Archive for the ‘Persons with special needs’ Category

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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Nurturing true grit in children

Sunday, October 21st, 2018
Kumon instructor Nor Aishah said children who face challenges daily will discover solutions themselves and end up feeling better for their achievement.

Kumon instructor Nor Aishah said children who face challenges daily will discover solutions themselves and end up feeling better for their achievement.

WHEN it comes to assessing a child’s success in school, many recent experiments and tests conducted by child psychologists suggested that rather than brain power, the solution lies in the child’s character.

These results reveal that non-cognitive skills like persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, self-confidence and grit are the reason for the child’s success at school and in life later on.

Grit itself refers to the passion and perseverance for long-term goals despite setbacks.

Kumon instructor Nor Aishah Osman said that when it comes to grit, a student cannot become an advanced learner without strengthening his learning skills.

At Kumon, experience is crucial to moulding a child’s character and it usually starts off simple enough by solving easy solutions, before progressing to problems at the student’s right level, which implies the process being individualised.

Once the student surpasses his own level, there is no stopping, as he can continue to challenge himself in higher levels than his own in school.

Kumon worksheets are planned in such a way that they are a step-by-step guide, with new twists and elements added so students are exposed to different components of the solutions to a complicated problem.

Nor Aishah said that this form of self-learning requires patience. “Some children get frustrated when trying to solve the problems,” she added.

But when they persist and face these challenges daily, they will eventually discover the solution themselves and end up feeling better for their achievement. “This gives them motivation, self-confidence,” explained Nor Aishah.

Working with parents, Kumon instructors help shape the attitudes and confidence early so that student are self-reliant by the time they enter college.

R&D development manager Rupeshsingh is happy with his daughter Dhaani’s progress at Kumon.

When Rupeshsingh K. Bess enrolled his five-year-old daughter Dhaani in Kumon, his expectations were that she should inculcate good learning habits and develop better concentration — both traits that after just 18 months have become intrinsic to her.

Daani has already developed endurance, and she relishes spending 15-30 minutes each day dedicated to working on her mathematics and English worksheets.

“She is committed and she looks forward to working on even more homework,” said Rupeshsingh, research and development manager.

“She has developed the tenacity to want to achieve more,” he concluded.

Final level Kumon student Aleem (left) with his father Amirullah Harun, is a straight-A student at school.

For straight-A student 15-year-old Aleem, being at Kumon made a big difference when he progressed towards secondary school. His father, quantity surveyor Amirullah Harun, enrolled him at the age of five-plus.

“By then, there was already a big gap between me and my classmates, for when I was in Form 1, I was already working on trigonometry while my classmates were still figuring out algebra.

“My mindset about fear has already been changed thanks to Kumon,” Aleem added.

Kumon’s main objective is for primary school children to be able to tackle secondary school materials by strengthening their foundation before proceeding to higher level work.

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Protect rights of the differently – abled

Sunday, October 7th, 2018
Visually-impaired students sitting their Form Three Assessment. A standard operating procedure will help us to deal with persons with disability effectively. FILE PIC

ISLAM enjoins Muslims to always respect others, regardless of their abilities, skin colour, etc.

We are urged not to hurt their emotions and feelings as this would lead to disharmony.

Allah says in the Quran, Verse 2 of Surah al-Maidah: “… help one another in righteousness and piety, but help not one another in sin and rancour”.

Islam, as a way of life, is prolific in its teachings and legacy, as well as heritage, when it comes to the treatment and management of people.

People with disabilities are individuals who have a broad range of impairments along with specific issues and needs that
correspond to the type of disabilities they have.

They are a part of society and deserve all the facilities, rights and respect the others receive.

Disabilities come in different forms.

Some individuals may have physical impairments and limitations that restrict their ability and strength.

Others may have disabilities that are not obvious to us. As such, we cannot use the same yardstick to deal with them.

People with disabilities may look normal outwardly, but the fact is that they are special and require special treatment with a specific approach.

Why do we need this special approach in the first place? Because there is none that can help us to deal with people who are differently-abled.

Such an approach or standard operating procedure (SOP) would guide us to respond to them with the dignity they deserve as human beings.

Furthermore, such an SOP protects us from inappropriate behaviours towards them.

The SOP also protects people with disabilities as it upholds their sense of dignity, respect and rights as humans.

By Khairul Azhar Idris .

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Gamuda Foundation’s Enabling Academy prepares autistic trainees for employment.

Thursday, October 4th, 2018
Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh lauded Gamuda Foundation’s move to establish Enabling Academy training centre to cater people with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). NSTP/ROHANIS SHUKRI

PETALING JAYA: Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh lauded Gamuda Foundation’s move to establish Enabling Academy training centre to cater people with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Yeoh said the government supported efforts by companies in assisting people with special needs.

“Instead of establishing more training institutions, the government would fully support the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives by the private sector,” she said at the academy launch at Menara Gamuda today.

She said a total of 474, 579 disabled people were registered with the ministry until June.

“Of the total, 862 people have found jobs between Sept 2012 and July this year.

“A total of 489 companies hired the disabled people,” she said.

During the event, graduation ceremony for 11 trainees from the September intake, last year, was also held.

Gamuda Bhd Group director Datuk Lin Yun Ling said the academy was established to train those with ASD and provide job opportunities including the academy’s 14 corporate partners.

Among them are CIMB Bank, DRB Hicom, Lafarge Malaysia and Gamuda GM Klang.

Lin said a total of 30 autistic people received training at the academy since it started operation in May 2017.

“Gamuda itself has hired 20 people with disabilities in administration, engineering and Information Technology (IT).

“We also hope that more government departments would spearhead efforts by setting up more employment transition centres through renewal in policies and strategies.

“This will enable more people with special needs to have better quality of life with permanent jobs,” he said.

By Nor Akmar SamudinZarul Fitri Muhd Zamrie.

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Inclusive education

Monday, August 27th, 2018

A DEAF person either cannot hear, or has never heard spoken languages – be it Bahasa Malaysia (BM) or English – used in education.

But to learn, they have to master at least one first language, which should be used as a medium of instruction and learning.

The mastery of this mother tongue is vital as a tool to learn a second language, which would either be BM or English, said National Education Advisory Council member Prof Dr Ruzita Mohd Amin.

“A deaf person is bilingual or bicultural. Early education of deaf children must emphasise the use of a language that is considered to be their first language. The Malaysian Sign Language (BIM) serves this purpose,” Prof Ruzita, who also heads the International Islamic University Malaysia disability services unit, and was the former member of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, said.

“I’ve had complaints that teachers who do not have skills in sign language are posted at schools for the deaf. It disrupts the delivery of knowledge and the effectiveness of our education system. Teachers in special education must be properly trained,” she said, calling for more special education programmes to be offered at universities.

She also suggested that a local version of the United Kingdom’s Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, be enacted.

Deaf students who make it to the tertiary level should join the same classes as hearing students, and sign language interpreters must be hired so that they are not sidelined.

In 2012, the then Higher Education Ministry (now merged with the Education Ministry) directed all public varsities to establish a disability services unit to facilitate the teaching and learning of students with disabilities.

This directive must be adhered to and extended to all private universities, she stressed.

A deaf child, she said, is a gift from God.

The word ‘deaf’ means inability to hear. From the community’s perspective, there is nothing wrong in the use of the word as it is an accurate description of their condition.

The word only becomes politically incorrect when it is used negatively. For example, when a person does not respond, statements like ‘Are you deaf?’, is used to criticise.

But the deaf are normal human beings granted with the same faculties as everybody else, she said.

It’s the duty of parents, teachers, and society, to mould them into academically and professionally successful individuals.

“Parents must nurture their deaf children with love just like they would any other child, and to do that effectively, parents must learn their language.

“Teach them how to be independent. Give them room to grow. Don’t be over protective as it would prevent the child’s self confidence from developing.

“Children need to be treated with respect and shown that their condition should not be a hindrance to their success in life.”

To give them access to education, the use of sign language must be promoted, and the services of sign language interpreters, provided.

Sign language courses should be offered in schools, colleges, universities, and in the workplace, to promote better communication and integration of the deaf into society.
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See us – it’s the way we speak.

Monday, August 27th, 2018

MALAYSIA can only truly be united when inclusiveness is a way of life.

This means celebrating the many different languages unique to every community – including the deaf.

The deaf, said Malaysian Federation of the Deaf (MFD) executive director Mohamad Sazali Shaari, are proud of their mother tongue and long for it to be recognised as a unique Malaysian language because it’s “the way we speak”.

For over two decades, the deaf community has been fighting for the use of their mother tongue – the Malaysian Sign Language (or known by its Malay acronym, BIM or Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia) – in schools.

Then in 1978, the Manually Coded Bahasa Malaysia (KTBM or Kod Tangan Bahasa Malaysia) was taught in schools, marking the point when the community begin to lose not only its mother tongue, but also its identity and culture.

Teacher Nurul Husna Ibrahim using the latest edition of the Malaysian Sign Language in class.

Teacher Nurul Husna Ibrahim using the latest edition of the Malaysian Sign Language in class.

Sharing an example, he said there are different signs for the word “marry” because the different races have different ways of marking the event.

For the Chinese, it’s a sign representing the tea ceremony but for the Indians, it’s the long hair.

“Colloquial signing, which was formalised into BIM, is dynamic and vibrant because it reflects a way of life. It’s what we speak at home. KTBM ignores the beauty of our way of life.

“The misconception that BIM is a ‘rojak language’ must be corrected. It’s a visual language unique to Malaysia. BIM includes the use of animated facial expressions to get the message across clearly.”

The MFD embarked on the project to compile colloquial signs developed and used by the deaf community some 20 years ago.

The first book with 1,000 words was published in 2000. In 2016, a third edition was printed. There are now over 9,000 words in BIM.

Explaining the painstaking process, Mohamad Sazali who headed the project, said a team was sent to deaf communities nationwide to observe how they communicated.

“Over a three year period, the signs used were documented. We took photographs and did sketches. We then invited the communities to finalise the signs to include in the BIM,” he said, adding that the BIM qualifies as a mother tongue because it’s the language one learns first, identifies with or is identified by others as a native speaker, knows best, and uses most.

Children from Taska Istika Jaya celebrating Merdeka in the hope that BIM will be made mandatory in schools.

Children from Taska Istika Jaya celebrating Merdeka in the hope that BIM will be made mandatory in schools.

And, Unesco’s Salamanca Statement on special needs education states that educational policies should take full account of individual differences and situations, he added.

The importance of sign language as the medium of communication among the deaf, for example, should be recognised and provision made to ensure that all deaf persons have access to education in their national sign language.

“As part of its efforts to champion the BIM, plans are underway to set up an academy. The focus will be on enhancing, and promoting BIM, through collaborations with academia.

“Our biggest challenge is convincing policy makers that although we’re not linguists, we know our language best.”

Last year, the Education Ministry issued a circular announcing that teachers could use either BIM, or BIM alongside KTMB, to teach.

However, for communication purposes, BIM was encouraged.

This, said Mohamad Sazali, was a small win after years of facing a brick wall.

“Every time we raise the issue with the ministry, we are told that there is a KTBM policy in place so most teachers continue to shun BIM. Hopefully the new Education Minister can make BIM mandatory for the good of our children..

Malaysian Sign Language books published by the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf (MFD).

Malaysian Sign Language books published by the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf (MFD).

MFD president Tengku Arman Harris Tengku Ismail said teachers must be skilled in BIM because it is the only way they can teach effectively.

“The KTBM code system we are using now has failed our children. Please give deaf kids a chance to excel by allowing them to learn in the language they are most comfortable in.”

The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) has pledged to champion the right of deaf children to learn in their mother tongue.

The union’s 220,000 members, said its secretary-general Harry Tan, were supportive of BIM because it’s easier and faster to learn.

“Unlike with hearing students, deaf children only need to master two skills – reading and writing. Listening and speaking skills aren’t applicable to them so the KTBM’s emphasis on sentence structure and reading are counterproductive to their learning. We must make sure that the language and curriculum we use for the deaf, are the ones best suited to enhance their potential.”

He said learning the localised signs benefits all of society – not just the deaf.

By Christina Chin
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551 community-based rehab centres set up to assist the disabled: Wan Azizah

Sunday, July 29th, 2018
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (2nd-left) mingles with one of the trainees at the Bangi Industrial and Rehabilitation Training Centre (PLPP) in Bangi. Pic by ASWADI ALIAS

KUALA LUMPUR: Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has assured that the welfare of the disabled people will continue to be protected, through various community-based programmes and services.

She said this was apparent with the setting up of hundreds of community-based rehabilitation centres across the nation.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister said 551 such centres have been established nationwide, aimed at getting persons with disabilities back on their feet.

“The programmes are to meant to give the disabled equal opportunities and for them to integrate into society, through programmes and rehabilitation activities, as well as community-based education,” she said.

She said this when visiting the Bangi Industrial and Rehabilitation Training Centre (PLPP) today.

At the event, Dr Wan Azizah also officiated the National Abilympics Competition 2018, a vocational and occupational skills competition designed specifically for the disabled

The competition was aimed at selecting disabled athletes to represent the country at the 10th International Abilympics in Shanghai, China in 2020.

By Veena Babulal.

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More special education teachers needed

Friday, July 6th, 2018
(File pix) The government wants more future teachers to get into the field of special education as there were currently many vacancies for it throughout the country.

KLANG: The government wants more future teachers to get into the field of special education as there were currently many vacancies for it throughout the country.

Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said special education was among the sectors which must be given attention by all concerned to help the government improve and change national education.

Taking Selangor as an example, Teo said there were currently 56 vacancies for special education teachers and 207 posts for pupil management assistants in primary and secondary schools.

“I am sure the figures (for special education teachers) are higher for the whole country. Which is why the government is calling on future teachers to apply for this field and in the future, we will be taking in more teachers and pupil management assistants to meet this need,” Teo told reporters after attending 2018 National-Level Special Education Sports Championship dinner here last night.

By Bernama.

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Next step – a nation that cares for all.

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

EXACTLY 22 days ago, Malaysia voted for change. Yes, it has been that many days since Pakatan Harapan became the coalition in power – and what a ride it has been so far!

We’re now just over one-fifth of the way into the new government’s first 100 days and we are seeing significant changes as it cleans house and begins setting things right.

Some of the developments were unthinkable just a month ago. Among them are a broad investigation into alleged wrongdoings involving 1Malaysia Development Bhd, liberalisation of the press and the formation of a more racially inclusive Cabinet.

One change I’m really happy about is that more Malaysians are appealing to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail for fundamental amendments to the laws that protect women from abuse and harm.

After all, she is also the Women and Family Development Minister, and that in itself is something to be happy about as it could very well give the ministry the punch it needs to put through the right changes.

Having said that, I can’t help but feel that there is one struggle that might be forgotten in the clamour for her attention and support – the fight for a Malaysia that is fair to those living with disabilities or rare disorders that can and do create disabilities or other life challenges.

This concern drove me to speak to friends within the community of Malaysians with disabilities and rare disorders to hear them out on what changes they want to see in the weeks, months and years to come.

The first to share her thoughts was Rachel Siew, who urged the Women and Family Development Ministry to work with the Education Ministry to get children with disabilities into mainstream classrooms.

“Children with disabilities must be mainstreamed with able-bodied children, and I am speaking from experience here.

“It taught me from an early age to accept that I was different when compared to others and to find ways to adapt, overcome and succeed,” said Siew, who lives with Morquio syndrome, a rare genetic disorder in which the body is unable to break down sugar chains that help build bone, cartilage, cornea, skin and connective tissue.

Siew also urged the ministry to work together with the Health Ministry to help those who are fighting Morquio like her, as well as others who are living with similar disorders.

“In Budget 2018, RM10mil was allocated to patients with rare disorders, especially those who are undergoing Enzyme Replacement Therapy, which is a lifelong treatment. However, the new government froze the funds when they took over on the basis that they wanted to review the Budget allocations of the previous government.

“It was really painful to hear this, and I ask the new government to maintain the allocation or even better, to add to the funding,” she said.

I can definitely get behind her plea and her work to raise funds for her health, as her treatment costs RM1.6mil per year.

I also spoke to Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Albinism Association founder Maizan Mohd Salleh, who also urged the Government to place children with disabilities in classrooms with able-bodied children.

“As far as possible, we must include these students in mainstream classes. This can have far-reaching effects, as it can stimulate compassion and empathy among students and create a culture that considers and includes people with disabilities instead of one that looks down on us with arrogance,” said Maizan.

This is a point I agree with completely, as this can help break many Malaysians’ stereotypes about people with disabilities, especially when it comes to how “useful” the community is and how such people can contribute to nation-building.

The third person I spoke to, Phelan McDermid Syndrome Foundation Southeast Asia Regional Representative Nadiah Hanim, also urged the Government (including the Women and Family Development Ministry) to work with all stakeholders when devising concrete plans that truly help Malaysians with disabilities and rare disorders.

“My key recommendation is that all efforts should include engagement with actual stakeholder groups throughout. Plans should be integrated and we should continue to communicate with each other all the way through.

“Be cohesive, comprehensive and work together. We need an integrated intervention approach that gives cradle-to-grave support,” said Nadiah.

She added that any policy to help should be comprehensive.

“There is a lot of focus on early intervention programmes, which is good. But need to also think about adolescent care, respite for caregivers, bridging, community and institutional care,” said Nadiah.

All in all, it looks like the relevant ministries need to put their heads together and get to work to help Malaysians with disabilities.

“And this is something I really think they should so that the Pakatan Harapan government can be a government that truly cares about all Malaysians. After all, people with disabilities are Malaysians too and are as worthy as you or me of being included in the fabric of our nation.

by Tan Yi Liang
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