To make SPED a success...

To make SPED a success...

Date
Monday, 12 November 2012

Media Type
TODAY, Voices (Pg 12)

From Dr Noel Chia Kok Hwee

 I refer to "New counselling options for parents of special needs kids" (Nov 3) and applaud the Education Ministry's efforts to play a greater role in special education.

It signals to all, especially keen observers such as myself, to expect more constructive engagements and positive changes in the SPED landscape here.

I have two comments. First, I am heartened that counsellors from voluntary welfare organisations will provide emotional support to parents with special needs children.

This is especially essential when parents must make an informed choice and decide whether to switch their children from mainstream schools to SPED schools.

Having worked with these parents, I know that many feel guilty over whether they were withdrawing their children from mainstream schools too early. Many of them thought they were being cruel in depriving their children of a regular education.

In fact, many parents would prefer to let their children stay longer in a mainstream school, hoping that the latter would eventually catch up with their neuro-typical peers.

This false belief should be addressed soonest and could be best achieved through close collaboration involving staff from both mainstream and SPED schools.

Second, our concern should also be focused on the children's well-being. It can be challenging for a child with special needs who is transferred from a mainstream to a SPED school.

Besides learning to adapt to a SPED environment, the child must learn how to socialise with other exceptional children, whose diverse learning and behavioral challenges could range from moderate to profound levels of severity.

More time may be needed to prepare the child for a proper transition and smooth integration into the new environment.

Perhaps, to ensure the success of the new SPED initiatives, we could apply the same fundamentals underlying the student-centric, values-driven education mentioned by the Education Minister at his ministry's recent Work Plan Seminar: That for every SPED school to become a good school, it should involve every SPED teacher as a caring educator; every parent, a supportive partner; and every child with special needs, an engaged learner.

(Dr Noel Chia is from the Early Childhood and Special Needs Education Academic Group, National Institute of Education, Singapore)

Source: TODAY, Voices (Pg 12), mediacorp