Last 27th April, members of our HeadStart family attended an Early Intervention Conference entitled Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s Reality. The conference imagines ways to embrace every person into one community and to weave every community into one nation. Here are some of the insights shared during the conference:
While the world pushes for societal inclusion, various organizations and stakeholders had come together brainstorming and collaborating to better improve on the current landscape of early intervention in Singapore. Mr. Desmond Lee, Minister of Social and Family Development, advocates in achieving better outcomes towards inclusive environment through early efforts and close partnership of the government and the early intervention community. Singapore government empathizes the need to better support the following:
(1) differentiated developmental needs of children with special needs
(2) addressing the early intervention support in the mainstream settings
(3) tracking progress and standardization of measurements
(4) supporting parents and caregivers
(5) strengthening practitioners skills
If inclusion doesn’t happen while they are young, then inclusion won’t happen in the society.
According to Dr. Ilene Schwartz, a Professor of Education at the University of Washington in Seattle and one of the key speakers of the conference, inclusion is not a place but a celebration of diversity put into action where everyone participates actively and feels successful. She also specifies the features of inclusion with these three conditions – access, participation, and support.
Do we have the environment that is physically accessible? Do we offer multiple, varied learning opportunities?
What are the needs of the individual? How independent or active is the participant? Do we use adaptation in terms of physical means, social means, and range of instructional practices?
Do we have the infrastructures, professional development, and policies from the government leaders to allow us to support inclusion and think differently?
What is the collaborative why of moving towards inclusion?
– Dr. Ilene Schwartz
The value of educational experience goes beyond the mere acquisition of transient skills but rather holistically developing the child towards life-long development, drivers of their own learning process, and positive and productive contributors of the society. However, a broader perspective of inclusion should not only focused on education, but rather on education leading them to employment.
A shift in the early intervention scene brings its vision to improve the quality of life of children and families through shared accountability. With functional outcomes implemented in our teaching practices, early intervention goals focus more on children to interact with the environment and to become independent in the process of their lives and living. This becomes more meaningful in optimizing the natural learning opportunities in the daily flow of their lives. Functional outcomes are successful with the application of the early intervention pillars:
The ultimate purpose of education is to prepare the child for life.
To prepare the child to face the challenges of living in a complex knowledge-based world, the research community from the Early Intervention conference made us realize that there is a need to –nurture Singaporean adults with disabilities with a society that knows and accepts them. In fact, with a campaign for inclusion, drafting of government policies that support equality and equity not only in school but also in the employment or workplace aims for a stronger accountability.
With the functional approach and shared goals, we learn more about what it means to have special needs and get the public to be more conscious about these issues. Different stakeholders can gradually identify some of these issues and find ways to help improve quality and standards of life for individuals and families with disabilities.
Moreover, there is so much work that needs to be done. By and large though, empathy is an asset.
With the children’s best interest in mind, many of the issues solved because of a patient mentor, parent, or leader. We can start by having a good student-teacher/ child-parent relationship. Eventually, having established genuine empathy for the child does not only increase positive outcomes but also help the child to become more engaged in learning and participating in other areas of their lives. Hope to see you back at HeadStart for Life’s blog real soon!