(SEN) Special Educational Needs
SCHOOL IN MALAYSIA FOR SPECIAL CHILD
We now have several types of education systems in Malaysia, all harmoniously living under the same roof. From Government Schools, Private School, Chinese and Tamil Schools, International Schools with curriculums from Britain, America, Australia and France and many others. The one type of school that is still lacking in many ways is schools for special needs children. Special needs children often fall through the cracks of our education system. These children vary, from ‘mild’ learning disability cases like dyslexia and ADHD to more severe disabilities like autism, Down syndrome, mental retardation, physical retardation and many others. While many parents want their special needs children to attend normal schools, this may not always be advisable or possible.
There are a couple of private centres in Kuala Lumpur that cater to teaching special needs children with autism and downs syndrome and they ensure that your child will get a near full curriculum learning at their pace. The cost involved in educating your child in these centres is high. Another place where many parents send their autistic children is qualified speech therapists where children get help with their speech and go on at the same time, to some international schools where they are accepted. There are also some mid-range centres that cater to special children’s education in major Malaysian cities. These usually comprise of groups of people or parents who want to provide education for their children who will not be accepted into local mainstream schools. Children learn a lot of empathy and compassion when they interact with one another. Unfortunately, our national curriculum schools are not very special needs children friendly. There have been cases where dyslexic children are left alone to their fate with labels such as ‘lazy’ and ‘stupid’. The rest of the private and international schools are too grade conscious to take in special needs children, fearing a drop in school grades and an added expense of teachers and training.
It is however a better idea to send you child with special needs to a special school where his or her needs are taken care of more carefully. They may need more time to grasp certain ideas and in a special school, teachers are more specialized to be able to teach them in a different way. These teachers have completely different education and training compared to teachers in normal schools. It is quite pointless for special needs children to attend normal schools if they are going to be left behind in class, leaving them lost and frustrated. It is better that they learn at their own pace, with teachers and carers who know what they are doing and who can really help them with their studies. There is hope that Malaysia will one day reach the level of developed countries when it comes to the education of special needs children.
WHAT ARE SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS (SEN)?
A child has special educational needs (SEN) if he or she has learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for him or her to learn than most other children of about the same age.
Many children will have special educational needs of some kind during their education. Schools and other organisations can help most children overcome the barriers their difficulties present quickly and easily. A few children will need extra help for some or all of their time in school.
- SO SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS COULD MEAN THAT A CHILD HAS:
- LEARNING DIFFICULTIES – in acquiring basic skills in school
- EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIOURAL DIFFICULTIES – making friends or relating to adults or behaving properly in school
- SPECIFIC LEARNING DIFFICULTY – with reading, writing, number work or understanding information
- SENSORY OR PHYSICAL NEEDS - such as hearing or visual impairment, which might affect them in school
- COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS – in expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying
- MEDICAL OR HEALTH CONDITIONS – which may slow down a child’s progress and/or involves treatment that affects his or her education.
Children make progress at different rates and have different ways in which they learn best. Teachers take account of this in the way they organise their lessons and teach. Children making slower progress or having particular difficulties in one area may be given extra help or different lessons to help them succeed.
You should not assume, just because your child is making slower progress than you expected or the teachers are providing different support, help or activities in class, that your child has special educational needs.
WHAT EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE FOR CHILDREN WITH SEN?
BEFORE YOUR CHILD STARTS SCHOOL OR EARLY EDUCATION
Your child’s early years are a very important time for their physical, emotional, intellectual and social development. When your health visitor or doctor makes a routine check, they may suggest there could be a problem or you may have worries of your own. You can talk to your doctor or health visitor who will be able to give you advice about the next steps to take and who can help.
If your child’s needs are severe or complex, your health visitor or doctor may approach the Children's Services Department on your behalf. You can also contact them directly.
IF YOUR CHILD IS AT AN EARLY EDUCATION SETTING OR AT SCHOOL
If you have any concerns about your child’s progress you should first talk to your child’s class teacher. In schools (or pre-school) there is a teacher who is responsible for co-ordinating help for children with special educational needs. You will be able to talk over your concerns with the teacher and find out what the school thinks. The teacher will be able to explain what happens next.
Working together with your child’s teachers will often help to sort out worries and problems. The closer you work with your child’s teachers, the more successful any help can be.
WHAT CAN EARLY EDUCATION SETTINGS AND SCHOOLS DO TO HELP?
Early education settings and schools place great importance on identifying special educational needs (SEN) early so that they can help children as quickly as possible. Once it has been decided that your child has SEN, staff working with your child should take account of the guidance in the SEN Code of Practice. The Code describes how help for children with special educational needs in schools and early education settings should be made through a step-by-step or `graduated approach'. The Code also gives you information about the Parent Partnership Service.
The graduated approach recognises that children learn in different ways and can have different kinds or levels of SEN. So increasingly, step by step, specialist expertise can be brought in to help the school with the difficulties that a child may have.
- THE APPROACH MAY INCLUDE:
- an individually-designed learning programme
- extra help from a teacher or learning support assistant
- being taught individually or in a small group for regular short periods
- drawing up an Individual Education Plan, including setting targets for improvement, regular review of progress before setting new targets.
The early education setting/school must tell you when they first start giving extra or different help because your child has special educational needs. This is called Early Years Action or School Action. Within this framework your child’s progress will be carefully recorded, monitored and reviewed.
After this `step by step' approach there should be a clear written record about what the early years setting or school has done to assess and provide for your child's needs. The content of this record will be discussed with you.
STUDENT TEACHERS’ ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE INCLUSION OF CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS IN THE ORDINARY SCHOOL
Given that research has suggested that the successful implementation of any inclusive policy is largely dependent on educators being positive about it, a survey was undertaken into the attitudes of student teachers toward the inclusion of children with special needs in the ordinary school. The sample was comprised of 135 students who were completing their teacher training courses at a university School of Education. The analysis revealed that the respondents held positive attitudes toward the general concept of inclusion but their perceived competence dropped significantly according to the severity of children's needs Moreover, children with emotional and behavioural difficulties were seen as potentially causing more concern and stress than those with other types of special needs. Finally, the survey raised issues about the breadth and quality of initial teacher training. Nevertheless, the recommendations provided at the end of this paper regarding teacher training are applicable beyond the MALAYSIAN context.