Firstly, I would briefly share with Mrs. Kong on what I know about children with Down Syndrome. I would tell her that Down Syndrome is an intellectual disability that results from a chromosomal malfunction (Lim and Quah, 2004). According to Heward (2009), the characteristic physical features include a “flat, broad face with small ears and nose; upward slanting eyes; small mouth with short roof and protruding tongue” (p. 144). I would also stress that the information I have is limited and, if need be, she must find out more from organizations such as the Disability Information and Referral Centre (DIRC) or the Down Syndrome Association Singapore (DSA). Both organizations provide information and referral services to available treatments and education services for children with Down Syndrome.
I would then assure Mrs. Kong that there can be a bright future for children with all kinds of disabilities in Singapore. The first step towards that bright future is, naturally, early intervention and education. If provided with the right services and educational opportunities, I believe that all children, not only those with disabilities, will be able to lead promising and purposeful lives. I would stress the importance of early identification and intervention as research has demonstrated that it would help individuals with disabilities lead more productive lives and contribute more to society.
In future, Mrs. Kong can also use services such as MINDS’ Training and Development Centers (TDCs) and Employment and Development Centers (EDCs) that provide training in both vocational and social skills. This would “further develop their potential and prepare them for open employment and integration into society” (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled in Singapore, 2005).
I would first advise Mrs. Kong to bring Nicky for further assessments to attain a proper diagnosis. During this time, if necessary, Nicky can be enrolled in the centre’s toddler class. My colleagues and I would then design a curriculum and environment to best suit his needs and the needs of the other children in our class. I would suggest, however, that after proper assessment, Mrs Kong should enroll Nicky in an Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) or an Integrated Child Care Programme (ICCP); both of which are services provided by the Centre for Enabled Living (CEL). These programs are equipped with the best resources, educators and services that are crucial to the overall development of children with disabilities.
There are many organizations, ranging from non-profit to government hospitals, which specialize in the diagnosis and assessments of children with disabilities. Family doctors or general practitioners (GP) usually make referrals “for follow-up investigation and assessment by multidisciplinary assessment teams” (Lim and Quah, p. 73). As mentioned above, I would stress to Mrs. Kong on the importance of early identification; which would then lead to early intervention.
The special education (SPED) sector has made great strides since its initial start in 1947 with the Trafalgar Home for children with leprosy (also known as Hansen’s Disease). Currently, there are twenty SPED schools run by Voluntary Welfare Organizations (VWOs) and four privately run (Ministry of Education, 2009). Each SPED school specializes in a range of disabilities and provides educational services for children aged two to eighteen.
Although limited, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports (MCYS) have been working towards a more planned and purposeful education system which includes children with special needs into mainstream classrooms. The Enabling Masterplan 2007-2011, under the MCYS, proposed that an outreach service program be devised “to provide direct intervention in selected mainstream preschools, which include kindergartens and nurseries” (p. 24). On top of that, Rose and Tok (as cited in Lim and Quah, 2004), have reported on the successful social integration of preschool children with Down Syndrome.
I would definitely advise Mrs. Kong that a combination of both special education and inclusive education is the best choice to ensure that Nicky advances in all aspects of his development.
Enabling Masterplan Steering Committee. (2007). Enabling Masterplan 2007 – 2011: Chapter 3, Early Intervention and Education for Children with Special Needs. Retrieved on 11 August, 2009, from http://www.mcys.gov.sg/enablingmasterplan/report/EM_Chapter3.pdf
Heward, W.L. (2009). Exceptional Children: An Introduction to Special Education. (9th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education
Lim, L., & Quah, M.M. (2004). Educating Learners with Diverse Abilities. Singapore: McGraw-Hill Education (Asia)
Ministry of Education. (2009). List of Special Education Schools. Retrieved on 11 August, 2009, from http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/special-education/schoollist/
Movement for the Intellectually Disabled in Singapore. (2005). Services. Retrieved on 11 August, 2009, from http://www.minds.org.sg/main/services.php