FINDING A SEN SCHOOL
Choosing a school that caters to special needs children can be challenging and should be done early. Here’s why....
While some international schools in Malaysia have built in SEN s ort most are not e i ed to ater to more se ere di fi lties. Melinda Roos explains what you can do to ensure your child has access to a SEN learning programme best suited to their needs
The term “special education needs”, or SEN as it is commonly known, refers to hildren ith learning di fi lties or disabilities that make learning more challenging than most children of the same age.
While some international schools in Malaysia have built in SEN support and will admit children with mild learning disabilities like ADHD and dyslexia, most are not equipped to ater to more se ere di fi lties li e autism and Down Syndrome, among others.
s o e to ara renneman the Director of The Learning Center (TLC), a SEN school located in Solaris, Mont Kiara, who holds a Master of Arts Special Education degree
rom the ni ersity o o a .
Sara used to work for Mont Kiara nternational hool in the learning support program when she arrived in Malaysia in 2002 before deciding to set her o n s hool.
realised that the roader spectrum of autistic kids really had limited o tions in the ity. ala Lumpur was and still is a very international city, with many expats oming and going. t seemed li e a good idea to star t a school of my own that catered to families who had children with more moderate to severe learning differences that could not be addressed in most international s hools.
As a special education teacher coming from a public school setting in the US, where the policy was to take any child coming through their doors, she believed it was a good idea to emulate an inclusive setting where all students regardless of their level of need will be given the opportunity to e in s hool.
Sara advises expat parents of children with learning disabilities to conduct thorough research and check out the schools and alternative schools that have special needs s ort e ore mo ing to alaysia. She encourages parents to ask many questions regarding the programs because not every school will be a good fit or yo r hild and yo no yo r hild est.
Parents need to inquire about the centres’ policies regarding staff alifi ations and training. ome schools may not have staff that is adequately trained to handle SEN learners. t is also im ortant to find out how the school reports back to parents on progress and what roles they expect parents to play in the hild s rograms.
Find out how
the school reports back to parents on progress and what roles they expect parents to play in the child’s
Sara has encountered on too many occasions families relocating to only to find o t a ter their arri al that no international school will a e t their hild. hey e ent ally find centres like TLC, however, spaces are limited so it is best do some research e ore mo ing.
Moreover, she advises parents to be upfront with the schools regarding their child’s needs and not hide it as schools over time will realise that they are unable to meet the needs of the child and this can become a stressful sit ation or the hild and arents.
SEN SUPPORT IN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS
Some international schools offer great support to students with mild learning disa ilities.
Nexus International School in Putrajaya has Special Needs trained teachers working side by side with lassroom tea hers. hey also ha e Personal Learning Assistants (PLAs) who help integrate students on the autistic spectrum into primary classes,
and their “Alternative Pathway program (AP) in secondary provides specialist programs for children with complex learning needs so they can continue their learning journey at Nexus alongside the mainstream rri l m.
Nilai International School at
Putra Nilai provides an excellent Education Support Unit for children ith High n tioning tism . t is the only international s hool in Southeast Asia that presently offers s h a rogram. heir trained and experienced support staff prepares individual programs for a range of learning styles, based on assessments and recommendations by a child ed ational sy hologist.
THE BENEFITS OF SPECIALIST
Most international schools are not equipped to accommodate SEN students who have more moderate to severe learning needs, as they do not have the programs, specialists, such as speech therapists, occupational therapists and specialised teachers, and infrastructure to give them what they o ld need to e s ess l.
nternational s hools ho ha e built in SEN support but do not have the specialists required to work with a child individually often refer parents to Hils Learning centre, a SEN supportive learning center that among other things, assists students
Parents of children with
learning disabilities need to conduct
thorough research and check out the schools and
alternative schools that have special needs support before moving
currently attending international s hools ith any learning di fi lty they may ha e. or ing alongside the international schools, HLC provides assessments, helps children improve their grades in the subject areas they are ha ing di fi lties ith offers music and play therapy and m h more.
The Learning Connection (TLC) provides children with se ere learning di fi lties an opportunity to learn in a classroom setting. hey o er a rogram which includes specialised teachers, therapists, and small class sizes (a maximum of 6, with a special education trained head teacher and a tea her assistant. his allo s or maximum attention to individual needs and di eren es. t dents are also exposed to others who have similar learning differences, they learn to work and play together, communicate their needs and wants in a socially acceptable way, as well as have many opportunities to apply what they learn in the real li e omm nity. a h lass has one outing day per week, which helps the children translate the things they have learned within the classroom into the omm nity they li e in.
here is also more e i ility in lessons that focus on a very functional rri l m. n tional rri l m means it is geared toward preparing students to be independent adults, with certain life skills, and for those who are a bit older and able, some o ational s ills.
n maths or e am le the hildren learn about the concept of money; in literacy, reading and understanding a re i e or de oding road signs. or those higher functioning learners, it can be reading and filling o t a o a li ation.
WhenTLC started a decade ago, it was the only alternative school available to children with more hallenging learning needs. in e then many enters ha e ro ed . However, the cost of a special needs ed ation an e ri ey.
FEE STRUCTURE FOR SEN SCHOOLS
At TLC, fees are based on levels and the range is quite wide, anywhere between RM12,000 to18,000 per term, ith three terms in a s hool year. t also assists in finding s onsorshi or arents ho annot a ord the ll ees.
Depending on the session or support provided, a one-hour, oneon-one session at Hils Learning costs RM288 at two sessions a week, and you have to commit to a full program, the duration of which depends on the outcome of the assessment the school makes prior to starting a therapy or s ort rogram or yo hild.
Choosing the right school or specialist center that offers a supportive environment for SEN children requires adequate research, time and effort, but all this is crucial to the success of your hild s learning de elo ment.
or a om rehensi e list o useful resources, please visit
www. expatriatelifestyle.com/education/ eduusefulcontacts/special-educationalneeds/resource