Help kids with special needs fit into mainstream

Straits Times Forum, 17 January 2015 (print edition)

THE Disabled People’s Association disagrees with some of the points raised by Dr Richard Kwok (“Kids with dyslexia can thrive in specialist school”; Jan 7) and Mrs Padmini Kesavapany (“Problem with integrating kids with special needs into mainstream”; Forum Online, Tuesday).

We support integrating children with special needs and/or learning difficulties in mainstream schools, as this is in the long-term interest of all children.

Yet, this should be done on a case-by-case basis and only when it is in the best interest of the child, and when there is a robust support structure in place and the schools are able to accommodate their needs.

Mainstream schools have the potential to help children with special needs to flourish, but they require more support in order to do so.

Currently, allied educators help those with special needs in the classroom and there is specialised training for teachers. However, there are not enough allied educators despite the Ministry of Education’s efforts to recruit and train more of them.

Teachers find it difficult to cope with the needs of those who require more help, on top of their existing teaching duties.

The ministry could consider introducing a modified curriculum in mainstream schools for children with mild to moderate special needs. In this way, these children can still receive the benefits of mainstream education, but at a different pace and in a manner that best suits their learning styles.

Special education schools have the expertise to accommodate a wide range of special needs and are the right option for those with more severe disabilities.

We need to bear in mind, however, the effect that attending a special education school will have on that child’s prospects of further education or open employment.

Ultimately, an integrated national education system will benefit all children. Given that the job market today requires formal certifications, mainstream education will enhance the employability of persons with special needs.

It also provides opportunities for meaningful social interaction among a diverse student body. This will undoubtedly promote an inclusive society based on mutual respect and rights.

Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills (Dr)

Executive Director

Disabled People’s Association

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