Protecting children with disabilities


  • In Your Face
  • Thursday, 24 Aug 2017

For use with Tan Yi Liangs column, ffyv240817

CHILDREN. As of late, we can’t deny that they’ve been the target of some really sick stuff. We only have to look back to last week to see the latest case: a temporary teacher at a vernacular school was charged last Thursday with committing sexual physical contact on a nine-year-old male pupil.

And if we go back two weeks to Aug 9, I’m pretty sure that many of you reading this can remember that it took two days – starting from Aug 9 – to read all the charges against the unit trust agent who was charged with 599 counts of sodomising his teenage daughter, one count of rape and 30 counts of committing physical sexual assault without intercourse on the girl since she was 13.

I’m sure that you can’t deny that our children and teenagers need better protection from those who would abuse them sexually. That much is very clear to me, and with that said I can’t help but wonder how children with disabilities, such as mental disabilities, can be protected from such abuse.

This is pretty much why I spoke to two people working hard to protect and save children, including children with special needs – Protect and Save the Children (PS The Children) training and education executive Ting Pei Lim and Beacon Life Training Centre founder Aly Cheah – about a programme run by PS The Children.

Ting said that PS The Children reaches out to groups that work with children and teenagers with special needs, and teachers will train students how to protect themselves through the personal safety curriculum called “Stop It and Be Safe”.

“Currently, the programme has reached out to 250 students. We have a two-day workshop and we train the trainers. The teachers from different centres come in and we train them as well as the parents of the children. As for the curriculum, we sit with the teachers and develop it for their school or centre as they know better,” said Ting.

Ting also explained what happens in these workshops.

“We train their teachers to be able to detect and respond to bullying or abuse and we also train the parents not to do things like slap their children and dismiss what they’re saying as rubbish. Finally, we have the trained teachers reach out to their students as some of them might understand the curriculum immediately while others may need to have it repeated a few times for it to be understood,” she said.

She added that when it comes to teaching the children, the programme is introduced in a fun way so that children don’t feel afraid or unduly paranoid.

“The person teaching it cannot be paranoid, as you don’t want to instil paranoia. The programme is designed in such a way that the children don’t know it’s aimed at the prevention of child abuse because it is taught in a non-threatening way. However, the outcome is that they know what to do if someone hurts them or touches them in a sexual way,” said Ting.

At this point, Cheah explained to me what the children are taught when the teachers bring what they have learned to their students.

“The sessions train young people to protect themselves against touching that is not okay, and this covers bullying and sexual abuse. They are trained to say no, to run and to turn to someone they trust and to tell them what had happened. This is the main thing that is taught and this is the most important thing,” said Cheah.

She added that although many of the students are aged between 16 and 18, they have the mental and emotional development of six- to eight-year-old children.

“Some of them are unable to speak, so they will pull you or use other ways to communicate. The public needs to recognise that this is happening, and once the public knows that this is happening in our society – that is a step in the right direction,” said Cheah.

Both Cheah and Ting agree that child sexual abuse is something that the public should be concerned about.

“Why should we wait until a child dies, or some other incident emerges in the media? So much money and time will be spent on a programme then – and that is your taxpayers’ money being spent on a cure as opposed to prevention,” said Ting.

Ultimately, I asked, how can people get on board with the PS The Children programme? How can centres and teachers get on board to be better equipped to protect their students? Wouldn’t we want our teachers better equipped to protect the students under their care?

“Please call us and get in touch with us, and we can arrange something. As long as they contact us in black-and-white, we can work something out with the school or centres,” said Ting.

PS The Children can be contacted at protect@psthechildren.org.my or by telephone at 03-7957 4344 or 7956 4355.

  • Senior writer Tan Yi Liang’s ‘In Your Face’ aims to prove that people have more positive power in their hands than they realise, and to challenge them. He can be reached at tanyl@thestar.com.my.
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