Limits to integrating special needs kids in regular schools

The integration of special needs students into regular schools, at its best, can be wonderful (Education lessons for S'pore from Finnish inclusivity; Nov 15).

However, it does not work for all students.

Special needs children may have learning disabilities, problems regulating their emotions or mental health issues.

Integrating them into regular schools may add to teachers' workload as well as make the work of teachers more complicated and stressful as they may be hard-pressed to meet the needs of all their students.

Even though schools could have psychologists, therapists and social workers to help those who are in need of assistance, it is a matter of resources as well as how such staff are spread out in schools.

How many hours each week are considered sufficient to help teachers in the classroom?

What if most of the days of these specialists are devoted to just calming the classroom down?

According to Finnish news website YLE, even Finland's OAJ teachers' union is concerned about how teachers are coping with the additional work and stress because their current special needs teacher resources do not meet the demands of current student populations.

Most special needs children do better in a self-contained atmosphere.

Children with intellectual impairments have different educational needs and need to learn basic life skills, and to have them struggling in a classroom with other peers will not benefit them.

The special needs groups require a different teaching style suited to their level of learning and they may not be at their full potential in regular classes.

The Government needs to realise that teachers cannot possibly cater to all varieties of disability in classrooms that already contain a host of individuals of differing needs and abilities.

Pushing for inclusion at all costs would mean there are fewer special schools which have the training and resources required to best help children with needs not suited to the mainstream.

Special needs students are individuals who cannot be lumped together. Some may fit into mainstream schools while others may not.

Inclusion in theory is a fair system but there also comes a point when parents must accept that their child is affecting the well-being of other children and teaching staff.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2018, with the headline 'Limits to integrating special needs kids in regular schools'. Print Edition | Subscribe