How do I know if my child has Special Educational Needs

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What does it mean to have SEN?

Based on the Professional Practice Guidelines (PPG)1, a child is considered to have SEN when all of these three conditions are present:

  1. The child has been diagnosed with a disability; and
  2. The child shows greater difficulty in learning as compared to the majority of his peers of the same age (e.g. difficulties in his social, language, academic or physical abilities); and
  3. The child requires different or additional resources beyond what is generally available for the majority of his peers of the same age. Compared to his/her peers, a child with SEN finds it more difficult to learn or to adapt socially. He/she may have difficulties:

    • Doing school work
    • Reading and writing
    • Communicating with others
    • Making friends
    • Behaving appropriately in the presence of others
    • Learning in school due to limitations in sight, hearing or physical mobility

Every child is different. For example, two children with the same diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder may have very different learning and support needs, and may progress at a different pace. The progress made by children with SEN depends partly on whether they receive timely and appropriate support at home and at school to meet their individual learning needs.

Where can I seek an assessment of SEN for my child?

You may have noticed some difficulties or delays with your child’s learning or development. You may wish to seek a formal assessment by qualified professionals to determine if your child has SEN.

Assessment by qualified professionals

It is important that the assessment is carried out by qualified professionals with relevant experience and training, as their assessment will influence what you decide for the future of your child’s education.

You should discuss assessment options with your child’s preschool or school teachers. Depending on the difficulties displayed, the school may recommend for your child to be assessed by psychologists from the Ministry of Education, or by professionals from a government hospital. Alternatively, your child can be assessed by a qualified private professional. If your child requires psycho-educational assessment, you can consider approaching an educational psychologist registered with the Singapore Register of Psychologists.

Intervention and support

Assessment by qualified professionals should include clear recommendations for intervention and support. The assessment would help you to identify the type of support and education your child may require in the longer term, and also provide recommendations that you, and your child’s teacher, can implement at home and at school.

Benefits of Early Intervention

Research has generally shown that the first seven years of a child’s life is a critical period for his/her development intellectually, socially and emotionally. Findings also support the view that provision of early services to young children with SEN will enhance their abilities to develop to their maximum potential.

For more information on early intervention, you may refer to the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and SG Enable websites.

Common SEN among children in Singapore

The following are some of the common SEN seen among school children in Singapore.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of developmental disabilities which affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Children with ASD have difficulties in three key areas – difficulties in communication, difficulties in social interaction, and impairments in interests, activities and other behaviours.

Intellectual Disability

Children with intellectual disability (ID) show significant difficulties in cognitive and adaptive functioning. Cognitive functioning refers to the ability to think, concentrate, formulate ideas, reason and remember. Adaptive functioning refers to the ability to handle daily demands in life independently, and includes communication, self-care, home living, motor, social and interpersonal skills.

Visual Impairment

Visual impairment (VI) refers to limitation or absence of sight, which includes partial sight or blindness. It is a severe reduction in vision that cannot be corrected with standard glasses or contact lenses, and reduces a person’s ability to function in some or all tasks.

Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss (HL) refers to both complete and partial loss of the ability to hear. Hearing loss can be conducive (may be treatable) or sensorineural (which will require hearing aids or cochlear implants).

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a condition caused by brain injuries or abnormalities. Children with cerebral palsy may suffer from loss of muscle coordination and motor skills, speech difficulties, learning disabilities or other problems.

Learning Disabilities

Children with learning disabilities may have difficulties with reading, writing, spelling, recalling and organising information. This is caused by differences in the way their brains developed. Learning disabilities are not due to disadvantaged backgrounds, poor teaching, lack of education or low intelligence. Many children with learning disabilities have very good thinking and reasoning abilities. With appropriate support, these children can overcome their learning difficulties.

Among children in mainstream schools, two of the most common disabilities that affect learning are dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language-related skills. The core symptoms of ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

How else can I get support to learn about my child’s SEN?

You may approach the following organisations for assistance:

Disability Groups Social Service Organisations(SSO) Address Contact Information
Mild Intellectual Disability (including those with co-morbid Autism Spectrum Disorder)

Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN)

900 New Upper Changi Road Singapore 467354  

Tel: (65) 64796252
Fax: (65) 64796272

Metta Welfare Association

32 Simei Street 1 Singapore 529950

Tel: (65) 65804688
Fax: (65) 65804699

Presbyterian Community Services

89, Short Street #08-08
Golden Wall Centre Singapore 188216

Tel: (65) 63344445
Fax: (65) 63887153

Moderate to Severe Intellectual Disability (including those with co-morbid Autism Spectrum Disorder)

Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS)

800 Margaret Drive Singapore 149310

Tel: (65) 64795655
Fax: (65) 64790706

Multiple Disabilities and Autism

Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA)

9 Lorong Napiri Singapore 547531

Tel: (65) 6511 5200
Fax: (65) 64890775

Rainbow Centre

501 Margaret Drive Singapore 149306 Tel: (65) 6472 7077
Fax: (65) 6475 9739
Multiple Disabilities

Cerebral Palsy Alliance of Singapore (CPAS)

65 Pasir Ris Drive 1
Singapore 519529
Tel: (65) 6585 5600

Autism Resource Centre (Singapore)

5 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 Singapore 569739

Tel: (65) 63233258
Fax: (65) 63231974

Autism Association (Singapore)

101 Bukit Batok West Avenue 3 #01-01 Singapore 659168 Tel: (65) 67746649
Fax: (65) 67746957

Saint Andrew’s Mission Hospital (SAMH)

8 Simei Street 3
Singapore 529895

Tel: (65) 65861000
Fax: (65) 65861096

Hearing Loss

Canossian Daughters of Charity

55 Waterloo Street
#07-02 Catholic Centre
Singapore 187954

Tel: (65) 63374119

Visual Impairment; Autism;
Hearing Loss

Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH)

47 Toa Payoh Rise Singapore 298104

Tel: (65) 62514331

  • SG Enable an agency dedicated to enabling persons with disabilities. It provides information and referral services for certain child disability schemes.

You may also consult the professional supporting your child for reliable books and online resources on SEN to find out more about your child’s diagnosis and answers to questions that you might have.

  1. The Professional Practice Guidelines (PPG) was developed by professionals from MOE, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, National University Hospital, Institute of Mental Health, National Council of Social Service, and Social Service Organisations running SPED schools, and provides a common set of guidelines for psycho-educational assessment and educational placement of students with SEN aged 6 to 18 years.