Bridg­ing The De­vel­op­men­tal Di­vide

How stu­dents with spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional needs are get­ting the help they need in school

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Re­lo­cat­ing to a new coun­try can be in­tim­i­dat­ing, and one of the most im­por­tant de­ci­sions for fam­i­lies with school-go­ing chil­dren is choos­ing a suit­able school. The op­tions for in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tion here are good with most ma­jor cur­ric­ula cov­ered. A multi-cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment is an ad­van­tage but can be harder for some chil­dren to adapt to. Main­stream stu­dents have these and more chal­lenges to deal with; and the bar only gets higher and more de­mand­ing for those with spe­cial needs. Schools and learn­ing cen­tres can help level these dis­par­i­ties through un­der­stated ef­forts deal­ing with the needs of stu­dents with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and mild dis­abil­i­ties. The most im­por­tant thing is to bridge the de­vel­op­men­tal di­vide and make the child feel safe, com­fort­able and happy.

Pre-school As­sis­tance

The Bea­con­house Ed­u­ca­tion Group’s Bea­con­house New­lands Early Years (BNEY) is an in­ter­na­tional pre-school that ac­cepts stu­dents with mild learn­ing needs, many of whom suc­cess­fully com­plete the pro­gramme. En­rol­ment el­i­gi­bil­ity is de­ter­mined at a meet­ing with the Head of School, an in­for­mal assess­ment and a trial class pe­riod where par­ents may be re­quired to pro­vide a teach­ing aide to help.

Kit4kids Malaysia is a kin­der­garten and spe­cial needs school of­fer­ing a cur­ricu­lum de­vel­oped for stu­dents with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and spe­cial needs. Their Early In­ter­ven­tion Pro­gramme for In­fants and Chil­dren com­prises a syl­labus for tod­dlers and kids aged three to seven. Kid4kids Malaysia has cen­tres in Kuala Lumpur, Se­lan­gor, Perak and Ke­lan­tan.

Wheel­chair Ac­cess

The In­ter­na­tional School of Kuala Lumpur’s (ISKL) campus is fur­nished with ramps and el­e­va­tors for wheelchair­bound stu­dents. The school’s new Am­pang Hilir campus, set to open in 2018, will have ameni­ties to ac­com­mo­date more stu­dents with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties.

Gar­den In­ter­na­tional School has ramps to the cafe­te­ria, play­ground and pri­mary of­fice ar­eas; and also of­fers small re­mov­able ramps for easy ac­cess to class­rooms. Be­sides a wheel­chair-friendly bath­room, an el­e­va­tor is lo­cated in the pri­mary school area.

Mild to Mod­er­ate Learn­ing Dis­abil­i­ties

In­ter­na­tional schools like The Alice Smith School and ISKL have staff trained to as­sist stu­dents with mild to mod­er­ate learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, but at the end of the day, each case varies ac­cord­ing to the in­di­vid­ual.

Sep­a­rate learn­ing sup­port for stu­dents with dys­lexia, dyscal­cu­lia and at­ten­tion deficit-hy­per­ac­tiv­ity disor­der (ADHD) is pro­vided at ev­ery grade level at ISKL, ac­cord­ing to Shel­ley Hawkes, a Life-cen­tred Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gramme teacher there. In line with its Next Fron­tier In­clu­sion School sta­tus, ISKL’S Life-cen­tred Ed­u­ca­tion Mid­dle School Pro­gramme de­liv­ers in­di­vid­u­alised aca­demic coach­ing and so­cial skills train­ing to stu­dents with di­ag­nosed in­tel­lec­tual or de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties. Next year, this pro­gramme will cover el­e­men­tary and high school lev­els thanks to the pur­pose-built fa­cil­i­ties at the new ISKL campus.

Moira Hall is Gar­den In­ter­na­tional School’s Di­rec­tor of In­clu­sion. She says the school’s In­clu­sion Team – the same team that pro­vides health­care as­sis­tance and coun­selling- works with spe­cial needs stu­dents, English lan­guage learn­ers and ex­cep­tion­ally gifted stu­dents. With the feed­back gleaned from teach­ers and tu­tors, the team de­vel­ops an in­di­vid­ual ed­u­ca­tion plan for each stu­dent and re­views it regularly to check the stu­dent’s progress.

Sim­i­larly, The Alice Smith School’s Learn­ing Sup­port depart­ment works with stu­dents, teach­ers and par­ents, form­ing in­di­vid­ual ed­u­ca­tion plans and giv­ing one-toone aid where needed. A full-time early in­ter­ven­tion teach­ing as­sis­tant sits in on classes to iden­tify which Foun­da­tion Stage 2 lear ners (aged four to five years) need help to catch up; and there’s also a speech and lan­guage pathol­o­gist that con­sis­tently mon­i­tors the same age group.

Tourette Syn­drome

For stu­dents who may ex­hibit dis­rup­tive be­hav­iour, e.g. Tourette Syn­drome, there are per­sonal learn­ing as­sis­tants on hand to help at Gar­den In­ter na­tional School. These learn­ing as­sis­tants mon­i­tor the child’s be­hav­iour in class, giv­ing them sen­sory breaks so they can set­tle down and ease their way into the pace of class­room learn­ing. Sim­ple changes like al­ter­na­tive seat­ing or stand­ing ta­bles have also made a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence for some stu­dents.

With the feed­back gleaned from teach­ers and tu­tors, the team de­vel­ops an in­di­vid­ual ed­u­ca­tion plan for each stu­dent”

Mild to Mod­er­ate Autism & Down’s Syn­drome

ISKL’S Life-cen­tred Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gramme has been es­pe­cially help­ful for one Mid­dle School Down’s Syn­drome stu­dent who’s been at ISKL since the el­e­men­tary years. In ad­di­tion to re­ceiv­ing per­son­alised aca­demic sup­port and help with so­cial skills, stu­dents in this pro­gramme have a chance to utilise their math skills and in­ter­act with oth­ers by vol­un­teer­ing in the school store. The di­ver­sity of ISKL’S Life-cen­tred Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gramme has grown in re­cent years to in­clude stu­dents who rank mod­er­ately on the autism spec­trum.

In­ter­ac­tion with Main­stream Stu­dents

How well are spe­cial needs stu­dents in­te­grated within the school sys­tem? There’s no such thing as the ideal so­lu­tion as ev­ery child has dif­fer­ent needs. Bea­con­house New­lands Early Years’ Head of School Kelly Robb says it starts with teach­ing kids sim­ple so­cial skills like how to be a friend, or even know­ing when to be alone and not en­gag­ing with oth­ers ini­tially.

Other mea­sures, like Gar­den In­ter­na­tional School’s Pos­i­tive Ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum or ISKL’S Aware­ness and Ser­vice Club aim to ed­u­cate main­stream stu­dents on the com­plex­i­ties of phys­i­cal or learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, hope­fully giv­ing them an idea of how bet­ter to re­spond to peers and fam­ily mem­bers with these dis­abil­i­ties. EL

It starts with teach­ing kids sim­ple so­cial skills like how to be a friend, or even know­ing when to be alone and not en­gage with oth­ers ini­tially”

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