Zero to 12: Supporting children with additional learning needs
Nurturing: It was probably having a brother with autism that ignited Marie Turner’s passion in working with children with additional learning needs. She particularly noticed the way his specialist teachers developed a strong rapport with the children. The benefits of getting to know the students as individuals and creating a learning program to specifically cater to the students’ needs were clearly visible. “This transformation inspired me choose a career path in special education” says Turner.
That was more than 35 years ago. Today, Turner holds numerous qualifications in education, music and additional learning needs education and has worked at the Western Autistic School in Australia since 1998. She established a specialist unit for children with high-functioning autism and Asperger Syndrome, along with additional pervasive behaviour disorders (co-morbidity), for primary school students. Turner says that many children with Autism Spectrum Disorders are not able to cope in regular schools without the support and understanding from those in management to teaching staff.
Often parents do not realise their child has an autism spectrum disorder. Recent studies have indicated that approximately 1 in 88 children have this disorder, yet in Malaysia most children are not diagnosed. Symptoms can include poor communication skills, difficulties in making and maintaining friends, developing organisational skills, understanding emotions, being involved in age-appropriate activities and managing themselves appropriately in challenging situations.
It is possible, with the correct intervention and support from an early age, that these symptoms can be reduced. Many people with high-functioning autism and Asperger Syndrome learn to develop skills to cope with the wider community. They can graduate from educational institutions, gain meaningful employment and live independent, fulfilled lives.
Nilai International School in Negri Sembilan, is an inclusive school where students are provided with the support they require to access the excellent curriculum of IGCSE. The support team is headed by Turner, who along with her teaching team, tailor-make Individual Learning Programmes in partnership with parents with the aim of providing the best possible research-based, holistic program for each student to reach their full potential.
Nilai International School provides the facilities and the highly experienced staff to effectively support and nurture children confronted by the challenges associated with an autism spectrum disorder.
Inclusive education allows all students the opportunity to learn without the binds of discrimination. It provides the platform for students of different abilities, cultures, religions and nationalities to recognise the diversity of our global community. The students learn understanding, respect and acceptance of themselves and each other in a nurturing and challenging environment. Research has highlighted the increased promotion of communication, interpersonal and social skills while promoting various social values including respect and equality.
The students work on interest-based activities and joint projects together with the support staff. Their latest project is organising a fun fair to celebrate the end of the academic year.
“Projects such as the fun fair help enhance communication, interpersonal, problem-solving and organisational skills, which need to be taught in fun and interesting ways, says Turner. “These activities also help build up self-confidence and provides the students the opportunity and platform to excel”.