Preparing Your Child with Special Needs for Mainstream
Posted on May 5, 2019 by Daphne Seah
Having made the decision to send your child with special education needs (SEN) to a mainstream school, you may find yourself worrying about whether your child can cope. However, with the right support, children with special needs can thrive in mainstream schools. This article aims to help you prepare for your child’s entry into a mainstream school.
Principal Educational Psychologist, Associate Professor (Dr) Mariam Aljunied gave the following helpful advice on what you can do to make the change as smooth as possible for your child with SEN (full article on Schoolbag).
Fully Understand the Demands of a Mainstream School
Do make sure that you are clearly aware of your child’s needs, your own expectations, and the demands that are required of your child, before enrolling him/her in a mainstream school.
If you hope for your child to thrive in mainstream schools, it is important not to solely focus on his or her ability to perform well academically. Instead, work habits are crucial to your child’s success in a mainstream school.
These work habits include the ability to follow class routines, work independently and learn in a large group setting.
Some children with SEN may have to be taught these work habits specifically. They may feel uncomfortable learning in a large group setting. They may also struggle to interact well with their peers.
Steps Parents can take
- Make sure that you have consulted professionals who have worked closely with your child (such as psychologists,developmental pediatricians and early intervention teachers).
- They have a clear understanding on your child’s needs and strengths, and can provide advice on whether it is in your child’s best interest to enroll in mainstream school in the long run.
- Prepare your child for mainstream school by developing habits such as:
- staying seated
- focusing for longer periods of time, and
- following instructions.
- Do share your child’s learning needs with the school.
- If the school is aware of your child’s learning needs, they will be able to provide better support for your child. It is understandable to feel worried about causing your child to be labelled or stigmatized, but a lack of knowledge may worsen the situation for your child.
What Mainstream schools Provide
Mainstream schools are equipped with specialized manpower and programs to help children with special needs:
- teachers trained in special educational needs (SEN) and Allied Educators in Learning and Behaviorial Support. They are able to teach skills such as reading, spelling and social skills.
- programmes that help further develop social and academic skills of children with SEN, e.g. school-based dyslexia remediation programmes, and
- social skills training for students with SEN.
Nurturing the Love of Learning
Although it is important for children with SEN to do well, avoid placing too much emphasis on academic excellence. Instead, focus on instiling the joy of learning and helping your child enjoy school.
This helps boost your child’s morale and confidence. Your child will be happier as well.
“Focus on their strengths, as every child has a gift, and develop them holistically. You want them to be happy learners, no matter how long the road is.” – Dr Mariam Aljunied
Other Steps You Can Take Before Sending Your Child to Mainstream School
In addition, here are some other steps you can take:
- Communicate with your child early on and reassure him or her about the change. The more he or she knows, the less scary the change will seem. While communicating with your child, remain positive.
- Depending on how receptive he or she is to change, introduce him/her to the new set of uniform, the new route to school, and where possible, the school environment.
- Create social stories about the new school. Here is a useful example of a social story from Ms Evania Yeo, Metta Preschool’s senior psychologist from her article:
I am big boy now, ready to go to primary school.
I will put on new uniform, and follow mommy to school.
There will be new teachers and friends, but it’s ok, they will be nice to me.
In class, I must listen to my teacher. My teacher likes it when I listen.
If I have a question, I can raise my hand and wait for the teacher or someone who will help me.
My school ends at 1pm. I can see mommy again when my school ends.
Ms Yeo also suggests getting your child to create his or her own social stories, role play the stories or even use his favourite “super hero” to teach appropriate response or solution to a situation or event.
- Create a schedule that is as close as possible to a school day. This can help your child understand the expectations of a school time.
A smooth entrance will set the tone for your child’s primary education, so do plan and manage the transition carefully to get the best possible outcome.