2019 is the year that the Ministry of Education makes their ‘zero reject’ policy compulsory. Their aim is to ensure every child with disabilities gets a proper education and suitable accommodations for their learning.
There are a few special education options currently available in Malaysia:
- Special Education Schools solely dedicated to educating children with disabilities
- Special Education Integrated Programmes, where children with disabilities and abled children are educated in separate classes within the same school
- Inclusive Education Programmes, where children with disabilities are placed in the same classes as abled students.
- Private schooling, which may provide varying levels of accommodations for students with disabilities.
As inclusive mainstream education begins to strengthen in Malaysia, it can still be a challenge for parents to find the right school for their child with disabilities. Here are a few important steps that you can take to make the process easier, clearer and more helpful.
Identify the needs of the child
Does your son need extra time to complete exams? Does your daughter need a classroom helper? Are there any special programs that will benefit your child? List down and prioritise what the child needs to succeed and thrive in school, then look for places that will fit the bill. Be honest with the school regarding these issues. This will help prevent future stress when they discover your child has needs that they are not equipped to meet.
Find supportive programs
Different schools may provide different programs that cater to specific issues. Focus on your child’s strong points and interests, and look for the programs that can support them. More importantly, ensure that the school will educate them and prepare them for interacting with society.
Look at the school’s facilities
Some questions you should ask while evaluating the school’s facilities are:
- What equipment do they have?
- Are all the rooms accessible?
- What kinds of therapy spaces are available, if they are available?
- How many classrooms are there? How big are they?
- How many children are there in each class?
Study the staff
The teaching staff, counsellors and therapists at the school will be part of your team, making sure that your child receives the quality education they deserve. Look up their credentials and take note of the following:
- Do they have the proper certification?
- What experience do they have with handling children with disabilities?
- What are their policies, and do I agree with them?
Seek support systems and services
Look into any added services and support system the school might provide. Consider what they can offer to support not just your child, but also you and the rest of the family.
Get in touch
It’s important to maintain clear lines of communication between you and your family and the school, even before your child enrols. Consider:
- Is it easy to find their contact details?
- Do they respond promptly to enquiries?
- Does the response actually answer your question?
Visit the school
A physical visit will help you and the school assess how good of a fit you are. Ask questions, observe the environment, including classes and teachers, and see how accessible both staff and administrators are. You will be able to decide more easily if the school is a place where your child can succeed and thrive.
Some questions you might want to ask include:
- How will you deal with particular behaviours from my child?
- What behaviour management plans do you have in place?
- How will you update me on how my child is doing? How often will you update me? How many people will be contacting me?
- How are medications, injuries and sickness handled at the school?
- What is your student-teacher ratio?
- Do you have co-curriculum or afterschool programs?
- (for an integrated or inclusive school) How do your general education and special education teachers work together?
By keeping these items in mind, your child with disabilities has a better chance of enjoying their education and getting the most benefits out of it – whatever the kind of learning institution you choose.
Ami N., APR, MA (2018) 11 Tips For Selecting A School For Your Child With Special Needs [Accessed: 2 Jan 2019] Available at: https://www.eparent.com/education/11-tips-for-selecting-a-school-for-your-child-with-special-needs/
Ayanna C., M.D., Ph.D, FAPA (2014) Choosing a Special Needs School [Accessed: 2 Jan 2019] Available at: https://www.sheppardpratt.org/special-education-services/choosing-special-needs-school
Director General of Education, Ministry of Education (2017) Special Education Malaysia [Accessed: 2 Jan 2019] Available at: http://rotary3300.org/INCLUSIVE%20%20EDUCATION%20PRESENTATION.pdf
Geri C.T. (2019) Checklist: What to Look For on a Grade School Visit [Accessed: 2 Jan 2019] Available at: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/choosing-starting-school/finding-right-school/checklist-what-to-look-for-on-a-grade-school-visit
Melinda R. (2017) Finding A Special Education Needs School [Accessed: 2 Jan 2019] Available at: https://www.expatriatelifestyle.com/education/Finding-A-Special-Education-Needs-School-Malaysia
Michaela S. (2016) Top 10 Things to Look for in a School for a Special Needs Child [Accessed: 2 Jan 2019] Available at: https://childmind.org/article/top-10-things-to-look-for-in-a-school-for-a-special-needs-child/
Ministry of Education (2019) Special Education FAQ [Accessed: 2 Jan 2019] Available at: https://www.moe.gov.my/index.php/en/soalan-lazim/pendidikan-khas-faq
Muhamad Nadhir A.N., Alfa Nur Aini E.E. (2016) Special education for children with disabilities in Malaysia: Progress and obstacles [Accessed: 2 Jan 2019] Available at: http://journalarticle.ukm.my/10629/1/9.geografia-ogos16-muhdnadhir-edam.pdf
Peter N. (2018) Special Needs Education for Children – Malaysian Overview [Accessed: 2 Jan 2019] Available at: http://www.kiddy123.com/article/special-needs-education-for-children–malaysian-overview.html
The Understood Team (2019) Checklist: What to Look For on a High School Visit [Accessed: 2 Jan 2019] Available at: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/choosing-starting-school/finding-right-school/checklist-what-to-look-for-on-a-high-school-visit
The Understood Team (2019) Checklist: What to Look For on a Middle School Visit [Accessed: 2 Jan 2019] Available at: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/choosing-starting-school/finding-right-school/checklist-what-to-look-for-on-a-middle-school-visit
The Understood Team (2019) Checklist: What to Look For on a Preschool Visit [Accessed: 2 Jan 2019] Available at: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/choosing-starting-school/finding-right-school/checklist-what-to-look-for-on-a-preschool-visit