I will first tell Mrs Kong what Down syndrome is and the cause of it (a genetic condition caused by the presence of 3 copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two) to clarify her understanding of Down syndrome. After which I will find out what she thinks and feels about her child and him with Down syndrome and what her worries about her child are, especially the thought of it is caused by Karma or orther suspicious beliefs.
After which, my answer will be about the same as part C where I will first assure her that having a child with Down syndrome is not a bad or serious matter. It is a common disability which 1 out of 800 around the world is being diagnosed with (Down Syndrome Association Singapore, 2009). After which I will show her the symptoms and signs of a child with Down syndrome and other facts about children with Down syndrome which Mrs Kong might be interested to know.
As for the future children with Down syndrome in Singapore, I will assure her that she do not have to be over stressed about as there are a lot of services and assistance provided by associations, special needs school and centers to assist the development and growth of children with special needs. I will then show and tell her about all the services which I think will benefit Nicky and his family, and those Mrs Kong wants to know about. Such information will include the types of educations/programs (e.g. inclusion, early intervention, enrichment programs), types of schools (e.g. special needs schools, mainstream schools, ICCP schools). I will also provide her with the possible education routes Nicky will take on in his learning journey.
Other than that, I will also reveal the current progress and upcoming plans of Singapore in creating an inclusive environment for people, both adults and children with special needs. She can rest assured as association like Down Syndrome Association Singapore (DSA) provides services and programs which train her child to be ready for open employment.
Given the limited information provided, what would you advise Mrs Kong about:
b. Enrolling Nicky into the centre's toddler class; and
I will first discuss with the principal and other staffs in the child care about Nicky’s condition and the appropriateness of including him into the class as well as the changes and adaptations both parties (Nicky and child care) have/might have to make. Personally, I recommend early intervention and inclusion to start as early as possible but we have to put the child first into consideration.
According to Down Syndrome Association Singapore (2009), children with Down syndrome can be included in mainstream schools if their severity is mild, has better speech and language skills as well as having self-regulation and a more mature social behavior. This is also what I agree as we have to provide what is best for the child and not what is best for the society and family itself. If Nicky’s developmental stages are still immature, unprepared and unsuitable to be placed in mainstream schools, it will do him harm than benefit him if we force him into one.
However, since the information is limited, and there is no harm trying as no one will know how it will work out until we try, I will suggest Mrs Kong place her child and allow Nicky to be included in the child care for a term or two and we will see how it goes by through observations. We will then decide on the final decision on whether to permanently include Nicky in the child care. Personally, I believe that it is not impossible, it's just that there are either not enough resources, or unprepared/trained staff id inclusion does not work in Singapore.
If Nicky is being included into the toddler’s class, I will very much expect close home-school partnership as with both parties working together, we can provide what is better for Nicky compared to one sided effort, much better.
c. Nicky's diagnosis of having Down Syndrome.
Firstly I will assure her that having a child with Down syndrome is not a bad/serious matter nor it is a disease. It is a common disability which 1 out of 800 around the world is being diagnosed with (Down Syndrome Association Singapore, 2009). I would then show her a picture of child with Down syndrome and explain to her the characteristics and signs of a child with Down syndrome. A person who is diagnosed with Down syndrome will have the following physical features:
• Hypotonia, low muscle tone
• Broad face with small nose and small ears
• Upward slanting eyes
• A single deep crease across the center of the palm
• Hyper flexibility, an excessive ability to extend the joints
• Fifth finger has only one flexion furrow
• Epicanthal folds, small skin folds on the inner corner of the eyes
• Excessive space between large and second toe
• Enlargement of tongue in relationship to size of mouth.
(Down Syndrome Association Singapore, 2009)
However, not all people with Down syndrome will have all the features listed above. I will also tell her that people with Down syndrome do not have a particular personality. This also directly imply that even though Nicky is always cheerful, happy and smiling, that does not mean that he has no Down syndrome. However, people with Down syndrome prefer routines than changes hence there are several things that require close home-school partnerships. If the parents still have doubts towards the results, I recommend them to bring the child to do further diagnosis by a different/same doctor, as well as a blood test to check on the chromosomes.
The severity of Down syndrome varies hence what the parent and I as a teacher can do is to do more observations on Nicky in his daily life, work together with the child’s doctor to evaluate, and get our results from there to plan what we can do to let Nicky lead the most normal life he can get with his abilities and at the same time fostering his skills that are not so developed.
d. What would you disclose to Mrs Kong about special education, special school and inclusive education in Singapore?
I will first tell her that the position of Nicky in the society is important but what is really important now is his development, his education, his life skills. There are couples of associations, schools and centers for special needs out there which can help, assist and foster Nicky’s development when Nicky is and is not being included in mainstream schools. So, what I will do is to provide her information such as services available, location, contact information about the associations, schools and centers available which I think will benefit Nicky and his family now and in the future.
One of the examples will be the Down Syndrome Association of Singapore (DSA). They provide children services such as Integration Facilitation Support Program (IFSP) which support children with Down syndrome in their life as a student in mainstream pre-schools and primary schools. They also provides educational support which includes tuition and remedial programs held during school holidays or after school hours to help children with Down syndrome to better cope with their school work. They also provide social skills training which I think it’s really important as they will come in contact with people independently sooner or later in their lives. DSA also provides enrichment programs such as drama, visual arts and dance. Mrs Kong can sign up and bring her child there base on Nicky’s interest.
Schools such as Rainbow Centre, Towner Gardens and MINDS are Special Education Schools (SPED) which cater to children with diverse disabilities. As of Jaunary 2009, there are over 20 SPED run by both private and voluntary welfares (Down Syndrome Association Singapore, 2009). These schools have teachers who are professionally trained to work with and educating children with diverse abilities like Nicky.
I will also tell her that there are 18 child care centers offering the Integrated Childcare Programme (ICCP), which allows children with disabilities, 2 to 6 years olds, to be included in the classrooms (MOE, 2009). This program is funded by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports. Which also means that Mrs Kong actually do not have to worry much about her child and his status in the society as the country and the ministry itself are gaining awareness, doing something and moving towards the goal of an inclusive environment for everyone. There are also more primary schools which employ allied educators which assist I can also provide her with the contact details and steps to follow if she wishes to enroll her child into one of those centers.
Down Syndrome Association Singapore - Not Disabled Differently Able - Home. (2005.).
Retrieved August 13, 2009, from http://downsyndrome-singapore.org
Lim, L. & Quah, M. M. (2004). Educating learners with diverse abilities. Singapore: McGraw Hill.
Retrieved August 13, 2009, from http://www.cel.sg/AgeGroupDisabilityPages5.aspx