Archive for the ‘Inclusive Education’ Category

Going the extra mile for special-needs kids

Monday, February 24th, 2014

The law is clear, a child with a disability must be allowed to attend school, yet many schools discriminate such children, or are reluctant to take them in for various reasons.

STARTING school for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience for parents and their children.

Parents are anxious if their child will fit in, while the fears a child may have about school can be just as intimidating.

They can be apprehensive about being separated from their parents, riding the school bus, meeting a new teacher or even making new friends.

Take Ibrahim* for instance, he was worried that his daughter Nurul who was about to start schooling would not adjust well to her new environment. He decided that he would go to the school and snap some photos of the school layout and the facilities available there.

He then compiled the pictures into a “social story” to explain and familiarise Nurul to the environment she was going to be in.

While the doting dad may seem to have gone overboard with his actions, there was a reason for him to do so — his daughter had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

People with autism spectrum disorder have a strong preference for routines and Ibrahim’s effort in repeatedly telling the “social story” was to prepare Nurul for her new school life.

A “social story” is a strategy developed by Carol Gray, an educational consultant and autism teaching expert. Her primary objective is to prepare individuals with the condition (autism) for social interactions through social instructions and expressions in a defined style and format.

Ibrahim had also explained to the school authorities of her condition. Since teachers were already informed, they went the extra mile in providing the necessary assistance and even roped in her classmates to help her out.

Now in Year Three, the girl doesn’t seem to have problems completing her homework and has been doing well in all her tests.

Like most of her peers, she gets help from tuition classes after school.

Ibrahim is grateful for the support he’s had from school authorities.

Being the adorable child she is, Nurul’s teachers and even the canteen assistants or mak chiks are always looking out for her. Even the school’s security guard keeps an eye on her as she waits for her father after school every day.

by Kang Soon Chen.

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Assessment for special needs kids

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

SPECIAL needs children will soon be categorised according to their levels of functionality before they enter Year One in mainstream schools.

Education Ministry Special Education Division director Bong Muk Shin said the assessment would place the children under three categories — low functioning, moderate functioning and high functioning.

“It’s not a problem for high-functioning children to study in mainstream classrooms.

“Those who are moderate-functioning will be placed in an integrated programme within a mainstream school while low-functioning children will have to go to special education classes,” he said when contacted recently.

He said the ministry was moving towards inclusive education where more children with special needs would be placed in mainstream classrooms.

“There is a need for parents, teachers, school heads and the public to change their mindset on children with special needs and special education,” said Bong when asked to comment on a case highlighted in a letter published in The Star recently.

In the letter, National Early Childhood Intervention Council president Datuk Dr Amar Singh H.S.S. highlighted the plight of a child with mild disability who was isolated from the other pupils in a mainstream classroom on the order of the school headmaster.

The child was doing very well in the same classroom in the first two terms before the isolation.

His grades plummeted in the third term as the headmaster had asked that the child be sent to special education classes and to sit at the back of the classroom.

Dr Amar claimed in the letter that the headmaster was concerned that the boy would bring down the performance of the school.

On the case of the boy, Bong urged the parents and the headmaster to discuss and find ways to provide the best education for him.

He declined to comment further on the case, saying that the ministry would investigate the matter and treat each complaint involving special needs children on a case by case basis.

Education deputy director-general Datuk Sufa’at Tumin, when contacted, said the ministry would get to the bottom of the matter.

by Kang Soon Chen.

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NGO aims to be ‘third force’ in addressing educational inequality

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: Instead of being an armchair critic to the education system, independent programme Teach For The Needs (TFTN) decided to be the “third force” in addressing the issue.

TFTN executive director for policy and research Anas Alam Faizli said that the voluntarily-based programme aims to improve educational opportunities for orphans, underprivileged children and those from the “bottom tier”.

Speaking to The Star Online in a recent interview, he said TFTN gathered volunteers from all walks of life, from doctors to executives, who spent hours of their time educating these children for free.

“They include engineers, doctors, executives, professionals and university students. They are committed in what they do despite their full time job,” said Anas, whom himself is in an oil and gas industry.

Asked what made him to do something off his career track, he said he had always possessed a keen interest in tackling educational inequality.

“I believe education is the best instrument to alleviate the poor and balance the inequality gap.

“We do not want to reinvent the wheel. We are just trying to assist in what the Government or the private sector is not covering. We are like a third force NGO (non-governmental organisation),” he said.

Anas also said the educational gap in the country was worrying, as students were segregated as early as primary school.

“If you are smart, you go to a class A but if you are not, you go to a class Z. After a while, you will be surrounded by late bloomers who are left behind,” he said.

He said the same scenario occurred in secondary school, where most Form Three or Form Four students with difficulties in reading would eventually drop out from school.

“Those who drop out will form the lower tier of society and they are the ones who mostly cause social problems,” he said.


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How I learnt to cope with dyslexia

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

THE word “dyslexia” comes from Greek: “dys” meaning “bad, abnormal, difficult” and “lexis” meaning “word”.

Medically, dyslexia is a brain-based type of learning disability that impairs one’s ability to read. In its subtle form, a dyslexic may have no apparent difficulty in reading but his spelling will be almost always defective.

I am dyslexic, though I coped well academically. I discovered I was dyslexic only at the age of 28 as I watched a psychologist testing a Grade 10 schoolgirl in Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The simple words she had difficulty spelling, I too was uncertain about.

My education was somewhat unusual. I attended a Chinese-medium school for nine years, from Primary 1 to Secondary 4 (I skipped a year since I was given a double promotion from Primary 1 to Primary 3).


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Need to open all schools to persons with disabilities.

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

KOTA KINABALU: Education must be made accessible to the disabled. In other words, if the disabled cannot come to school to attend classes, then it must be brought to them.

Young Voices founder Fariz A. Rani pointed this out during the question and answer session of the National Roadshow for Persons with Disability (OKU) held at Wisma Perkeso near here yesterday.

He opined that although opportunities were given to OKUs to fill up positions in the civil service, many will not be able to take advantage of the situation because they have not completed their secondary and tertiary education.

“In Sabah, there are many OKUs with this predicament. They have not even finished their UPSR, do how can they fill up the quota provided to them if they don’t have the necessary qualification?” he queried.

Fariz also said that it was wrong to group the OKUs and force them to follow the footsteps of their successful peers because every OKU has different types of disabilities.

“We cannot force all the OKUs to follow the footsteps of others who have succeeded. For some, attending school may not take so much effort, but what about our peers who are bedridden and want to continue their schooling? For them, going to school is not a 100 percent effort but instead, is a 200 percent effort or more.”

“I know of an OKU who has to be carried by her father to school everyday. But her dad laments that he can no longer do it because he is getting old … home-base education must be introduced for our peers who have problems travelling but have big dreams and ambitions,” he explained.

Fariz also stressed that all schools must be able to accept students with disabilities.

Education Department’s sector head in special education, Ahmad Sabari, said that the present education system only accepts students who are capable of caring for themselves.

“We need to amend this, but I have to say that it is also due to the lack of our capabilities,” he said.

Ahmad added that only 72 schools in Sabah were able to take in disabled students now and one of the newest updates in the provision of education for the disabled in the country was that now politechnics in the country have begun admitting students with hearing disabilities into their programmes.

At the same time, he also shared that six primary schools and six secondary schools in Sabah have constructed OKU friendly toilets for their disabled students.

“These are some of the efforts that have been introduced by the Education Department for our OKUs,” he said.

Teaching Inequality: Denial, Defensiveness, and the Diminishing of Oppression

Friday, June 28th, 2013

As a sociology teacher, not only do I discuss topics related to oppression and inequality, but these topics comprise a pervasive and substantial portion of our pedagogy. The chapters on class stratification, race and ethnicity, and gender and sexuality are a required chunk of the curriculum by the social science department, and an obvious pedagogical necessity to the social scientist who knows that our location on the social hierarchy is tremendously dependent upon the “isms”—on an individual and institutional level. When covering a lesson on privilege and oppression—almost inexorably, and amongst others—at least one of the following responses from students ensues: denial, defensiveness, and/or diminishment. Aptly enough, their reactions exemplify a part of the lesson, and therefore can be used as a learning device in the liberal arts and social sciences classroom.

Denial is a common response from students (and the general public, for that matter) when discussing the existence of gender inequality in the United States. This mentality is revealed in such sentiments as “it’s not like it’s the 1950s anymore,” or “but my mom makes all the money in our family,” and is frequently—though not exclusively—retorted by male students. In the book, Privilege, Power, and Difference, Johnson (2006) analogizes the privileged group member speaking for and defining the experiences of the “cultural other” to that of a parent dismissing a child’s cries after a fall: If a child falls down, a parent might say, “you’re fine, no crying, it really doesn’t hurt that much,” when, for all the parent knows, the child may have broken a bone. Similarly, Johnson contends, “members of privileged groups are culturally authorized to interpret other people’s experiences for them, to deny the validity of their own reports, and to impose their views of reality” (109).

When statements similar to the above arise in the classroom setting, instructors can employ the parent/child analogy to explain how dominant groups often denunciate experiences of others. The classroom discussion itself, a microcosm of society, may serve as an example of power dynamics of the larger culture. The teacher might begin by asking if the classroom is a component of society, and if elements of the larger culture can be found represented in the classroom. The teacher may subsequently inquire: “Why is there a tendency to deny that inequality exists when discussing it in the classroom?” Alternatively, perhaps an instructor can preemptively use this common tendency as a hook—even before comments such as these are made—to instigate a discussion: “It is not the 1950s anymore. People have more rights than ever before, and yet for some this doesn’t seem to be enough. Do I— do we—really even need to listen to the voices of others if they are demanding change? Does a person/group from poverty have more authority to speak about their experiences in poverty than myself, coming from the middle-class? What could that person really know that I don’t?!” Prompts like these often result in a good, active discussion.

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SPECIAL NEEDS’ CHILDREN: They’ve right to inclusive education.

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

THE National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) would like to highlight the plight of children with special needs who are denied access to inclusive education. We recount real-life of children (names changed to protect their privacy) who struggle through an education system that marginalizes them on the basis of their diasbilities.

Ibrahim’s story

Ibrahim is a delightful boy who has autism. Autism is a condition where the child has difficulties with communication and social interaction. Most children with autism have a normal IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and the potential to succeed in school.

Ibrahim is a good example. He is currently in Form One in a regular government school. Unfortunately, he is repeatedly misunderstood by teachers and peers.

They keep saying he is “inattentive” and does not focus on the teacher. Hence he receives “demerits” and is sometimes physically punished (caned). This is despite repeatedly writing to the school and explaining his situation to his teachers since primary school. They still fail to understand that he is not ignoring the teachers or being stubborn; Ibrahim has autism.

Recently, the school authorities referred him back to the Paediatric Specialist Clinic again, requesting that Ibrahim be registered as an OKU (Orang Kurang Upaya), so that he could be transferred to a special education class.

It is important to note that Ibrahim was placed 130 of 240 in the school’s entire Form One examinations! Out of sheer frustration, we requested the school to send all the other children who scored lower than Ibrahim (all 110 of them) to be registered as OKU before we considered registering him.

Murali’s story

Murali is a cheeky young man with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). DMD is a muscle wasting condition, affecting boys, which usually presents itself around 5 to 7 years of age, with progressive muscle weakness.

Special Education Teachers Face Bigger Challenges, Says Veteran Teacher

Friday, May 17th, 2013

GEORGE TOWN: — Teaching special needs children is a much more challenging task compared to normal children and therefore teachers in such schools should work as a team in order to motivate themselves, veteran teacher A. Valliammal said today.

“It’s important to work as a team and help each other with ideas to maintain our enthusiasm,” she told Bernama during the Penang Spastic School’s 46th Sports Day here today.

Valliammal, 65, who has been with the school since 1975, said teachers needed to be creative in exploring new techniques relevant to the fast-paced development in technology and communication.

Teachers should also be sincere and genuine when imparting knowledge to such children so that learning could be effective and useful, she added.

Meanwhile, the Spastic Children’s Association of Penang president Ng Fook On said that the school had 152 children ranging from as young as four months old to 18 years cared for by 70 teachers and volunteers.

He said the sports day was aimed at instilling an active lifestyle and promoting the spirit of friendship among its staff.

“We can promote a friendly and united atmosphere through sports. It’s important for parents and teachers to encourage their children with such healthy activities,” he said.


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Reading classes for dyslexic kids

Monday, January 21st, 2013

AMONG the disabled community, people with learning disabilities remain a forgotten lot in society. Just ask anyone who has worked with them or for their cause.

Learning difficulties affect not just children, but adults as well. People with autism and Down syndrome are also learning disabled.

One of the least understood are persons with dyslexia. It has been estimated that there are as many as 400,000 children with dyslexia in Malaysia.

One of the biggest issues that children and young persons with dyslexia face is unfair labelling of their condition.

“They are seen as stupid and lazy in our society,” laments Sariah Amirin, president of the Dyslexia Association of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

“This is a terrible misnomer of who they actually are and what people like them suffer from,” adds Sariah.

“Although people with dyslexia can’t read or write and frequently fail in school because of the lack of proper support, they are an intelligent lot.”

Sariah goes on to explain that students with a mild form of dyslexia may be able to cope if they have a good class teacher.

“These are often caring and understanding teachers who go the extra mile to help a dyslexic child get through his exam despite his spelling disability. Such teachers should be lauded for their exemplary attitude in looking after the interest of every child.”

Students with moderate to profound dyslexia, according to Sariah, will need to undergo remedial programmes such as special reading classes to help them cope with learning. These are currently not available in special education classes in government schools.

However, dyslexia reading classes are available at Dyslexia Association of Malaysia’s nine centres throughout the country. But, getting special children to attend such classes is not easy. Some headmasters stop their students from attending the three-month class as they think it will disrupt the school’s own programme.

“It’s the dyslexic child who loses out. They end up not learning anything as they are not equipped with skills to help them read and learn effectively.

The special reading classes have proven to be effective with dyslexic students. One graduate is now training to become a pilot in Australia. He is scheduled to give a talk to parents of dyslexic children here this week.

by Anthony Thanasayan.

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Early detection key to treating dyslexia

Monday, January 21st, 2013

KUCHING: Many children with dyslexia in the state go unnoticed because there are not enough trained teachers to detect them.

State Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah said dyslexic children often ended up being misunderstood and treated unfairly by the people around them.

“The failure to detect these children not only hampers them academically, but also stifles their emotional and mental growth.

“This is unfair to them and so, measures must be taken to ensure that such things do no happen.”

Fatimah said this after closing a rope skipping competition for dyslexic children at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science of Universiti Malaya Sarawak, here, on Saturday.

To address the situation, Fatimah said a specialised course in early detection of mental disorders among children should be included in the compulsory module for teachers in training.

Currently, the task of detecting children with disabilities rests on the shoulders of special education class teachers.

These teachers are low in number and therefore, not able to deal with the issue on the level that is required.

“Each type of mental disorder requires a different treatment and type of intervention.

“It is important that the afflicted child be given the right kind of intervention and treatment suitable to the child’s unique needs.”

Symptoms of dyslexia vary with the child’s age.