Expatriate Lifestyle - Essentials Education - - Contents - WORDS MELINDA ROOS PHO­TOS IS­TOCK­PHOTO

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.


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.



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

to Malaysia”

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.


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. ex­pa­tri­­u­ca­tion/ edu­use­ful­con­tacts/spe­cial-ed­u­ca­tion­al­needs/re­source

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