New Straits Times - - News -

T is widely ac­cepted that chil­dren are born dif­fer­ent with in­her­ent traits, per­son­al­i­ties, cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties and ap­ti­tude.

How­ever, at times, it has be­come a norm to fit them into one par­tic­u­lar mould in the hope that they will exit the sys­tem with sim­i­lar skills, ca­pa­bil­i­ties and achieve­ment like any other chil­dren.

The adage that one size fits all is ev­i­dent in sit­u­a­tions where a poor or mod­er­ate per­form­ing child in school is sub­jected to per­sonal and more per­sonal tu­tor­ing to ad­dress weak­nesses.

Some even sub­ject their high-achiev­ing chil­dren to hours of tu­ition just to en­sure they are ahead of the pack, and per­haps, “Keep­ing up with the Jone­ses” as it is a com­mon trend for com­pet­i­tive fam­i­lies.

Many chil­dren have prac­ti­cally lost their child­hood as they have been in­un­dated with back-to-back tu­ition classes on week­days, which con­tinue over the week­end with other skills de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties.

It is com­mon to see chil­dren to­day be­com­ing less ex­pres­sive so­cially, even with their fam­ily mem­bers.

This is made worse when a spe­cial needs child is put through the grind with­out ad­dress­ing his real needs, both so­cially and aca­dem­i­cally, ac­cord­ing to his ed­u­ca­tional needs.

From ei­ther chang­ing life­style or early de­tec­tion, many more cases of Dyslexia, Autism, learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, At­ten­tion Deficit Hyper­ac­tiv­ity Dis­or­der (ADHD), and Dys­graphia have sur­faced among chil­dren.

Due to their spe­cial needs, th­ese af­flicted chil­dren adapt, learn and grasp con­cepts dif­fer­ently from nor­mal chil­dren, and thus, only a spe­cial needs trained teacher or ther­a­pist can cope and sim­plify lessons that is ac­cept­able to th­ese chil­dren.

We are for­tu­nate that in the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Blue­print 2013-2025, it stip­u­lates for equal ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren, which cov­ers spe­cial needs ed­u­ca­tion.

Much has been done but due to the in­crease in de­mand, more ef­fort is needed and the in­volve­ment of the pri­vate sec­tor and non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions (NGOs) is re­quired.

Two years ago, Seko­lah Sri Bes­tari em­barked on an ini­tia­tive to set-up the Ed­u­ca­tion and Learn­ing Sup­port Acad­emy (Elsa) in pro­vid­ing spe­cial needs sup­port to stu­dents in the main­stream sys­tem through the in­clu­sive ap­proach.

Their progress has been noth­ing but re­mark­able through the months, no­ticed not only by their main­stream teach­ers but also by their par­ents and fam­ily.

As the Elsa pro­gramme be­gan to take off, much more has been done to ex­pand the fa­cil­i­ties and teach­ing sup­port in tan­dem with the grow­ing re­quest and de­mand from the par­ents, who wish for their spe­cial needs chil­dren to be placed in a for­mal school set­ting to ex­pe­ri­ence school life as their peers.

The sim­ple act of be­ing to­gether at the play­ground with their peers, hav­ing their meals in the can­teen dur­ing re­cess and join­ing ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties and weekly as­sem­blies as well as be­ing ac­cepted as one is mean­ing­ful to many par­ents. Seko­lah Sri Bes­tari has re­sponded to their wishes in a noble way.

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