Archive for the ‘Inclusive Education’ Category

Let’s walk the talk for special kids

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

The authorities should be serious if they want to move towards advocating inclusive education especially for children with learning disabilities.

MANY children with special learning needs require speech and language therapy from an early age. They generally receive this service from speech-language pathologists, either in hospitals or in private practices.

Although the provision of speech-language services in schools is common in most developed countries, this service, unfortunately, has yet to be made available in Malaysian schools.

Therefore, this area of remediation, though crucial, remains inaccessible to many children in need of it.

Developmental and learning disabilities in children are common. Evidence from worldwide reports show that about 16% to 33% of children have at least one form of special learning needs.

McLeod and McKinnon from Charles Sturt University in Australia compared the prevalence of communication disorders with other learning needs in 14,500 primary and secondary school students.

They found that the majority of students with special learning needs are struggling in the area of speech, language and communication.

Their statistics show that 19% of the students have dyslexia, 12% have communication impairment and 6% have difficulties learning English or other languages as their second language.

Altogether, these figures yield an alarming 37% of students with speech, language and communication difficulties.

This figure is compelling, as compared to the other forms of special learning requirements: behavioural/emotional difficulty (6%), early achiever/advanced achiever (6%), physical/medical disability (1%), intellectual disability (1%), hearing impairment (1%) and visual impairment (0.5%).

Besides that, the prevalence of developmental and learning disabilities has been reported as “increasing” over the years. According to an American national report released in a prominent scientific journal, Pediatrics (2011), the prevalence of development disabilities has increased from 12.84% to 15.04% over the past 12 years.

In the past 10 years, Malaysia has also experienced a notable shift in the prevalence for students with special educational needs.

The Special Education Department in the Education Ministry reported that in 1999, there were 6,433 students who received special education services in primary schools and 2,627 students in secondary schools.

by Dr. Low Hui Min.

Read more @

A Rare but Potentially Treatable Form of Autism.

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have identified a rare, hereditary form of autism that may be treatable with nutritional supplements, a new study reports.

The scientists sequenced the genomes of six children with both autism and epilepsy from three Middle Eastern families — in each case, the children’s parents were first cousins — and found that they had mutations in a gene that normally prevents the breakdown of certain amino acids. The end result is that children had low levels of these proteins — known as branched chain amino acids — which the body doesn’t make on its own and must be gotten through food.

Further, the researchers found, mice with the same gene mutation also showed low levels of branched chain amino acids and developed neurological problems, including tremors and epileptic seizures, related to autism. But when the mice were treated with protein supplements that restored depleted levels of the amino acids, their symptoms disappeared within a week.

(MORE: Older Fathers Linked to Children’s Autism and Schizophrenia Risk)

“This might represent the first treatable form of autism,” Joseph Gleeson, lead author and a child neurologist at UCSD, told Nature News. “That is both heartening to families with autism, and also I think revealing of the underlying mechanisms of autism.”

The authors caution, however, that the rare mutation may contribute to only a small number of autism cases. The researchers selected the children in their study to best identify the recessive mutations involved, since there’s an increased likelihood that children from related parents will receive two copies of the mutation.

How that genetic mutation contributes to autism is unclear, but the researchers have a theory. The mutation inactivates a protein called BCKD-kinase, which prevents the breakdown of branched chain amino acids. Normally, these amino acids are ferried across the blood-brain barrier by special transporters. But when their levels drop, the transporters end up carting more of other large amino acids into the brain. These other amino acids serve as precursors for neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which play a role in mood and pleasure-seeking, and whose activities in the brain may be associated with autism.

When the research team profiled the brains of mice lacking the BCKD-kinase gene, they found very low levels of branched-chain amino acids and very high levels of these other amino acids.

(MORE: Autism: Why Some Children ‘Bloom’ and Overcome Their Disabilities)

“At this point, we do not know if it is the low levels of branched chain amino acids or the high levels of these other neurotransmitter precursors that lead to the autism and epilepsy features.

by Alexandra Sifferlin.

Read more @

Every child has potential to succeed

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

EVERY child has the potential to succeed despite the learning impairment and physical disability that they may suffer from, said Education Ministry Special Education Division director Bong Muk Shin.

“The society needs to shift its perception to look beyond the condition of children with special needs and learning difficulties.

“Rather, we should be focusing on helping them to achieve their potential,” said Bong.

Every year, the Ministry carries out various outreach programmes to raise awareness on the learning disorders in children such as dyslexia and autism.

“Overall, the general awareness on learning disorders is still relatively low.

“The Education Ministry is working closely with the Social Welfare Department and the Health Ministry to highlight these conditions and provide help to those who are affected,” said Bong.

The programme focuses on remote areas where amenities such as transportation, medical and communications might be limited.

Out of the 2,903 students visited by the outreach team recently, 744 students are identified as having learning difficulties.

Bong also reveals that the number of students enrolled in special education classes has doubled to 54,000 over the past few years, not including students with physical disabilities.

Currently, there are 1,945 regular schools in the country which are running integrated programmes for students with learning difficulties.

Under the LINUS programme, Year One pupils who are identified with learning difficulties are referred for medical assessment after screening.

They are later enrolled in the remedial programme or sent to special education classes for students with special needs based on the outcome of their medical assessment. The teacher factor

Dyslexia Association of Malaysia president Sariah Amirin agrees that the LINUS programme is timely to address the problem of a significant number of children in schools who failed to master basic literacy and numeracy skills.

She believes that the remedial teachers play the most important role in ensuring that the programme achieves its objectives.

“Teachers need to bear in mind that each child is unique so there is no one fits all method to teach the child.

Read more @

Asean centre in Nilai to train teachers of disabled.

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR:  A NEW special education centre, based in Malaysia, will offer training and support to educators from the Asean region   working with students with disabilities.

Education Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Rosli Mohamed said the Seameo Regional Centre for Special Education (Seameo Sen) would provide teachers and support personnel with the resources needed to boost the special education field.

The centre, he said, was part of Malaysia’s agreement with the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (Seameo) Council to look into the region’s needs for specialisation and improving education access.
“Seameo Sen will focus on three areas,   namely  training, research and support, to strengthen education for students with special needs, including those with learning disabilities.”

Rosli said this after signing the memorandum of agreement with Seameo secretariat director Dr Witaya Jeradechakul yesterday.

The   ceremony was witnessed by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Seameo Council president and Brunei Education Minister Pehin Abu Bakar Apong.

Under the agreement, Seameo Sen will aim to improve special education practices and research by establishing a regional resource network for teachers, specialists, educational institutes and non-governmental organi-sations. Rosli said the centre would be based at the  Education Ministry’s complex in Bandar Enstek, Nilai.

It would draw its professional staff from experts and other  qualified candidates from the Asean region.

First proposed in 2010, it is now temporarily located at the Malay Women’s Teacher Training Institute campus in Malacca.

by Rozanna Latiff.

Read more @

Strategies for Creating a More Inclusive Classroom

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

“I don’t really have any diversity issues in my class because all of my students are white.”

“I have a lot of content to cover, so there’s really no time to address multiculturalism.”

Diversity, once largely centered on race and ethnicity, has evolved over the years to include a broad range of personal attributes, experiences, and backgrounds, each interlocking to create one’s social identity.

For example, Texas A&M University defines diversity as “The inclusion, welcome, and support of individuals from all groups, encompassing the various characteristics of persons in our community. The characteristics can include, but are not limited to: age, background, citizenship, disability, education, ethnicity, family status, gender, gender identity/expression, geographical location, language, military experience, political views, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and work experience.”

When viewed through this lens, it becomes easier to see the importance of teaching inclusively, regardless of discipline or ethnic makeup of your course. But what exactly makes a course multicultural?

In the recent online seminar, Four Strategies to Engage the Multicultural Classroom, Texas A&M’s Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity, Dr. Christine A. Stanley, and Dr. Matthew L. Ouellett, Associate Director of the Center for Teaching & Faculty Development at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, outlined a framework for multicultural course design. As outlined below, the four conceptual areas — instructors, students, teaching methods and content — are all inextricably linked, while integrating into the larger campus climate and culture.

  1. Who are you? Spend some time examining your own experiences, values, assumptions and stereotypes. How have you come to understand your complex social identities? Which aspects are most salient for you in the classroom?
  2. Who are your students? Get to know your students, and just as important, give them opportunities to get to know each other. The more students have invested in helping to create a positive classroom environment, the more likely they are to take risks, share their viewpoints, and hear each other out even if they may disagree, Ouellett said.
  3. What are your pedagogical choices? Create a more student-centered teaching model that engages students. “What we need to do is shift the dynamics so we’re less about demonstrating our expertise and more about getting students to build their own ability to construct knowledge,” Ouellett said.
  4. What are your content choices? Understand that the principles of an inclusive course apply across all disciplines. Model inclusive behavior by ensuring diverse perspectives, and use examples and illustrations that reflect the diversity that may be in your classroom, Stanley said.

Managing Difficult Conversations
One of the biggest challenges to embracing a multicultural course design is being able to effectively manage potentially polarizing topics where emotions can run high and old stereotypes are exposed.

by Mary Bart.

Read more @

Government Targets Increasing Intake Of Disabled Students In Day Schools

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: Plans are afoot to provide more opportunities to non-severely disabled students to study in day schools as currently only 7.5 per cent of such children in the country are enjoying this facility.

Deputy Minister of Education Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi said the government was targeting to cover 30 per cent or 28,000 non-severely disabled students who are not blind and deaf to attend inclusive education at day schools.

“The main objective of encouraging disabled students to learn with normal pupils and taught by regular teachers is to create a competitive and motivating environment for them,” he told a news conference after opening a Seminar on Strategic Education Management Motivation for Form Five Students here Friday.

He said day school teachers needed to be exposed to the techniques of educating non-severely disabled students including emotional and motivational control.


Read more @

Autism in our lives

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

The term autism encompasses a range of behaviours that adversely affect social interaction and communication.

AUTISM is a developmental disability that results in problems with social interaction and communication. Its features vary with individuals.

One person may have mild symptoms, whilst another may have serious ones. That is why healthcare providers consider autism a “spectrum” disorder, which includes an autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder (atypical autism).

Children who have an autistic disorder have major problems with language, social interaction and behaviour. Many also have learning problems and intelligence that is below average.

Children with Asperger syndrome have milder symptoms affecting social interaction and behaviour. Their language development is usually alright but they can have problems in certain aspects of language, for example, understanding humour. Their intelligence is usually above average. Some are skilful in memory, logic and creativity, eg in music, and pure sciences.

Children who have some, but not all of the features of autistic disorder and/or Asperger syndrome, are said to have a pervasive developmental disorder. Most have milder symptoms than autistic disorder but do not possess the good language and above average intelligence of Asperger syndrome.

Looking at the causes

Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) can be due to primary or secondary factors. There is no medical condition in the former, which comprises 90% of ASD. A medical condition is thought to be wholly or partially responsible for the latter, which comprises 10% of ASD.

The conditions in secondary ASD are fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, and Rett syndrome.

Fragile X syndrome affects about one in every 3,600 boys and 6,000 girls, who have characteristic long faces, large ears and flexible joints. Tuberous sclerosis affects about one in 6,000 children, who have multiple, non-cancerous tumours all over the body. Rett syndrome affects about one in 20,000 girls who have ASD, and they have problems with physical movement and development.

by Dr. Milton Lum.

Read more @

Hard to learn

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Although dyslexia is considered a learning disorder, there is no relationship between dyslexia and intelligence.

SOME people have a learning disability that leads to difficulty in learning and using certain skills. The skills that are usually affected are reading, writing, listening, speaking, reasoning, and doing mathematics.

The terms used for these disabilities are dyslexia, which refers to difficulties in reading and spelling; dysgraphia, which refers to difficulties in writing; and dyscalculia, which refer to difficulties in doing mathematics.

This article is about dyslexia, which is derived from the Greek works, dys (difficulty), and lexia (use of words). The symptoms range from the very mild to the very severe. People with dyslexia have difficulties with phonemic awareness, verbal memory and verbal memory speed.

Phonemic (or phonological) awareness is the ability to learn how speech sounds make up words, connecting the sounds to alphabet letters, and learning how to blend the sounds into words. Changes in the sounds lead to different words with different meaning. This ability is believed to be crucial in early reading and spelling development.

Verbal memory is the ability to remember a sequence of verbal information for a short time.

Verbal processing speed is the time taken to recognise and process familiar verbal information, e.g. this speed is the time taken to recognise the letters, A, S, E, A and N, process it, and then realise that it refers to the Association of South East Asian Nations.

Although dyslexia is considered a learning disorder, there is no relationship between dyslexia and intelligence. Dyslexia has been defined well by Shaywitz, who stated that, “Dyslexia is a reading difficulty in a child or adult who otherwise has good intelligence, strong motivation and adequate schooling … Dyslexia reflects a problem within the language system in the brain.”

by Dr Milton Lim.

Read more @

Slow learners need more help

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

HE WAS scribbling something in his exercise book as I stood near him. The other pupils were concentrating on a grammar exercise I had given them earlier.

Andrew was told to answer only two of the questions in the exercise. When I asked him what he was doing, he looked up at me with a blank face.

I sat next to him and decided to explain the question again. He wasn’t comfortable and his eyes wandered. I asked him to attempt the question again.

Just two minutes after attempting the first question, Andrew stood up telling me that he wanted to go to the toilet.

There are many pupils like Andrew who might appear focused when in fact, they are unable to cope with school work.

They are usually slow learners and need extra time to finish their tasks. Despite their seemingly unpredictable nature, they are indeed sensitive people.

They are aware of their weakness, but are unable to move on because they are not quick enough to grasp what is being taught in class. Many try hard, but when they fail after a few attempts, there is a sense of hopelessness and they stop trying altogether in school.

As a result of their inability to progress at a normal pace, many slow learners are rarely selected or eligible to attend the various programmes held in schools and this leads to other problems when they are older.

A large number of pupils have failed to develop the basic reading skills before they reach Form One.

There are instances when we teachers have misdiagnosed them as being lazy or having behavioural problems, when in actual fact they are only slow learners.

Read more @

Special privileges

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

THERE are several government schools which have special programmes to cater for children with dyslexia.

Syed Abdillah Syed Kamaruddin from Education Ministry’s Special Education Unit said parents and teachers can apply to place their children in these school after the children are observed, and are found to be unable to read upon completing Year One.

“Children who have signs and symptoms of dyslexia must first undergo psychological assesment by a certified psychologist or psychiatrist from a government or private hospital,” he said.

Once the diagnosis for dyslexia is confirmed, Syed Abdillah said the parents can use the results to proceed with the application for transfer at the Special Education Unit or state education departments.

A similar procedure is also laid out for parents who wish to enrol their children in the three-month dyslexia remedial programme conducted by centres operating under the Dyslexia Association of Malaysia.

“After undergoing the psychological assessment in the hospital, the child needs to be referred to the Dyslexia Association of Malaysia for an educational assessment,” said Syed Abdillah.

He added that a release letter must also be issued to the child’s school so that the child can temporarily leave the school to enrol in the three-month programme at the centre.

Special privileges are also given to students with dyslexia who sit for public examinations.

These students can apply for a text reader, extra examination time and larger text prints from the Malaysian Examination Syndicate.

A representative from the Examination Syndicate said students must submit their application when they register for the examinations. They can also put in their application a few months before the examination.

Read more @