A Closer Look at the Special Education Needs and Disability Sector

Written by on June 5, 2024

Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) have, for a long time, been a major hindrance to education. Hence, the SEND Sector has been working assiduously to address the diverse learning needs which can pose a challenge to receiving an education.

Overview

Keon Cheong, Assistant Chief Education Officer – Special Education Needs

Keon Cheong, Assistant Chief Education Officer with responsibility for Special Education Needs, explained that the SEND sector has three main divisions:

  • The SEND Unit at the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD)
  • The Regional SEND Diagnostic and Treatment Centre
  • The Regional SEND Offices

The SEND Unit at the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD)

SEND Unit, National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD)

The SEND Unit at NCERD is responsible for developing resources and strengthening skills of educators and other SEND personnel. This training arm of the sector is critical as teachers, parents and even caregivers of children with special education needs must be knowledgeable about how to deal with these conditions.

The Regional SEND Diagnostic and Treatment Centre

Regional Special Education Needs, Diagnostic and Treatment Centre

The Regional SEND Diagnostic and Treatment Centre is the core of the SEND Sector. Its main function is to identify the category of disability that a learner may have and decide what learning environment is most suitable for them. Depending on the type and level of the disability, the specialists at the Diagnostic and Treatment Centre will advise on whether the learner would be able to thrive in a mainstream setting or if they require special education.

As it relates to treatment, the Centre, which has been in operation since 2017, provides services to address various special education needs and disabilities. Learners can gain access to these services by referral from their schools and from other external organisations like the Georgetown Public Hospital. The Centre also attends to walk-in visitors.

The Regional SEND Offices

The Ministry has issued screening and intervention packets which have enabled more parents and teachers to recognise SEND in their children. These packets provide teachers with the resources to conduct a basic assessment of their students in 15-30 minutes and then implement appropriate teaching strategies. To date, more than 2000 teachers, particularly Nursery Year Two teachers in Regions Two to Six, have been trained to use the screening packet. Thus, there is a greater demand for SEND facilities.

In an effort to extend diagnostic services to communities across the regions, the Ministry has assigned an education officer with responsibility for SEND to each education district. Moreover, additional SEND spaces have been established, taking the number from 13 to 21. This is in an effort to reduce the distance that learners with special education needs have to travel in order to gain access to the services they need.

Special Units in Mainstream Schools

ACEO-SEN Cheong clarified that while the sector continues to create more spaces to address SEN, it is not always necessary or advantageous to completely isolate those learners. He explained, “Best practices and literature shows that, if you’ve got a learner with Autism, while we can say that all the children [with autism] need to be in an Autistic setting, if they’re all in one setting and they’re all non-verbal, then they aren’t hearing the language that they need to hear in order to be able to communicate effectively, and that’s the end goal.”

Therefore, in addition to the Special Schools, Cheong explained that the sector is looking to create Special Units in mainstream schools. Depending on the number of learners with special education needs within a catchment area, Special Units will be set aside to cater to their specific learning needs. Cheong further explained that these Units will serve Resident Students who will receive undivided instruction every day from 9AM to 3PM and Pull-Out sessions for Students who will visit the Special Units for particular areas like Reading or Mathematics.

The Special Units will also facilitate learners who are on the Home Programme. Although they are registered in the schools, these learners have physical or medical conditions which, Cheong explained, “present constraints for us at this point in time as a Ministry for facilitating them in the school setting”. However, the Ministry monitors these learners and supports them by dispatching therapists and educators to their homes who will provide their parents and guardians with educational materials and offer recommendations. The Special Units will allow the students on the Home Programme to access even more support from the Ministry.

What is SEN’s Ultimate goal?

According to ACEO-SEN Cheong, the SEN sector’s ultimate goal is to ensure that education is accessible by providing spaces, resources and opportunities for learners with Special Education Needs and Disabilities. To learn more about the SEND sector and its services contact the Regional Special Education Needs/Disability Diagnostic & Treatment Centre on 222-2018.

Written by Carlene Samuel


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