Your child is 6 years old. You have just been through years of early intervention, whether it is attending preschool at early intervention centres or mainstream schools with the various support programmes, or even intensive hours of behavioural or speech therapy. Your child would be 7 years old next year, where he/she will be moving to the next stage of education - primary education. What’s next? How do we ensure that children continue to get the educational support that they need? Read on to find out more.
Before enrolling into primary education, there are some things you can consider before determining which school would be the most suitable for your child:
1. Consider what your child’s needs and abilities are
Perhaps your child has great academic skills (e.g. able to read, good at numbers) but has issues partaking in daily conversations. It could be the other way around. Each child has their own unique strengths and areas to work on, recognising and identifying them is an important first step to take before deciding which school would be best for your child in their next educational stage. You could gather feedback (in writing) from respective early intervention teachers or therapists to obtain more insights.
2. Consider a professional assessment
A professional assessment with a psychologist from hospitals (i.e. KKH or NUH) or qualified private professionals can help provide a holistic profile of your child, give a clear diagnosis and also practical recommendations for intervention and support for your child, which includes the most appropriate educational placement. An assessment typically involves a range of standardised assessments for various developmental areas (e.g. cognitive, social, physical), as well as gathering feedback from individuals (caregivers, teachers) in the child’s systemic support. It is recommended to get the assessment done at least 6 months before the school’s application deadline, to ensure that there is sufficient time to gather all other documents and to obtain all the inputs necessary.
After the preparations have been done, next up would be to decide whether mainstream education or special education school (SPED) is the better choice for your child. Here are some things to take note of for each choice.
Mainstream schools are publicly-funded schools where their school curriculum is largely standardised and are typically better suited for children who have the skills to learn in big-group settings. There are mainstream schools that provide specialised support for students with special needs. These include the involvement of teachers trained in special needs education, allied educator, educational support services provided by Singapore Soka Association, and lastly assistive technology. Enrolment into mainstream schools is through the usual Primary One Registration Exercise.
You may also consider utilising school shadowing services provided by private early intervention centres (especially when your child has been going for therapy in these centres). The shadow teacher, preferably the therapist who has been working with your child for some time, would be attending your child’s classes to help your child assimilate into the school environment and also provide additional support in any way. Being in a new environment can be daunting for a child with autism, and having someone whom your child is more familiar with there can be very comforting and helpful.
Enrolling into an international school is also a choice you can take. These schools also cater to students with special education needs. However, these schools are typically meant for expats’ children. You would need to send in an application and seek approval from the Ministry of Education (MOE) before applying.
Special Education School (SPED)
Although it is a common milestone to attend a mainstream school, your child with special needs may benefit even more in a SPED school whereas a mainstream school might create more difficulties for your child. Different SPED schools cater to students with different types of difficulties. These range from ASD, hearing loss, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities or visual impairment. It is important to choose a school that is autism-focused (e.g. Eden School, AWWA School, Rainbow Centre School). Researching more about what programmes each school offers would be beneficial for your child’s learning.
Before getting started on the application process, do consider your child’s needs, abilities and interests. Enrolment into SPED schools requires a professional assessment as well, so you could consider getting the assessment done. After which, gather all required documents (including the special education school application form) and go ahead submitting these documents. If these are too overwhelming, you may work with a referring agency (EIPIC centres or social service agencies) who will assist you with the application process.
Social Skills Training and ABA Therapy
If your child has been attending ABA therapy regularly, you can choose to go for social skills training as a supplement, especially in the area of interacting with others. Social skills training is a small group session, consisting of 2-8 children, where they are taught to interact appropriately with others their age, emotional regulation as well as perspective-taking. Children can also learn conversational, friendship and problem-solving skills in these sessions. Think of it as a play group but supervised by an adult trained in working with children with autism. ABA therapy alone may not provide the opportunity to learn social skills as such. Despite that, continuing ABA therapy can allow your child’s behaviours to be worked on, and continue building up on skills on a 1-on-1 basis, according to an individualised plan crafted for your child.
All in all, it should not matter if your child is taking a different route from other children that you know of. Education is a journey and it can be unique to each individual. What’s most important is the learning and development of your child. While it can be overwhelming with the different options and the processes to undergo, it is worthwhile to put in the effort in order to ensure the best for your child.
Written by Tiffany.
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Apply to a special education school. (2021, October 18). MOE. Retrieved December 4, 2021, from https://www.moe.gov.sg/special-educational-needs/apply
Patino, E. (n.d.). Social Skills Groups for Children | Social Skills Training for ADHD. Understood.org. Retrieved December 4, 2021, from https://www.understood.org/articles/en/faqs-about-social-skills-groups