Wednesday September 5, 2012
EVERY child has the potential to succeed despite the learning impairment and physical disability that they may suffer from, said Education Ministry Special Education Division director Bong Muk Shin.
“The society needs to shift its perception to look beyond the condition of children with special needs and learning difficulties.
“Rather, we should be focusing on helping them to achieve their potential,” said Bong.
Every year, the Ministry carries out various outreach programmes to raise awareness on the learning disorders in children such as dyslexia and autism.
“Overall, the general awareness on learning disorders is still relatively low.
“The Education Ministry is working closely with the Social Welfare Department and the Health Ministry to highlight these conditions and provide help to those who are affected,” said Bong.
The programme focuses on remote areas where amenities such as transportation, medical and communications might be limited.
Out of the 2,903 students visited by the outreach team recently, 744 students are identified as having learning difficulties.
Bong also reveals that the number of students enrolled in special education classes has doubled to 54,000 over the past few years, not including students with physical disabilities.
Currently, there are 1,945 regular schools in the country which are running integrated programmes for students with learning difficulties.
Under the LINUS programme, Year One pupils who are identified with learning difficulties are referred for medical assessment after screening.
They are later enrolled in the remedial programme or sent to special education classes for students with special needs based on the outcome of their medical assessment. The teacher factor
Dyslexia Association of Malaysia president Sariah Amirin agrees that the LINUS programme is timely to address the problem of a significant number of children in schools who failed to master basic literacy and numeracy skills.
She believes that the remedial teachers play the most important role in ensuring that the programme achieves its objectives.
“Teachers need to bear in mind that each child is unique so there is no one fits all method to teach the child.
“Most importantly, teachers must be well trained in phonetics to teach the children how to blend the sounds when teaching reading,” said Sariah.
She also points out that a small class size with one teacher to five pupils is most ideal in a remedial literacy programme.
Furthermore, Sariah said screening tests for reading disorders should be conducted earlier at the preschool level.
“By age five, most children are able to recognise letters. Some children can speak very well but have major problems in reading, this is a sign that parents should look out for in symptoms of dyslexia,” said Sariah.
On the other hand, the National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom) assistant general manager Osman Teh Abdullah said children with learning difficulties should not be segregated from the mainstream education.
“We believe that it is best for the children with learning difficulties to be placed in regular schools as they will have the opportunity to mingle with their peers and assimilate into the school community.
“It is our hope that more remedial teachers will be trained to accommodate the needs of children with learning difficulties,” he said.
At the moment, Nasom is working with several local universities in a study to design a curriculum for children with autism.