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Saturday June 29, 2013

We need shadow aides first

OF late there are many concerns on early childhood education, early intervention programme (EIP) and the right of a special needs child to have an inclusive education.

As a psychology graduate, a member of the British Psychological Society, a child therapist, a shadow-aide and now a director of a company dealing with children with special needs, I am more concerned if people are aware of the appropriate way to educate special children and what is fundamental for a child to be enrolled in an inclusive educational setting.

In the last four years dealing with children with learning difficulties – emotional, social and behaviour difficulties, autism (ASD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), ADHD and other disorders – I have come to realise that a child requires a few things before having an inclusive education.

It is the right of a child to have an education but some children would need EIP, preferably Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) or Behaviour Management (BM), before getting into a regular classroom.

Parents who have started children with ABA therapy have higher chances of their children entering mainstream schools.

This also helps the children to have a smooth transition into a regular classroom.

Many people would think it is the right of a child to have an inclusive education but how do we fit a child into a regular classroom when the child might have destructive behaviours, lack of communication and social skills, and no school readiness skills?

Children with special needs require coaching in many different areas.

Occupational therapy and speech therapy are among the common therapies required for such kids.

However, even after entering regular classroom, special needs children would require a one-to -one assistant.

Schools should be aware of Individualised Education Plan (IEP) where each child has different realistic goals to achieve and the period of time for them to achieve those goals.

IEP’s are important to determine the child’s progress and achievements in school.

By having an IEP drafted out it would make more sense in developing a Behaviour Intervention Plan (BIP) to achieve goals set by the learning institutions.

Not many parents and schools are aware of shadow aides who can assist children with special needs in a regular classroom.

It is important to differentiate roles of a teacher and a shadow aide in a classroom.

Shadow aides are individuals who are specialised in assisting children with additional needs in a classroom.

Shadow aides will have a certain extent of knowledge of a child’s diagnosis in order to assist the child at school.

Shadow aides would strive for a child to reach his or her highest potential and would aim for the child to be independent in a community.

The article by the National Early Childhood Intervention Council (The Star, June 24) listed few scenarios that had happened in a regular classroom involving teachers and children with special needs.

It also mentioned that teacher aide training programme would be a good initiative.

However, how much attention and how long can a teacher spend on a child with special needs and how effective will that be in bringing out the full potential of a child?

The implementation and training of shadow aides using ABA methods or other related BM would make more sense as they are more specialised and qualified in a certain field such as psychology to understand the fundamentals of a child’s development and needs.

An appropriate data collection should be done on every child to measure progress and effectiveness of strategies used.

By having this done, a child would shape more independent behaviour not only in a school environment but in a community.

A shadow aide is also used at times to teach academics using different methods which would make more sense to a child with special needs.

This can help a child to bring out his or her maximum potential.

The implementation of an inclusive school is strongly supported but it should be done the right way for the betterment of a child.

SITRA PANIRSHEELUAM

Kuala Lumpur

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