The choice of school for children with special educational needs (SEN) depends on the degree of educational support required.
For children with mild SEN and adequate abilities to learn in a large-group setting, the parent can consider sending their child to a mainstream local or international school. However, not all schools are ready to accept children with SEN. Thus, parents should check with the mainstream school on their admission criteria before applying to the school.
Besides mainstream schools, there are also Special Education (SPED) schools and specialized schools. These schools typically focused on the special needs students who are unable to study in a mainstream school environment and require special attention from teachers.
Mainstream schools, such as Integrated International School and Dover Court International School, offer an inclusive education environment for the student with mild SEN. The special needs student attends the same class as the mainstream students. Some of the mainstream school also has a satellite partnership with a SPED school. For selected academic subjects, SPED school students may join their peers in mainstream classrooms.
In mainstream schools, supplementary support is also provided for students with special needs. For instance, additional tailor-made lessons are provided for children with minor learning disabilities such as dyslexia and ADHD. Some schools even have on-site specialists including special-needs teachers, educational psychologists, and language therapists.
For certain cases, mainstream schools may advise engaging a shadow teacher to provide one-to-one support for a special-needs student. These teachers often focus on the social development of the child and any particular difficulties that the child faced. As these teachers provide dedicated attention to the child, the cost could an extra few thousand dollars. This could be prohibitive for the parents.
Special Education (SPED) schools
There are 19 government-funded SPED schools run by 12 social service organizations. These schools have SEN-friendly facilities such as soundproof rooms, specialized kitchens and hydrotherapy pools specially catered to children with special educational needs. The classes are small in size and allow teachers to provide more attention to each student.
These SPED schools run programs specifically catered to children with SEN. As students with SEN have unique learning needs, Individualised Educational Plans (IEPs) are drawn up for every student. This serves to provide customized attention and learning objectives for each student. The child also receives holistic support from allied health professionals such as psychologists and therapists, as well as social workers.
With support from government funding, these schools provide high-quality education for children with special needs. Unfortunately, the spaces available in these schools are often limited and they are mostly catered for the locals. There is a long waiting list especially for foreigners and even Permanent Residents.
Specialized schools often focused on educating children with special needs up to an early age. This is to address the challenges associated with special needs as early as possible. For instance, KidzRock International Preschool offers the Carolina Curriculum for Preschoolers with Special Needs. This is an early intervention program designed for children up to 5 years old and focused on five major domains: cognition, communication, social adaptation, fine motor, and gross motor skills. Another school is the Mighty Oaks Learning Centre. It focuses on children aged 3 to 6 years with developmental challenges. Mighty Oaks uses a program based on the DIR/ Floortime approach and the Learning Tree Model to equip children with the skills needed for mainstream school.
For a wider age group, parents can consider sending their child to schools such as Melbourne Specialist International School (MSIS) and Genesis School for Special Education. MSIS utilized a performing and visual arts-inspired curriculum and therapy programs which helps to better engage the students. Genesis School is a family-oriented school that focused on areas such as Social-Emotional Development, Fine/Gross Motor Skills, Cognitive/Academic Skills