Integration tough at first but has long-term dividends

Segregation or integration of children with disabilities in education is a long-standing debate with no quick fix (Limits to integrating special needs kids in regular schools, by Mr Cheng Choon Fei; Nov 20).

Mr Cheng's argument for segregation is one that prioritises the needs of one group over another.

The Disabled People's Association disagrees with this as it is debatable whether integration of children with disabilities will harm the well-being of teachers and impede students' learning.

While we agree teachers may have a lot to deal with, the situation may well apply to teaching as a whole rather than due to the challenges of integration.

Currently the education system expects children with disabilities to cope with the national curriculum with accommodations or support.

If they are unable to do so, they are streamed into special education schools.

Rather than trying to retrofit accessibility into an existing education system, which can be difficult, wouldn't it be better to look at how we can overhaul the system to be beneficial to all children?

Universal design is good for everyone, not just the disabled.

No integration effort is without initial difficulties, but it can reap long-term dividends for the society at large if done correctly with the necessary support at three levels as in Finland's education system: general support for all children, intensive support for children with mild or undiagnosed special needs and special support for children with moderate to severe special needs.

The dividends include children with and without disabilities learning collaboration, social skills and social sensitivity as they interact with peers who are different from them in abilities, whether these are physical, sensory, intellectual or mental.

Chang-Tang Siew Ngoh (Mrs)

Honorary Secretary

Disabled People's Association