Parents of children with special needs better prepared for HBL this time

Yesterday was the last school day for children as home-based learning kicks in from today.
Yesterday was the last school day for children as home-based learning kicks in from today. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Parents of children with special needs said they are more prepared this time for managing space at home or getting to grips with technology during home-based learning (HBL) this year, having learnt from their experiences during the circuit breaker a year ago.

Nonetheless, administrative executive Lin Tan, 46, said she felt some panic when she heard the announcement, although she was already expecting schools to move to HBL. She has two sons - a 13-year-old with mild autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and an 11-year-old with moderate ASD.

She said: "HBL was terrible last year because it was new. I was scrambling for space to set up a study area for my children. As he was unable to go out, my younger boy became bored and frustrated.

"My children and I were all clustered together in the living room, and when he had meltdowns, it really became like a war zone."

Mrs Tan added that it was tough to help her younger son, who needs more physical guidance and hands-on learning, when she had her own work to do: "Out of 20 worksheets that his school prepared and sent him, he and I could finish only five."

But she thinks HBL will be better this year as it is for a shorter period, and she plans to just do what she can. "I recognise I cannot do as much for my children without having to sacrifice my work. Other parents I know share similar issues, but are exhausted and do not wish to push their kids too hard either.

"Now, we more or less know what to do," she said.

Homemaker Christina Yu, 50, has a daughter, 16, who has Down syndrome and is studying at APSN Tanglin School. The teenager will be sitting the Workplace Literacy and Numeracy assessment - a major exam - this year.

Madam Yu said: "My daughter needs a lot of prompting and reminders from her teachers. Last year, assignments were given on the website, MC Online. My daughter would finish them in an hour and have nothing to do for the rest of the school day. This time, there will be more online learning via Zoom, so I am glad there will be communication with the teacher."

She said that at home, her daughter is less inclined to focus on schoolwork, much less follow her instructions. With lessons conducted via Zoom, she can be less involved and her daughter will also get to see her friends in class.

Madam Ann Sim, 43, a freelance music teacher, said she, too, feels more prepared than she was last year. Her eldest son, 13, who has ASD, is taking the Primary School Leaving Examination.

A big source of stress last year came from having to familiarise herself with the technology and guide her child through technical issues. But she said: "My son will also try and be more independent this year, logging online and navigating websites without my help."

She added: "I feel that my husband and I micro-managed our kids too much, and that brings a lot of unnecessary stress. So, this time, I will just adjust and let go."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2021, with the headline Parents of children with special needs better prepared for HBL this time. Subscribe