‘Don’t stigmatise special needs students’

WHILE providing vocational training for special needs students at the secondary level is important to help them lead independent and purposeful lives, early intervention at the preschool stage is a crucial determinant for the children’s future success.

Like other children, special needs students can contribute meaningfully to their families and to the nation if they are accepted and included by society.

Highlighting the need for people with disabilities to be treated fairly and to have the same opportunities as everyone else, the theme of this year’s World Down Syndrome Day – which has been observed since 2012 and will fall on Tuesday – is “With Us Not For Us”.

Having a clear transition plan, said Malaysiancare Community Development senior director Pauline Wong, is one of the key factors in helping special needs students grow, progress and ultimately integrate into society.

“While vocational skills are often straightforward and can be gained with hands-on experience, what’s more important are the soft skills and interpersonal skills needed for them to better manage their emotions, to cope with challenges and to navigate their daily lives.”

One of the ways to achieve this, she said, is by including them in the community and starting the integration at preschool.

If inclusion is practised at the preschool level, children with special needs can assimilate and learn to study with their peers in a mainstream school, Wong said, noting that unfortunately, there is still a stigma when it comes to special needs children and their families.

“Lack of resources, like qualified teachers, is also a problem. For example, a kindergarten can’t accommodate too many special needs children because the teachers would not be able to cope.

“Moreover, some parents are not able to accept the presence of special needs children, which explains why some preschools are reluctant to practise inclusivity,” she said, adding that greater public awareness is required if we do not want these students to fall through the cracks. — By WINNIE YEOH

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Special needs , disabled , integration , PPKI , preschool , PPI


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