Assessment for special needs kids

SPECIAL needs children will soon be categorised according to their levels of functionality before they enter Year One in mainstream schools.

Education Ministry Special Education Division director Bong Muk Shin said the assessment would place the children under three categories — low functioning, moderate functioning and high functioning.

“It’s not a problem for high-functioning children to study in mainstream classrooms.

“Those who are moderate-functioning will be placed in an integrated programme within a mainstream school while low-functioning children will have to go to special education classes,” he said when contacted recently.

He said the ministry was moving towards inclusive education where more children with special needs would be placed in mainstream classrooms.

“There is a need for parents, teachers, school heads and the public to change their mindset on children with special needs and special education,” said Bong when asked to comment on a case highlighted in a letter published in The Star recently.

In the letter, National Early Childhood Intervention Council president Datuk Dr Amar Singh H.S.S. highlighted the plight of a child with mild disability who was isolated from the other pupils in a mainstream classroom on the order of the school headmaster.

The child was doing very well in the same classroom in the first two terms before the isolation.

His grades plummeted in the third term as the headmaster had asked that the child be sent to special education classes and to sit at the back of the classroom.

Dr Amar claimed in the letter that the headmaster was concerned that the boy would bring down the performance of the school.

On the case of the boy, Bong urged the parents and the headmaster to discuss and find ways to provide the best education for him.

He declined to comment further on the case, saying that the ministry would investigate the matter and treat each complaint involving special needs children on a case by case basis.

Education deputy director-general Datuk Sufa’at Tumin, when contacted, said the ministry would get to the bottom of the matter.

“The special education division is still investigating it. They will present their facts once they get the true picture,” said Sufa’at.

Dr Amar, when contacted, said the child’s case was not an isolated one.

“Many children with special needs are in the same predicament. The council has been receiving many complaints of this nature from parents,” he said.

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