Archive for the ‘Persons with special needs’ Category

Special needs ‘education’ for doctors and all

Thursday, June 13th, 2019
Children from the Nuha Kids Care Centre participating in early intervention activities.
By Rozana Sani - June 12, 2019 @ 12:45pm

LEARNING and developmental disabilities are quite common among children in Malaysia.

They include global developmental delay (GDD), intellectual disability, autism, Down Syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

There are also specific learning disorders like dyscalculia (severe difficulty in making arithmetic calculations), dysgraphia (unable to write coherently) and dyslexia (difficulty in reading or interpreting words, letters and other symbols).

According to the Welfare Department, there were 82,447 children registered with these disorders in 2016, which account for about 71 per cent of the total children with disabilities.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Faculty of Medicine lecturer and family medicine specialist Dr Ezura Madiana Md Monoto said as public awareness on autism, ADHD, dyslexia and other learning disabilities increased, more parents are seeking help when they notice that their children are not developing as well as their peers.

“There are long queues at government hospitals and primary care clinics for consultation on learning and developmental disabilities.

“Private hospitals, learning centres and non-governmental organisations are also providing therapies for special needs children.

“In our (UKM) setting, other than referring patients to our colleagues in the psychiatric and paediatric departments, we also offer rehabilitation services, such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy.

“We also work hand-in-hand with NGOs such as SOLS Health to provide assessment and intervention to our patients.

“Obviously, we need more specialists and facilities that are easily accessible to detect, diagnose and provide early intervention for special needs children at an affordable cost,” she said.

To provide exposure to medical students and, at the same time produce more experts, Dr Ezura said students at UKM Medical (UKMMC) will get the opportunity to work with such patients during their clinical years.

“We have the Child Development Centre under the paediatrics department, Child Psychiatry Clinic under the psychiatric department, and Child and Adolescents Clinic under UKMMC’s primary care clinic, where students will work in rotations.

“When they are posted to other teaching hospitals, too, they have the opportunity to see these cases as their prevalence is high in our communities.

“They have ample opportunity to see and discuss such cases with specialists and doctors, in which they gain valuable experience to handle these cases in future,” she said.

Dr Ezura said final-year medical students at UKM undergo their family medicine posting for five weeks, and they will be posted to UKMMC’s primary care clinic in Kuala Lumpur, and Klinik Kesihatan Batu 9 Cheras and Klinik Kesihatan Batu 14 Hulu Langat in Selangor, to allow them to work in the community.

She said they will learn to practice patient-centered consultation and apply the continuity of care concept in managing patients. They will be exposed to personalised healthcare that has cost-effective and quality features.

Being a public university that trains specialists in family medicine, UKM’s Family Medicine Department also runs a Child and Adolescent Clinic.

It is open in UKMMC every Tuesday, and the clinic provides therapy for patients under 18 with learning difficulties, and developmental and behavioural disorders.

Special needs youngsters are referred to the Child and Adolescent Clinic from schools, government clinics and private practitioners.

“With increasing awareness, sometimes parents themselves walk in to consult on their children’s problems. We work hand in hand with UKMMC’s Child Development Clinic and Child Psychiatry Clinic to diagnose and coordinate care for these children and adolescents.

“Students attached here have the opportunity to serve at the clinic under the supervision of lecturers and family medicine specialists.

“With increased prevalence of such disabilities in Malaysia, they will be the frontliners in the community to detect, manage and coordinate care for patients after they graduate.

“We also provide continuous education for medical practitioners who like to learn about this subject,” said Dr Ezura, adding that the clinic also conducts awareness programmes for the public.

Recently, the UKMMC Child and Adolescent Clinic carried out a programme to mark autism and Down Syndrome. It was officiated by Faculty of Medicine assistant dean (learning & CITRA) Professor Datuk Dr Harlina Halizah Siraj.

Dr Harlina said not everybody is capable of going through the challenges of raising children with special needs.

Therefore, society needs to be empathic, accepting and willing to lend full support to these families.

“Hence, that is why we organise this awareness programme today — to educate society on what Down Syndrome and autism are all about, how people with different abilities live their life.

“Typical people like us need to create an inclusive environment for them to thrive and achieve their full potential alongside with us,” she said.

Twenty-three UKM medical graduates and students volunteered to help out in the event.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with children and adolescents with autism and Down Syndrome as it gives us the chance to understand them better and learn how to support them and their family,” said Nur Nazira Safani, 25, who graduated last year and is waiting for her housemanship posting.

Dr Ezura, who headed the organising committee, said it took two weeks to secure funding and put the event together.

“Within a short period, we managed to bring Andi Miranti, a teenager with autism who published his comic Ned Dickens; Amira Daniea, an autistic but talented young artist who has her own line of tudung and art pieces; and Yan Wei Xing, eight, a boy with Down Syndrome who helps his parents plant and sell hydrangea flowers.

“We also engaged SOLS Health to provide psychological assessment for visitors and Nuha Kids Care Centre to do gross motor circuit activities for the children.

“We held an exhibition on what early intervention is all about. Speech language pathologists and dietitians from UKM were also at hand to provide advice and hands-on demonstration to parents,” said Dr Ezura.

“This was a good initiative to show the community what people with autism and Down Syndrome can do if early intervention is initiated to minimise gaps in developmental milestones and social functions,” said Florence Lim Tze Teng, who is the mother of Yan Wei Xing.

“Although there are prevailing negative perception and attitude from the community, we need to help our special needs children to prepare themselves for the future — to be independent and, hopefully, integrate successfully with their peers and the community,” she added.

By Rozana Sani .

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Teaching children with autism a special, exciting challenge

Friday, May 17th, 2019
Norshahila Omar (right) with Nurul Ain Mohd Ilias (centre) and Azlini Mohamed Sidi teaching the children at the Nasom centre in Kuantan. -NSTP/ MUHD ASYRAF SAWAL

KUANTAN: Teacher Norshahila Omar arrives at her workplace at Kubang Buaya here knowing that a fun-filled day awaits her albeit some tense moments with her students which occasionally drives her up the wall.

The 29-year-old joined the Kuantan branch National Autism Society of Malaysia’s (Nasom) in 2009, and just when some assume that teaching a child with autism may seem a daunting task, Norshahila has made great strides in her career.

The mother-of-one said she was startled when she first stepped into the centre as the autism children had various characters, there was communication barrier and it was tough to understand them.

However as time passed, she began to fall in love with the children and her job, and was always looking forward to teaching them as she felt that she could make a difference in their lives.

Norshahila said although she was strict during lessons, she will sometimes pamper and love the children like her own as the students feel more secured and listened attentively when people provided them with more attention.

“When I first joined here, there was one student was refused to listen and one day, when I became angry and raised my voice, the student was shocked and started to listen to me. So I guess that did the trick…you have to act depending on the situation, and study your students closely as it will help to understand their mood and behaviour better.

“Each student has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Some may be excellent in memorising but find it tough to read or spell so we as teachers must be prepared for all situations….we have to be patient, be a good listener and give them space to express themselves,” she said when met at the Nasom centre here yesterday.

Norshahila said there were some autistic students who were unable to speak when they first arrived at the centre but eventually begin to speak and could now form sentences.

“One student arrived to centre when he was four and could not speak a single word…we was only babbling. But at the age of nine he started to talk and even sing songs, and now he can arrange sentences and write on paper. His parents were very excited and happy for him.

“In school, there are students with various characters…one loves to laugh all day long for reasons only known to them, one gets angry when the classroom lights are switched off and one will suddenly break down in tears when his parents decide to take a different road to school. As teachers we must be able to ensure the student does not get carried away with his feelings but try to focus on the lessons and activities in the classroom,” she said.

She said there were different methods handle the children especially the young ones and those in their teenage years.

Norshahila said as teachers they had to be always creative to attract the students attention and the first approach during lessons is important to leave a lasting impression on the students.

She said some of the students aged between 10 and 19-years-old were now involved in baking classes and multi-coloured tie-dye artwork which was something the students looked forward to.

“At times when they refuse to listen, we will promise them a small reward which will make them a little eager. For example, when a student does not want to mix the dough for cookies, we will tell the student that he or her will be allowed to use the computer if they successfully complete the task.

“Usually when they hear the word baking, everyone will know their responsibilities in the kitchen and start doing the necessary including wearing their apron,

arranging the plastic jars and trays, and cleaning the table. Once they enjoy doing a certain task,it is easy for them to learn and understand,” she said.

eanwhile, Nurul Ain Mohd Ilias, 29, who joined to teach at the centre here some three months ago, said earlier she sometimes felt a little down when a student threw a tantrum or refused to listen.

“You have to understand their character to ensure they pay attention during lessons….each student has a different character and sees things from a different perspective.

“When we want the student to study but he or she does not understand, then we should give them some space or something else to work on for example painting. Some children are rough and pinch the teachers but that is part and parcel of the job,” she said.

Nurul Ain, who is a Master of Education (Visual Arts) holder, described teaching the children here as fun as they were adventurous and prepared for new challenges.

“I previously taught in Kuala Lumpur which was attended by both normal and autistic students. The challenges here are different but I am enjoying it and the best moments are when you see the children under your care making progress either in education or living skills.

“You cannot be too strict with them. Put yourself in their shoes to understand them better….some might make slow progress but its our role to bring out the best in them. I always believe that teaching the child will help create happiness for the children’s family (when the child shows progress),” she said.

By TN Alagesh.

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Many places are still not disabled-friendly

Friday, May 10th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: While the city has made improvements to cater to the needs of people with disability, there is still room for upgrading, said Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s (QEH) Rehabilitation Medicine Department Head Dr Syahiskandar Sybil Shah.

During the recent spinal cord injury (SCI) support group event, he said, the participants had brought up issues of lack of disabled people and wheelchair-friendly recreational places, including at shopping malls and mosques.

“Other issues regarding accessibilities are designated disabled people park lots which are not wide enough especially if the driver and passengers are all wheelchair bound,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

“And some places despite having rams for wheelchair users are simply too steep making it impossible to access.”

However, the participants also expressed their gratitude that lately there are more park lots in the city that are disabled people-friendly.

This shows that the local authorities are listening to their plights and that improvements have been made, he said.

Mayor Datuk Nordin Siman who also attended the event, assured them that the community and city truly supports them but that it will take time for the city to be fully accessible to the disabled community.

On the event, Syahiskandar said the event was co-organised by QEH Rehabilitation Medicine Department together with Jesselton Medical Centre (JMC) and Sabah Rehabilitation Medicine Club (KPRS).

The event was part of the community rehabilitation programme, which is to get the patients to meet other SCI patients as well as to motivate and be motivated by their peers with similar situation.

Some 13 patients with their families participated in the event of which three were incomplete tetraplegia and the rest a mixture of complete and incomplete paraplegia patients.

“Of the number, three are still receiving active spine rehabilitation in QEH’s rehabilitation ward.

“The programme also aims to raise awareness among the participants as well as the public of the many issues faced by SCI patients,” he said.

Syahiskandar said that very little is published on the demographics or epidemiological patterns of SCI in Malaysia.

However, a recent estimate showed that annual incidence of SCI is approximately 54 cases per one million people in the United States or about 17,700 new SCI cases each year.

“The leading cause of SCI would be motor vehicle accident, fall from height and industrial accidents.

“Other non-traumatic causes would be tumour, infection, autoimmune and others.

“SCI is damaged to the spinal cord that cause temporary or permanent changes in its function.

“Complications of SCI are loss of muscle function causing limbs weakness, inability to control bowel and bladder function, neuropathic pain, sensory loss, pressure ulcers, sexual dysfunction, autonomic dysreflexia and others.

“Patient also suffer from emotional toil due to SCI increasing the risk of depression, suicide and body image problem.”

To this end, he said, it is important for patients with SCI to receive social and emotional support so that they would learn to accept their disabilities and thus rise above them to attain independence and a fulfilling life.

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Love and support those with mental illness

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019
We need to break the stigma of mental illness. — SITI FARAH
By SITI FARAH - May 8, 2019 @ 12:15am

HAVING mental illness does not indicate mental weakness. Mental illness is a disorder, often a flaw of biology. When will we break this stigma? There is much awareness on this issue, but some people are still narrow-minded.

“She’s not sick at all. Just an attention seeker. That’s what she is.” I was labelled an attention seeker when I expressed myself.

In reality, many who claim to care about other people will criticise you when you have a mental disorder. We get it that you do not understand what it is like to go through multiple breakdowns, suicidal feelings and attempts, and have a high sense of self-loathing, but never criticise an individual who is trying to remain strong for so long.

This also applies to those who are physically ill. You would not criticise a physically ill person just because he or she expressed their pain.

School was hard. Socialising was even harder. I was pretty much alone and I was bullied because I didn’t speak up.

These are but a few events that contributed to my sense of self-loathing. I kept it to myself when I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). It hit me hard knowing I was ill. Back then, mental disorder wasn’t something to discuss about.

Surprisingly, the most cheerful ones are those with such disorders like the late actor Robin Williams.

Parents and friends should be aware because we will never know our closest ones are suffering in silence. They may not open up to us but it is our responsibility to acknowledge them or at least offer a hand. We appreciate the effort.

We need to break the stigma of mental illness.

You should acknowledge your friends with mental illness and reassure them that you are there to help them with whatever they are going through.

Equip yourself to handle special needs students, Teo tells teachers.

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019
Teo (left) says the early intervention module is aimed at parents, childcare providers and kindergartens.

Teo (left) says the early intervention module is aimed at parents, childcare providers and kindergartens.

All government school teachers should acquire knowledge on dealing with special needs children, said Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching.

She said this would help sustain the ministry’s “Zero Reject Policy”, which was implemented at the beginning of the year. The policy ensures that all children in the country, including those with special needs and undocumented children, will have access to education.

“The ministry anticipates that more special needs children will enrol in government schools after the launch of the “Zero Reject Policy”.

“To ensure the policy’s success, we must make sure teachers – especially teachers in mainstream classes – have the knowledge to handle special needs children,” she told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, after launching GENIUS@Kurnia’s Karnival Semarak Autisme (KSA) last Saturday.

KSA was held to boost awareness of autism, as well as to cultivate empathy, love, and care among the public towards autistic individuals and their families who put in tremendous effort to care for these special children.

In conjunction with KSA and Autism Awareness Month, GENIUS@Kurnia also launched the iKurnia Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and an early intervention module – both designed by special education experts from the ministry.

Teo said the purpose of iKurnia MOOC was to prepare and assist teachers in getting the necessary knowledge about special needs children from a reliable platform.

“It is an online platform that provides useful information and exercises related to autism for educators to refer to.

“The early intervention module is aimed at parents, childcare providers, and kindergartens. It can help them identify differences or pick up on anything unusual among children under their care. This module is not meant for primary school teachers,” said Teo, who donned a white bunny ears headband to show her support for KSA.

By Lee Chonghui
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Dr Maszlee: Over 10,000 special needs children enrolled in schools under Zero Reject policy.

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

PUTRAJAYA: A total of 10,948 special needs students have enrolled in schools since the Education Ministry launched the “Zero Reject Policy” in January.

The “Zero Reject Policy” ensures that all children in the country, including those with special needs and undocumented children, will have access to education.

Besides boosting enrolments of special needs students, Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik (pic) said the ministry also enabled 2,635 undocumented children (to date) to gain access to education in mainstream schools.

“We also managed to get 262 secondary school dropouts to enroll back into school through our Program Perintis Sifar Murid Cicir (PSMC).

“This shows our commitment to children. They have a right to education, whoever they are and wherever they come from,” he said, adding that no child will be left behind under Pakatan Harapan’s governance.

Dr Maszlee also said that the ministry is also in the midst of fixing dilapidated schools.

“There were 394 projects in 2018, where 301 were issued Certificates of Practical Completion (CPC) and 93 more are in various stages of completion. Another 107 are in progress (of getting fixed) and would likely be completed at the end of this year,” he said.

He added that schools in opposition-led states such as Sarawak would not be sidelined.

Dr Maszlee was speaking during the ministry’s monthly gathering here on Tuesday (May 7) where he elaborated on the ministry’s nine core successes achieved over the past year.

He credited all the achievements made so far to civil servants working with the ministry.

“I love you 3,000! Thank you for not giving up and for continuously doing your best for the country,” he said.

Other than the three core successes mentioned, the remaining six include helping B40 students, teachers’ welfare, boosting credibility of higher-learning institutions, cultivating higher cooperation in higher-learning institutions, focusing on technical and vocational skills (TVET) education, and improving literacy of language, culture, and literature.

Dr Maszlee said he was especially focused on teachers’ welfare.

Describing teachers as the “main agents of change” of the country, he said the ministry has come up with five initiatives and nine interventions to lighten teachers’ workload, since the beginning of 2019.

He hoped that with the initiatives in place, teachers would be able to return to their core job, which is to teach and not be bogged down by unnecessary work.

“In addition to these five initiatives, the ministry has also identified several long-term initiatives involving more complex issues that require a review of existing policies and regulations, improvements in infrastructure and optimising job and human resources at schools,” he said.

By Lee Chonghui
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More teachers to be trained for special-needs children.

Thursday, April 4th, 2019
Teo Nie Ching greeting special needs children at SJKC Bintawa in Kuching.. - ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE / THE STAR

Teo Nie Ching greeting special needs children at SJKC Bintawa in Kuching.. – ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE / THE STAR

KUCHING: Only 14% of special-needs children are estimated to be registered in special education programmes in government schools, says Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching.

Calling the percentage low, she said the ministry was taking steps to train more teachers in special education and to raise awareness among parents in order to increase the number of special-needs children in school.

“It’s very important for us to encourage more parents to send their children to school so that we can ensure that they also have the chance to receive education.

“I think publicity and awareness are very important.

Teo said the ministry was working with Permata to design online courses for mainstream teachers to equip them to handle special-needs children in their classrooms.

“We will train more teachers in special education. We want to take in more special-needs children, so we need to make sure our facilities and teachers are available and capable to take care of this group,” she said, adding that the online courses would be launched soon.

In addition, she said the ministry would continue to promote its zero-reject policy for special-needs children as it wanted as many of them as possible to go to school.

As at Jan 31, 83,039 special-needs children are registered in government schools nationwide.

In Sarawak, there are 5,804 registered special-needs children as at Jan 31, up from 5,766 last year. Of this total, 147 are registered in Sekolah Pendidikan Khas, while 4,432 are in the PPKI programme and 590 in the inclusive education programme (PPI), in which special needs children attend mainstream classrooms.

Teo said the ministry wanted to see progress and improvement among special-needs students as they attend PPKI and PPI classes.

“When they progress further (in the PPKI programme), we will put them in the inclusive programme.

“We believe that by putting them in the mainstream classroom, it’s not only advantageous to the special-needs children because it can build up their confidence, but at the same time it’s good for the normal kids to appreciate and learn to assist those with different abilities.

By Sharon Ling
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Plans for special needs students

Sunday, January 6th, 2019
Teachers are exposed to early childhood education and are taught how to conduct intervention for children with disabilities, while in IPG. — File photo

Teachers are exposed to early childhood education and are taught how to conduct intervention for children with disabilities, while in IPG. — File photo

SCHOOLS must accept all special needs students and prepare an individual education plan for every child under the Education Ministry’s “zero reject” policy, which has been made compulsory starting this year.

The ‘zero reject’ policy is to ensure that all special needs students have access to education, the ministry said in a circular issued on Dec 26, 2018, while Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik previously said that it is also an effort to prevent dropouts among students with disabilities.

While the ministry is working towards a more inclusive environment for special needs students, what are the types of training given to its teachers to identify cases of developmental delay, at a preliminary stage, and refer them to medical practitioners?

Education Ministry Special Education Division deputy director Datuk Dr Yasmin Hussain explained that teachers are trained on how to screen and identify in terms of the child’s learning abilities, behaviour and emotion, among others.

Types of developmental delay include cognitive delays, motor delays, speech delays and social, emotional and behavioural delays.

“In institutes of teacher education (IPG), they are exposed to early childhood education in the curriculum; they are also taught how to conduct intervention for children with disabilities.

Schools provide special services to specially abled students, such as materials with enlarged prints and more time during exams to answer. — File photo

“It’s a three credit subject, 45 hours per semester,” she shared.

Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin suggested, during a parliament session last year, to train preschool teachers to screen special needs children and refer them to experts for subsequent diagnosis and intervention.

In response, Dr Maszlee said the ministry has been training teachers, including preschool teachers, through a programme called Continuous Professionalism Enhancement Programme for Teachers.

Explaining further on a Facebook post, Dr Maszlee said he has instructed the ministry’s special education division to hold open courses for preschool teachers outside the ministry’s administration.

“We have also worked with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, and the Health Ministry to set up a Baby and Child Development Checklist to conduct screening for children,” he added.

There are multiple tools the ministry has, Dr Yasmin shared, which teachers use to screen pupils and students.

To keep up with new developments, the ministry reviews these tools regularly.

“Teachers are trained how to screen and identify in terms of the child’s learning abilities, behaviour and emotion.” – Datuk Dr Yasmin Hussain

“The Instrumen Senarai Semak Perkembangan Kanak-Kanak, for example, is an instrument used by preschool teachers to screen children aged up to six years-old, to check on the child’s development.

“They will then refer the results to medical practitioners or doctors (if they have detected a sign of developmental delay).

“Other instruments that we have are ‘Instrumen Pengesanan Murid Masalah Dalam Pembelajaran’ and ‘Instrumen Senarai Semak Disleksia’; the latter screens children with dyslexia.”

The ministry also has a centre called Pusat Perkhidmatan Pendidikan Khas (special education service centres).

There are 13 throughout the country with 28 medical practitioners, five of which are psychologists, said Dr Yasmin.

“Either parents refer their children to the practitioners in our centres, or they will go to schools to identify pupils and students (with possible forms of developmental delay).

“They are also often invited by schools to give talks and training,” she added.

In 2017, the ministry trained 210 teachers, she said, while last year, 52 were trained.

The training sessions are conducted around four times a year, between two to three days.

“Teachers have said that it isn’t enough.

“We try to have as many as we can in a year but we can’t take them away from school for too many days; other teachers will have to replace their classes and (this is tough), especially for special education teachers,” she said, adding that only about 30 teachers can be trained in each session.

However, plans to train more teachers this year are on the cards, she said, involving about 200 preschool teachers.

Dr Yasmin said the ministry has discussed with the Health Ministry, as well as the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and Permata Kurnia, an NGO which provides education for autistic children, on how to best utilise the tools they currently have.

Increasing awareness among parents

While tools and training for teachers to identify, screen and teach students with learning disabilities and developmental delay are provided, parents play an equally important role in accepting their child’s condition.

To push for this, Dr Yasmin’s division conducted a town hall last year where teachers and communities were present.

This year, she said plans to conduct a convention on special education with NGOs are in the pipeline.

Commenting on scenarios where parents deny their children’s condition, Dr Yasmin said some request special services for their child in schools but will not register to receive the Disabled People’s (OKU) card for the child.

“Some do not want their kids to be classified as OKU, although, off late, more parents have been accepting reality.

Often, parents of specially abled children want their kids to be in mainstream classes in schools.

It is up to the teachers themselves to further improve on the basics they have been taught so as to cater to the Zero Reject Policy.” – Harry Tan

When this happens, Dr Yasmin said schools will not be able to provide special services that special needs students normally receive.

“In terms of providing material with enlarged prints and giving them more time during exams to answer.

“Problems also arise for mainstream classroom teachers – unless this special needs student has been in our integrated programmes where we teach them how to manage their behaviour and learning methods, and they then show us that they are able to (integrate) with their mainstream classroom peers, then it would be easier for teachers to manage,” she shared.

Last year, Dr Yasmin said the ministry trained around 220 teachers in the integrated programmes.

Previously, training were more general so this year, Dr Yasmin said they plan to have it in more focused and specific areas such as autism, Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy.

Often, she said, parents have voiced their concerns over wanting teaching and learning to be more specific.

“We have spoken to different NGOs including Dyslexia Association of Malaysia and Malaysia Federation of the Deaf to be part of the training because they (are the experts).”

Going the distance

Although the curriculum in IPGs are credible and comprehensive, Dr Yasmin said teachers “must learn more on their own initiative after graduating”.

“They must not think what they have learnt in college is enough, as there are new developments within the area every year.”

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan agreed, saying as professionals, teachers must consistently undergo continuous professional development.

“This is paramount for us to teach using the latest methods and understand the developing needs of our students.

“Teachers must be able to detect cases using a multi sensory screening material. ” – Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj

“As there are various kinds of special needs, it is up to the teachers themselves to further improve on the basics they have been taught so as to cater to the Zero Reject Policy,” he said.

Tan said teachers also need to have counselling skills, in assisting parents of special needs children.

Special education teacher Dr Muhamad Khairul Anuar Hus­sin said relying on the basics one learnt in college isn’t enough as under learning disabilities alone, there are more than six categories.

The SMK Taman Uni­ver­siti 2, Johor Baru teacher often attends international conferences, reads up on latest research in the area and learns from his specialist friends.

Malaysia Mental Health Asso­ciation president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj said teachers must be able to detect cases using multi sensory screening material.

“Don’t just focus on behaviour or academic performance.

“In our current culture of being focused on the completion of the curriculum, it leaves little room for personalised and meaningful student-teacher relationships and therefore makes detection and subsequent referral of cases rather challenging and often overlooked.

“Teachers being given adequate training will help in early detection and result in better outcomes for any intervention,” he explained.

While several training modules are used internationally for preschool teachers to detect developmental delay and psychological issues in children, Dr Andrew said the Montessori Multi Sensory Screening System has been a more successful model.

“It’s a teaching system that focuses on all the sensory modalities but in the process, picks up developmental delays and other underlying psychological and psychiatric issues.

“It cannot however be used as a diagnostic tool and only as a screening tool to pick up doubtful cases for referral,” he shared.

By Sandhya Menon
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For the love of children

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

HIS love for children is clearly evident as tears well up in Dr Maszlee Malik’s eyes when he talks about creating a better education environment for Malaysia’s children, especially those with special needs.

The current Education Minister shares that this desire to help special needs children stemmed from the days he was on a sojourn in the United Kingdom.

He reveals it started in December 2010, when one of his daughters pointed out how a TV show presenter “is going to heaven” because he was helping and entertaining children with disabilities prepare for Christmas.

He adds that his daughter said the presenter “was doing things nobody else was doing. He’s helping children with disabilities and we’re not doing it.”

“I felt very touched. So, I’m trying my best as Education Minister to do something for those children,” he says, as he dabs his eyes with a handkerchief.

“I will try to do something.”

Dr Maszlee also revealed that there is an RM146mil allocation in Budget 2019 for special needs education.

An amount, he adds, that is better than the previous years.

Dr Maszlee (third from left) chats with pupils after presenting them with new school uniforms, shoes and bags for the new school year. McDonald’s Malaysia managing director and local operating partner Azmir Jaafar (left, back row) looks on.

Dr Maszlee (third from left) chats with pupils after presenting them with new school uniforms, shoes and bags for the new school year. McDonald’s Malaysia managing director and local operating partner Azmir Jaafar (left, back row) looks on.

He says the allocation will be used to improve the facilities, the teaching and learning process, and to improve the quality of teaching for special needs students in schools.

Dr Maszlee says that it broke his heart when he visited schools and found out that some students did not have breakfast at home, and have to wait until recess time to eat their first meal of the day.

“I must make sure that all children have something in their stomachs when they go to school.”

He adds that this is why he has suggested a programme to provide a nutritious breakfast to children from the B40 group.

B40 refers to the bottom 40% of households with a monthly income of RM3,900 and below.

This, he adds, is better than the ongoing supplementary food programme that was introduced by the ministry in 1979.

The new programme will provide breakfast to the students at the beginning of the school day, and not halfway through.

“I will try to negotiate with the Finance Minister for a supplementary budget,” he explains.

Although he does not get to spend much time with his family, Dr Maszlee says breakfast with them is a must.

“I miss sending my children to school as I used to do so previously,” says the father of three daughters and a son aged between nine and 19.

“I do get free time but it’s not as much as what I enjoyed previously. But it’s worth it when you’re giving much of your
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E-learning for the visually impaired

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018
(Left) Reverend Datuk Dr Charles Samuel with Dr Koh (second right) and Dr Zoraini (right) watching S. Gomathi on the e-learning system.

(Left) Reverend Datuk Dr Charles Samuel with Dr Koh (second right) and Dr Zoraini (right) watching S. Gomathi on the e-learning system.

TO make education more accessible and equitable for the blind and visually-impaired (BVI) students, Wawasan Open University (WOU) and St Nicholas Home for the Blind have signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) to make web accessible e-learning educational resources available to BVIs.

WOU acting vice-chancellor Prof Dr Zoraini Wati Abas said that WOU was committed to provide knowledge transfer services to St Nicholas Home through technical support on server-related issues and consultations on Learning Management System (LMS) related issues.

She said this would enable teachers of the home to share their learning resources with the visually-impaired students to enhance their knowledge and skills in attaining higheracademic qualifications throughout Malaysia.

“With the LMS, learners can have discussion with their peers, tutors and course coordinators.

St Nicholas Home’s executive director Daniel Soon said there were several challenges faced when setting up the system two years ago.

He said that the home had a hard time getting materials such as large print or Braille as they were not available or accessibleto the blind and visually-impaired people.

“We also faced difficulty in translating the resources from text to Braille as the process of scanning the books was tedious and efforts to translate required help from trained members,” he said. He also pointed that the constant change of materials by the Education Ministry had made it hard for them to source for informations.

By Liew Jia Xian
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