There’s support for our kids who require developmental & mental health support: Gan Siow Huang  

06/10/2022

Parents know this: kids’ lives aren’t always easy like in Paw Patrol and Adventure Time.

Exams, peer relationships and family issues can stress them out. Some kids too, have developmental needs; that’s another large set of challenges.   

So the PAP Government is helping families and their little ones, starting from learning support during the first days of kindergarten to mental health counselling in primary school and beyond.

Early intervention for kindergarteners

About 600 (or 8 per cent) of MOE (Ministry of Education) K1 and K2 kindergarteners have developmental needs requiring support.

“Not all these children have a formal diagnosis,” said Minister of State for Education Gan Siow Huang this Wednesday (Oct 4). “Some were identified by our kindergarten educators who are equipped with basic awareness and strategies to support diverse learners in the classroom.”

Here, MOE kindergartens tap on sector-wide early intervention provisions such as the Development Support, Learning Support and Development Support-Plus programmes.

The type of support, which is provided once or twice a week, varies according to each kid’s needs.

Learning support educators and therapists help kids with language and literacy needs, and give psychological support to those with behavioural needs.

These help kids transition into mainstream classrooms.

Assistive technologies, like for hearing needs, also feature in MOE kindergartens such as MK@Mayflower.

And MOE’s psychologists work with MOE kindergartens, identifying kindergartener needs and from here developing in-class strategies which support them.

“While the majority of children with developmental needs will progress to mainstream primary schools, MOE educational psychologists will also make recommendations to special education for the small proportion of children better supported in a SPED (Special Education) school,” said Minister Gan.

These schools offer learning pathways for kids with needs ranging from multiple disabilities (MD), moderate to severe intellectual disability (MSID) to autism with no intellectual impairment.

Continuous mental health support for primary school students

As for keeping children happy and well-adjusted, the number of primary school students requiring mental health support has remained stable over the last five years.

“In particular: last year, the number was about 16 per 1,000 students,” said MOS Gan.

“Some of these students may require counselling support even after they graduate from primary school,” she acknowledged.

So, school counsellors (at least one to two per primary school) and parents work together in extending counselling to the child at his or her new school.

“With the parents’ consent, information such as the strategies to support the child and his challenges will be shared with the receiving school,” she said.  

“Such information will be managed sensitively and will only be shared on a need-to-know basis,” she emphasised.

Providing continuous care while balancing between medical confidentiality and respecting the wishes of individuals as well as their parents is needed too, the Minister noted.

So, MOE is “plugged into” the Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being and discussing how best to do this.  

Parenting, frankly, is a tough road even at the best of times, and the PAP Government is committed to having families walk down it in harmony.

Cover photo credit: PCF