Singapore may be small, but when it comes to schools, therapy centres and organisations for children with special needs or those who just need to learn in a different way, there are some good options. But it can be tough to research, especially when you’re considering moving your family here. So, we’ve pulled together a roundup of specialists. Here are some of the best available programmes and therapy for kids with learning difficulties, from early intervention programmes and special education schools to therapy centres and support groups for parents.
Integrated International School
The team at Integrated International School strongly believe that children are entitled to quality and enriching education, and that each child should feel like they’re an important member of the community. They know that children are able to achieve success if their learning style is understood, and challenged fairly and appropriately using an approach that suits their individual personality and abilities. Support services include a multidisciplinary team of behavioural therapists, counsellors, psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists. They work closely and collaboratively with teachers to design Individualised Education Plans (IEPs) for students.
The school caters to individual needs. For instance, if a child has messy handwriting, therapy may include multi-sensory techniques. Or, if he or she struggles to focus on certain tasks, the therapist might have the child do full-body exercises before starting work. There are also specially designed facilities and high-tech tools such as the Ocean Snoezelen Room, Occupational Therapy Jungle Gym and the ForBrain auditory feedback headset.
Melbourne Specialist International School
Melbourne Specialist International School caters for children aged three to 21 years with special needs. Making use of a child-centred visual and performing arts programme, literacy, numeracy and living skills are taught using concrete learning experiences in dance, drama, music and visual arts to keep students engaged. The school has also started a new Early Intervention Programme with White Lodge International Preschool, allowing children with additional needs to attend preschool alongside their peers in an inclusive learning environment.
Besides this, there’s a wide range of therapies and programmes available. These include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and physical education. Older ones go on field trips around the neighbourhood and can enrol in pre-vocational training. For instance, they can work at a Loewen Gardens cafe or as teaching assistants at White Lodge. The school organises sessions with parents who need professional advice from the school’s therapists and psychologists. There are also monthly family fun days for parents to mingle.
The Winstedt School
At Winstedt, every aspect of the school – from timetables to homework – is purpose-built for students who learn differently. This begins with the admissions process. Potential students spend three days at school to ensure it’s a good fit for both the student and the school community (before parents pay any fees). During the trial, the team looks at all aspects of a student’s development, rather than just age, before placing them in a suitable class.
Learning support at Winstedt isn’t about pull-out sessions or extra tutoring. Instead, the school personalises the British curriculum around how each student thinks and learns, differentiating instruction in the classroom. This is possible because each class has a maximum of 15 students with two qualified teachers. Teachers receive ongoing training in teaching approaches such as Orton-Gillingham, while the on-site therapy and pastoral care departments provide integrated support for those who need it. In addition, individual student strategies are continuously refined and shared across the school. The school also provides workshops to help parents reinforce skills at home. This whole-school, whole-student approach facilitates academic progress without sacrificing quality.
Dover Court International School
Dover Court International School places a huge focus on inclusivity. It understands that students have different needs and learn at a different pace. The school offers four differentiated learning options to accommodate this. Pathway 1 offers a mainstream classroom experience while Pathways 2 to 4 give students increasing levels of support, including smaller class sizes and therapy programmes. The school’s learning approach aligns closely with the English National Curriculum, with adaptations to meet the needs of students, whether it’s short-term intervention or more structured ongoing support. All students in the school’s Supportive Education programme are given an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) and the appropriate support and therapy sessions are coordinated.
There is a Parents’ Support Network that meets once a month in the school. It’s not run by the school itself, but is a great opportunity for parents to meet and share experiences. The school’s therapists and specialist teachers also run regular parent workshops, focusing on practical strategies and other relevant topics.
Academic life coach Marion Choy from Nurturing Nature helps students improve their academic performance. This is whether they are gifted, have learning challenges or are falling behind. Marion also helps children (Primary to University levels) transitioning across different countries, schools and curriculums. She teaches study tools and life skills that can help students manage stress and build self-motivation. In her customised programme, Marion makes use of two main approaches: John Andrew William’s Academic Life Coaching programme and Gretchen Wegner’s Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.
Before officially starting, there’s a complimentary introductory session for parents and the student. This allows Marion to learn more about the student’s issues and to make a plan. Subsequently, she will work with the student to ensure responsibilities are met (including planning for homework to be done and tests to prepare for) while working on skills (such as anti-procrastination tools and motivation styles). Sessions can be conducted in person, or over Skype or Zoom, and parents will get weekly updates.
Nutritious ’N Delicious
Functional medicine and culinary nutritionist Karin G Reiter of Nutritious ’N Delicious believes that nutrition can play a part in helping children who are facing learning challenges. While nutrition is not the only solution as there are many root causes, it can be a good start to helping your child.
Whether it’s concentration, anxiety, ADHD, ADD, mood, behaviour or other brain-related conditions, Karin can help create a personalised nutrition plan for your child. Besides simple hacks like avoiding artificial ingredients, eating organic whole foods, focusing on movement, sleep and stress relief, she will investigate using additional tools such as blood tests, food intolerance tests and stool tests for a more comprehensive approach. During the consultation, she’ll discuss with the parents and child about main areas that need improvement and create an individualised plan. The plan includes changes to their diet (menu plans and recipes), supplements and herbs that she believes can help their health and, in turn, learning.
Psych Connect offers various services that cater to a range of learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and nonverbal learning disorder. Support services are also available for other conditions that impact learning. These include ADHD, autism, language disorders, mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, executive functioning difficulties and performance anxiety. To begin, the centre conducts psycho-educational and diagnostic assessments to find out the challenges the child faces and what contributes to them. This allows them to customise the best treatment approach. The centre’s team of psychologists and therapists also work with the child’s school to create a specific treatment plan. They believe all key stakeholders in the child’s life need to collaborate to get an effective outcome.
The specialist psychology clinic not only offers educational therapy (targeting underlying skills that affect learning) but also other support services. These include speech and language therapy and occupational therapy. Occupational therapy services are mobile and family centred and can be done at the clinic, the child’s school or home.
Kaleidoscope Therapy Centre
Ready Lets Go is Kaleidoscope Therapy Centre’s early intervention programme for children aged two to five years. It’s designed to address the skills that are necessary for young children to attend preschool. These include emotional regulation, paying attention, communicating, socialising with peers and performing simple tasks. Students receive daily speech and occupational therapy in order to address their individual needs. Sessions start with one-on-one support, followed by children being placed in small groups with others of similar levels when ready.
The centre also offers occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, educational support and educational psychology services. Educational psychologists help to investigate learning needs through consults with parents and teachers, observations and psycho-educational assessments to evaluate IQ, strengths and weaknesses. This allows them to come up with a suitable treatment approach to help the learning and development of the child, including practical steps to take in the classroom or referrals for other therapies.
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