Development of Early Intervention sector and Training of mainstream preschool teachers
10 September 2018
Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) whether a central developmental authority should be set up to support the early intervention sector to improve coordination, collaboration and resource allocation; and (b) whether there are plans to train mainstream preschool teachers to work with children with special needs.
1. The Disability Office within the Ministry of Social and Family Development coordinates the planning, development, resourcing and service delivery of programmes for persons with disabilities, including Early Intervention services. The Disability Office works closely with the hospitals, polyclinics and preschools, for the timely detection of children with developmental needs. The Office also works closely with the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), SG Enable, Voluntary Welfare Organisation (VWO) providers of early intervention services, and with preschools to provide early intervention services to children with developmental needs, and caregiver training for their families.
2. The Ministry also oversees service management for early intervention services to ensure that service standards are met. It also works with key partners, including the National Council of Social Service and Institutes of Higher Learning, to support the early intervention sector through coordinating manpower planning, capability development for early intervention professionals and setting salary guidelines.
3. All early childhood educators are trained in the development milestones of young children. As part of their pre-service training, they are also introduced to various forms of special needs in young children, including cognitive, behavioural, emotional and sensory characteristics. They are also briefed on the availability of community resources and professionals that provide support for these children.
4. In line with their training, early childhood educators who notice a child falling behind his/her development milestones will advise parents to bring the child to a Polyclinic or GP for referral to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) or to the National University Hospital (NUH) Child Development Programme for further assessment.
5. ECDA has also worked with educational institutes and training providers to offer Continuing Professional Development modular courses to existing early childhood educators to be equipped with further skills to better support children with a range of developmental needs.
6. In addition, early childhood educators may take up the Advanced Diploma in Early Childhood Intervention (Special Needs) or the Specialist Diploma in Early Childhood Learning Support at National Institute of Early Childhood Development campus to gain specialised knowledge and skills to identify and work with children with additional needs. The Specialist Diploma will allow early childhood educators to become Learning Support Educators (LSEds), who are able to identify children with developmental needs in relation to their peers, and to deliver the appropriate intervention in the preschool setting, also known as the Learning Support (LS) and Development Support (DS) programmes. LS and DS are Government-funded early intervention programmes for children with mild developmental needs and provide targeted short-term support through LSEds and therapists in the preschools. LSEds also collaborate with the main early childhood educators of the classes in preschools to adapt teaching methods and activities to better engage children with mild development needs in the classroom. This is critical in sustaining the progress made by the child after the interventions.
7. Over the next four years, MSF will expand LS and DS to more preschools and build up a pool of 200 LSEds to provide targeted intervention and learning support for children with developmental needs in preschools. This will support more early childhood educators in the care and education for their children.