilities to develop to their maximum potential, reduce later education costs to society, and improve their chances of both economic and living independence” (Ministry of Community Development, Youths and Sports, 2009). According to Ministry of Community Development, Youths and Sports (2009), it stated that Integrated Childcare Programmes (ICCP) is introduced into 17 preschool centres. Hopefully, with trained special needs officers, Nicky will be able to benefit in the programme, maximise her potential and be guided towards higher education opportunities if possible.
As mentioned in part (Bi), Mrs Kong should bring Nicky for more assessments to understand her child’s condition better. Most importantly, I feel that families are the core participant to make early intervention work. Hence, I thought Nicky’s diagnosis of having Down Syndrome may be a big step for Mrs Kong and her family. To guide and support Nicky throughout her life, they may want to be engaged in family support and training services from several VWOs. Such as, to attend counselling, educational talks, support groups, training workshops, and information dissemination and referral (National Council of Social Services, 2009).
Special education in Singapore has improved over the years but has not reached the ideal stage where individual with special needs are fully included in the society. Though special schools are still segregated from the mainstream, there are still programs such as Therapy and Educational Assistance for Children in Mainstream Education (TEACH ME), Encouraging Achievement and Better Learning (ENABLE) Program, Learning Support Program (LSP) and REACH ME project under the Autistic Resource Centre (ARC) which supports inclusion in the mainstream schools (Lim and Quah, 2004). Also, project researches to introduce programmes that obtain the best practices for inclusion are available (E.g. IFSP).
Derived from Lim and Quah (2004), there is also an increase in the number of VWOs over decades of years being set up, and integration and inclusion are happening in the mainstream schools. Through a speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister of State, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Manpower from Ministry of Education (2008) said that “58 designated schools with full facilities for the physically disabled, and these schools are geographically spread out across Singapore to make them more accessible”. In my opinion, the process of inclusive education is gradual and needs support from the society to make it happen. Therefore, it is crucial that the attitudes of the society must change to bring about a strong advocacy towards an inclusive society (Lim and Quah, 2004).
Lim, L. & Quah, M.M., 2004. Educating learners with diverse abilities. Singapore: McGraw-Hill Education (Asia).
National Council of Social Service, 2009. Disability Services. Retrieved August 12, 2009 from Singapore Down Syndrome Association Website: http://downsyndrome-singapore.org/content/view/54/51/
Ministry of Community Development, Youths and Sports, 2009. Services and Programmes. Retrieved August 13, 2009 from Ministry of Community Development, Youths and Sports Website: http://app.mcys.gov.sg/web/indv_disability_sercivespro.asp
Ministry of Community Development, Youths and Sports, 2009. Report. Enabling Master Plan Chapter 3: Early Intervention and Education for Children with Special Needs. Retrieved August 12, 2009 from Ministry of Community Development, Youths and Sports Website: http://www.mcys.gov.sg/enablingmasterplan/report/EM_Chapter3.pdf
Ministry of Education, 2008. Speeches: Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister of State, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Manpower from Ministry of Education. Retrieved August 13, 2009 from Ministry of Education Website: http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/speeches/2005/sp20051110a.htm
Singapore Down Syndrome Association, 2009. What 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/
Singapore Down Syndrome Association, 2009. Adult Services. Retrieved August 12, 2009 from Singapore Down Syndrome Association Website: http://downsyndrome-singapore.org/content/view/17/79/
Singapore Down Syndrome Association, 2009. Children Services. Retrieved August 12, 2009 from Singapore Down Syndrome Association Website: http://downsyndrome-singapore.org/content/view/18/80
Done by: Poh Jia Yi Bee - Group A