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More disabled children rehabilitation centres needed

More disabled children rehabilitation centres needed

KUALA LUMPUR: While mainstreaming for children with special needs (OKU) is thought to be a positive practice, those who argue against it have valid concerns.

Those who are not in favour of mainstreaming – whereby children with disabilities are included in the regular classroom – believe that special education children are unlikely to receive the specialised services they need.

They also argue that the Special Education Integrated Programme (PPKI) – an education programme for students with special needs in segregated classes within mainstream governmental schools – is also not in the best interest of children with disabilities.

Against such a backdrop, experts have called for the setting up of more rehabilitation centres to prevent OKU children from being left out of the education system as well as from upskilling programmes.

Child psychologist Dr Noor Aishah Rosli, who is also a senior lecturer in the Department of Education Psychology and Counselling at Universiti Malaya, said given the situation, some parents are at crossroads on what is best for their special needs children.

At the same time, several criteria set by school authorities on OKU children are said to be the stumbling block for parents to send their children to the mainstream school or the PPKI.

Consider your child’s needs

According to Dr Noor Aishah, based on her medical assessment of OKU children, parents should weigh several factors before placing their children in regular schools or certain centres.

“Based on this assessment, we can identify their weaknesses and strengths especially after IQ (intelligent quotient) and autism tests are conducted as well as after an ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) assessment.

“Children with issues (low IQ) are less suitable for regular schools but they are not necessarily suitable for PPKI…..this is because some of them are able to master certain skills.

“For example, autistic children whom I have met are high functioning, that is they only have social problems but are capable of learning like other normal children.

“In short, autistic children can speak, have eye contact, understand instructions and are independent like going to the toilet on their own. I always suggest that parents enrol their children under this category into regular schools.

“Perhaps, what is of concern to parents is when their child is sent to a regular school, he or she gets bullied by other students. As such, I feel that more centres or schools with the right approach and requirements for OKU students comprising various disability categories, be established,” she told Bernama recently.

Intensify efforts, private sector

The government through the Social Welfare Department (JKM), Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) has prepared a Community-based Rehabilitation Programme (CBR), a strategy in the development of local communities for rehabilitation, training, education, opportunities equalisation and social integration of people with disabilities (PWDs).

CBR is operated throughout the country with the active involvement of the community either at CBR or at home. It is implemented through integrated efforts of disabled persons, families, communities and health services, education, vocational and social services.

The CBR functions as a disabled early intervention centre, PWD information resource centre, PWD reference centre, PWD registration centre and an advocacy centre.

Its activities include gross motor skill, fine motor skill, social development, language development, self-management, 3M (reading, writing and counting), games, sports, recreation and culture, vocational training, music therapy, etc.

Commenting on the government’s initiative, Dr Noor Aishah said while the effort should be applauded, it needs to be further intensified by drawing participation from the private sector.

Dr Noor Aishah who is also founder of CPC International Sdn Bhd at Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor, said progress made by each individual including OKU children, differs.

As such, she said, services provided by these special rehabilitation centres should be based on current needs, are more focused and in line with OKU developments from academic as well as upskilling aspects.

“While OKU children are categorised as slow learners, autistic, etc, they should not remain neglected and are not given proper education as well as the required skills, lest they will end up with no knowledge, not even basic learning.

“The rehabilitation centre I’m referring to should focus on actual needs of OKU children who can’t go to regular schools and even the PPKI. This centre will be more focused on individual progress, individual as well as group (based on suitability) learning system, as well as an assessment system to identify a student’s academic achievement academically as well as in upskilling aspects.

“To enrol in this centre, an early assessment will be made to ensure the syllabus prepared is specially tailored for OKU children,” said Dr Noor Aishah, who hopes to set up such a centre in the future.

Different work procedure

Dr Noor Aishah said it would be unfortunate if OKU children especially the high functioning group are not placed at the right place based on their needs, noting that the work procedure and services offered at rehabilitation centres for this group may need further improvements.

“The work procedure at such centres abroad is on a one-to-one basis, with a special syllabus prepared for each child. But at the same time, we must also understand that in Malaysia, it is rather difficult for us to provide such a service due to the lack of expertise in the field to help OKU children individually.

“Perhaps, we can add value in terms of having an academic and skills assessment on these children over a certain period, such as after five months of attending the class.

“I would also like to stress on the skill aspects for OKU children. This skill is crucial as it helps the child to excel academically and boost his or her IQ,” she said, expressing hope that the government, researchers or any educators would take the initiative by setting up the special centre.

Trained teacher, best choice

Meanwhile, a lecturer at the Education Faculty of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Associate Professor Dr Hasnah Toran, said experienced teachers should be engaged as trainers at the special rehabilitation centre instead of volunteers, who are paid allowances, as practised at most centres.

This, she said, is to ensure that special needs children who have not been able to gain entry into regular schools or the PPKI, are given access to education.

Dr Hasnah who is also Chairperson of Raudhah Autisme said, the selection of eligible students to the centre should also be emphasised so that every level of the community is given similar opportunities, especially the B40 group.

“Otherwise, nothing will change…we can open as many centres or special schools, but if preferential or discriminatory practices toward certain groups persist, the issue of OKU being left out, will always be prevalent,” she added.

A PPKI preschool teacher of Sekolah Kebangsaan Dato’ Penghulu Luak Jempol, Negeri Sembilan, Nurhayati Zainudin, said with more OKU centres or schools being opened by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or individuals, parents will have more options to seek the best education for their children.

She hopes that these centres or schools would not merely focus on major towns, noting that fees imposed should also be reasonable and would not be a burden to parents.

“Efforts to teach OKU children should be ongoing with participation from all parties including the government and private sector to ensure OKU children’s full potential can be unleashed,” adding that many special needs children are highly intelligent and have extraordinary talents. – Bernama