Learning to handle kids with special needs
Mum takes master's in special educational needs to understand daughter's condition better
When she was five, she watched a documentary on volcanic eruptions during her science enrichment class and it affected her so much that she just shut down.
Her worried mother learnt that her daughter has asynchronous development, which means that the girl's cognitive, emotional and physical abilities are developing at different rates.
Determined to understand her daughter's struggles, Madam Ng Cher Khee, 40, took a master's degree in special education needs, from which she recently graduated.
DEVOTED MUM: Madam Ng Cher Khee (above). TNP PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG
Speaking about what happened to her daughter, who is now seven, Madam Ng told The New Paper: "The thought of the amount of destruction the volcanoes made concerned her so much that she shut down and asked to be left alone."
It was an emotional overload for the girl, Ashlyn Soh Yu Xuan, who is sensitive to certain triggers.
On the cognitive front, her condition means that it is harder for Ashlyn to stay engaged in class, as she grasps concepts earlier than her classmates.
Ashlyn's staggered learning caused moments of frustration for Madam Ng, who now has a better grasp of what it takes to manage her.
On Wednesday, Madam Ng was one of four students in a pioneering batch who graduated with a Master of Arts in Special Educational Needs from DAS Academy.
The academy is the training arm of the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS), which also offers courses not related to dyslexia, the learning difficulty that affects a person's skills in reading and spelling.
Madam Ng, who home-schools Ashlyn, said: "It helped me to look out for signs in her body language for what is too much for her."
For example, Ashlyn would start fidgeting if something was wrong. Sometimes, she also shuts down when she is tired.
But if she rests for too long, Madam Ng will encourage her to be active and will take her out for a swim or go cycling.
Now Madam Ng aims to help other parents and children with different learning needs.
Fellow graduate and course mate, Ms Christina Chia, 52, a literary support specialist, said the master's degree gave her deeper insights into the challenges her students face and how to better equip them with coping strategies.
Ms June Siew, head of DAS Academy, spoke to TNP about its new master's degree, saying: "There is an increase in demand for special needs training and this is our response to that demand.
"It is jointly delivered by teachers with practical experience from the University of South Wales and DAS Academy."
In a press statement, DAS said there are about 18,000 students in mainstream schools in Singapore who have mild special education needs, with dyslexia forming the largest group.
Mr Terrence Woo, 53, a special needs officer at Shuqun Secondary School, said: "Sometimes, due to dyslexia, a child who enters secondary school finds that he cannot catch up with his peers. Because of that, he loses interest and gives up on reading altogether."
MrWoo recently earned a Diploma in Special Education (Dyslexia) for Allied Educators from DAS Academy.
In total, 92 students graduated on Wednesday from DAS Academy's courses in special education needs.
To the graduates, Ms Siew said: "The next 10 years is for you to shape how perceptions, how attitudes will change...
"But most fundamentally, we do not choose this for the prestige, nor to climb the corporate ladder.
"Instead, we want to work with children with unrealised potential, to give them a fair chance to succeed in life."
The thought of the amount of destruction the volcanoes made concerned her so much that she shut down and asked to be left alone.
- Madam Ng Cher Khee on her daughter's condition, asynchronous development
DEVOTED MUM: Madam Ng Cher Khee (right) and with her daughter Ashlyn Soh Yu Xuan (left). PHOTOS: COURTESY OF MADAM NG CHER KHEE