Early intervention benefits society, too

Early intervention benefits society, too

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Media Type
TODAY, Voices (Pg 20)

From Dr Noel Chia Kok Hwee

I refer to the report “Early intervention for special needs children in mainstream pre-schools” (Nov 7).

There are still parents who are ill-informed about early intervention (EI) programmes and avoid sending their children with special needs to EI. They give reasons like “My child is okay and he will soon catch up on his own”, “I was like that when I was younger, but I have grown out of it", or “I don't want my child to be labelled”.

The rationale underlining EI for children with special needs is threefold. Firstly, it is to enhance the lifespan development of children with special needs so that their potential can be maximised, benefitting their self-esteem.

Secondly, it helps to promote the social and mental well-being of families with such children by offering multiple levels of support and assistance.

Thirdly, it prepares these children for a smooth transition into society and also promotes social inclusion.

Studies have shown that the earlier the intervention, the more effective it is, with greater developmental gains and a reduction in the likelihood of developing problems later on.

EI also reduces stress and improves the mental health of the families coping with children with special needs by providing support and skills.

Hence, EI should include parent training to prepare parents to implement their children's programmes at home. This will also improve parents' attitudes about themselves and their children, as well as their ability to teach their children, and allow more time for recreation and employment.

Studies have reported that effective EI programmes are more highly structured, have clearly specified behavioural objectives and frequently monitor the child’s progress as well as the family's well-being.

They also use child assessment and progress data to modify instruction to meet the changing needs of the growing child, and best practices used during the EI sessions are shared with everyone working with the child.

Our society will reap long-term benefits from EI for children with special needs. With increased developmental and educational gains, these children will grow up to be less dependent on social institutions.

Moreover, EI can increase their eligibility for future employment.

If children with special needs are not given EI today, the cost of taking care of them when they become adults will be significantly higher.

The main difference is that by then, the problem will no longer be that of their parents, but society’s as a whole.

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

Source: TODAY, Voices (Pg 20), mediacorp