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.