Parliamentary Replies

May 05, 2020

Support for students with SEN during full HBL

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Ms Rahayu Mahzam, Jurong GRC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education (a) how are parents and caregivers of students in Special Education (SPED) schools and students with special educational needs (SEN) supported with home-based learning during the circuit breaker period; (b) whether students who need regular therapy sessions are able to attend the sessions; and (c) what efforts are put in place to ensure that these students do not regress during this period.

Response

1. Both our mainstream and Special Education (SPED) schools have worked hard to ensure that students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) as well as their parents and caregivers have support since MOE started full Home-Based Learning (HBL) on 8 April 2020.

  1. Teachers prepared lesson packages that were delivered to the families ahead of time so the parents could use these to guide the children through HBL. The packages included both online and offline learning materials. Offline learning is an important part of HBL, especially for students in SPED schools.

  2. Teachers adjusted their materials and pedagogy to engage the students online and accommodate their learning needs. For instance, some use recorded instructions and 'live' lessons to help students with reading difficulties.

  3. SPED teachers prepared customised lesson packages with high levels of interactive, visual and concrete supports.

  4. Schools also loaned computing devices, dongles, routers and provided SIM cards to students without devices or internet access to ensure that they could participate in full HBL.

  5. For students with sensory or physical challenges, schools have ensured continued access to needed assistive technology and communication devices. This includes the loan of customised devices and tools to support students' learning at home.

  6. Teachers and other school personnel check in regularly with the students or through their parents to monitor their well-being and learning progress.

  7. For students with ASD, schools share strategies and resources with parents, including social stories to help them cope with the changes.

  8. SPED School Allied Professionals such as psychologists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and physiotherapists also work with teachers to integrate interventions into lesson plans or share these with parents through video or tele-conferencing.

2. A small group of students with very high support needs and assessed by the schools to need school-based interventions have been invited to come back to school for limited services, with the necessary safe-distancing precautions in place.

3. With the extension of the circuit breaker to 1 June 2020, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has re-categorised allied health services out of the public healthcare institutions, including therapy services, as essential services, effective 29 April 2020.

4. Hence therapy services can continue, but with safe distancing precautions. These include keeping therapy one-to-one, and prioritising face-to-face consultations for patients whose condition may significantly or rapidly deteriorate otherwise. In other cases, providers are encouraged to deliver their outpatient services by tele-consultation.

5. We understand that full HBL can be challenging for parents and caregivers of children with SEN, especially if they have to work from home or have other children who are also on HBL. I would like to assure them that they do not journey alone. They should feel free to reach out to their child's school for guidance, help and support. They can also tap other sources of assistance (such as the National Care Helpline) that various government and Social Service Agencies are offering.

6. A group of over 200 parents led by Sun Mei Lan of Friends of ASD Families has provided very useful feedback on the experience of families with children of SEN across age groups. MOE, MOH and MSF will reflect on these findings carefully and use them to inform our efforts to support you and your children.

7. One thing that comes across in the survey is how critical it is for children with SEN to spend some time outdoors. This is necessary for self-regulation, especially for children with ASD and ADHD. I call on everyone to be more understanding when they see a parent with a child with SEN in a park or public space getting a bit of fresh air. Sometimes the children (and they could be adult children) will not be wearing a mask. The government understands and has stated that enforcement will be flexible for such persons. Give them a smile and a friendly wave to show you understand.