What Are Special Educational Needs?
Children with special educational needs (SEN) face learning difficulties in the form of disorders and disabilities. Some of the common learning disorders among children are dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. Children who have medical disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism will face learning disruptions as well.
Learning disorders and disabilities are caused by abnormality, injury and impairments from a disease. Children with SEN will encounter obstacles when it comes to schoolwork and personal organisation. They may also have trouble maintaining friendships and relationships with adults.
Special Educational Needs in China
In the early 90s, China established a few laws to help improve the education system for students with special needs. These laws range from the Law on the Protection of the Disabled Persons that focused on the responsibility of the society to take care of the people with special needs, to the Teachers’ Law of the People’s Republic of China and the Education Law of the People’s Republic of China, which focused on providing an education that caters to students with special needs.
To improve their education system for people with disabilities, China later adopted the western education system where children with special needs attend regular schools and it is known as Learning in the Regular Classroom (LRC). Instead of building schools that only cater to children with special needs, the new system emphasises on inclusivity where children with special needs learn alongside their classmates without special needs in both urban and rural areas of China.
Large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and many other developed cities in China have the best facilities and resources to cater to children with special needs in comparison to rural areas in China. There are many schools that cater to students of different ages and special needs in the urban areas. Aside from that, the teachers at these schools go through special training to better prepare them to cater to students with disabilities. Before enrolling your child with special needs at any school, it is best to enquire more about their education system, teachers’ experiences with children with special needs and the school’s facilities before doing so.
How to Help Children with Special Educational Needs?
There are a few things parents with SEN children can do to create a positive and loving environment at home. Firstly, they can come up with simple tasks for their children to complete which will lead to a sense of achievement and pride. For these tasks, parents should always give clear instructions that are easily understandable. Next, parents can also give descriptive praise to their children when they do well to boost self-esteem. It is also important for parents to have meaningful conversations with their children and provide a safe avenue for them to express their feelings. Parents need to realise that they cannot rely on the school completely to teach their children. They have to do their part by teaching their children soft skills which build self-confidence.
In addition, there are several ways teachers can help create a more conducive learning environment for children with SEN. Teachers have to ensure that the classroom is organised and has as little distractions as possible. It is also important to schedule learning breaks throughout the day. Next, teachers can incorporate music and voice inflection when giving instructions. Students with SEN may respond better to varied voice inflection and tone. Teachers also need to get creative with their lesson plans and include multi-sensory cues such as visual cues, auditory cues and tactile cues when teaching SEN students something new. Last but not least, teachers must always motivate SEN students and give compliments and reassurance for small accomplishments.
The Benefits and Importance of Special Educational Needs Centres
Children with SEN must not be equated to slow learners or individuals who are less intelligent. They are often as smart as their peers; the only difference is that they need to learn in a different way. Teachers and parents alike should recognise that each child has unique interests, abilities, intelligences and learning preferences. Therefore, continuous effort is needed to ensure children with SEN are educated to their fullest potential.
This effort must come in the form of special education, which can be defined as educational programmes and practices designed for students with learning disabilities and special educational needs. Each child, especially those with SEN, have the right to receive the same level of education as their peers and receive the same academic opportunities as them. Furthermore, children with SEN will be able to interact with other children and develop their communication skills and interpersonal skills. Being in a classroom environment will also increase their confidence and self-esteem and create a positive mind-set.
What is the Special Educational Needs curriculum?
A number of international schools have departments dedicated to learning support and helping students with SEN. Some of the provisions provided at these schools include:
International school teachers collaborate with enrichment coordinators, specialist teachers and learning support teachers to help students in the areas of numeracy, literacy and student development.
Students who require more attention are taught on a one-on-one basis. Some schools offer learning support sessions once or twice a week to help students complete schoolwork and additional tasks.
International schools with provisions for SEN are open to partnering with parents to come up with new ideas and suggestions on how to accelerate their children’s learning.
Selected international schools have specialised programmes for students with SEN. These students will receive support and instruction from trained specialist educators and teachers.
A number of schools also have an in-house counsellor who helps students with academic, emotional and social problems. School counsellors can aid students with SEN with personal development and improvement of social skills if needed.
Types of Special Educational Needs
Here are the common types of learning disorders children with SEN face:
Dyslexia is a language-based disability that affects spelling, reading and comprehension.
Children with dyscalculia find it difficult to grasp mathematical concepts. These concepts include numerical organisation, understanding quantity and calculating value and time.
Dysgraphia concerns the physical act of writing. Children with dysgraphia have difficulty holding a pencil and have little spatial awareness.
Dyspraxia is a condition where there is delayed neurological development in muscle coordination and movement.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD can be broken down into two elements, inattentiveness and hyperactivity. Inattentive children have a short attention span which results in trouble paying attention and focusing on a task.
How do you apply to Special Educational Needs Centres?
For international schools, children with SEN may be required to go through an assessment and consultation with the academic staff to gauge whether the school will be able to provide suitable provisions for the type of learning disability the child might have.
On the other hand, dedicated learning centres supporting SEN students may require parents to fill-up a pre-assessment form online before booking a scheduled evaluation and assessment with a specialist.
How to choose the right Special Educational Needs Centre
The type and amount of learning support differs from school to school. Therefore, it is important for parents to speak to the school honestly about their child’s needs and ask for detailed information on the school’s provisions for SEN. Parents should also make an effort to seek help and identify the type of learning disability their child has as early as possible.