Supporting Neurodiverse Students in Learning Centres
Schools need not aim to be inclusive, but develop education specific specialities that offer essential educational learning environments and curriculum solutions to help teachers transform more than classrooms. It is ideal to be inclusive, but educational consultant, Carean Oh, believes in doing what one is best at, to be effective. If a teacher has a talent in teaching children with learning needs, or if a school sees that its curriculum can benefit such children, steps can be taken to modify its course delivery and structure, or pace and scope, to help these children learn.
In 2000, Carean Oh taught a kid called Julie*, who studied in a reputable school in Singapore. I could not understand why Julie was so much weaker than her peers. She would always score low marks for her class spelling. Offering to visit the kid at home for extra private lessons, the young teacher found herself being introduced to a new term: Dyslexia. She realised the kid was very bright, but her performance was impeded and her confidence battered by learning issues. From then on, Carean Oh’s interest in teaching these kids developed. When she was offered a place by the Ministry of Education, she found opportunities to help quite a few children. Say Cheng, an autistic child, was so hurt by his friend’s comments and threatened to jump off the second floor of the school building as they teased him about his poor English in school. She managed to comfort him and took him in by herself for counselling. But Carean felt inadequate and untrained in such aspects of education. Hence, this encouraged her to take up extra courses to help these children. Today, having founded her own private English school at Writers Studio, Carean works with special needs children to help them cope in the mainstream schools. Higher functioning children join mainstream schools but not many are able to cope well with conventional learning in schools. This is where Carean helps to play a significant role – to help them cope better by applying different teaching methodologies, mentoring and confidence building.
Carean Oh had also been trained to teach gifted children by the Ministry of Education. As for managing gifted children, it had been by appointment initially. She was a GEP test administrator in school, hence she had to be trained in managing these children. It was very fun and interesting to her. The possibilities of teaching these prodigies were immense. But what was interesting was that being ‘gifted’ does not preclude a ‘non-gifted’ student from being labelled as ‘gifted’ one day. Many parents believe in hothousing their children. There have been ways that she and her team had succeeded in housing a child. The formula worked but they have to start early. When kids enter a gifted education stream, it is also possible to maintain their scores through methods that Carean’s team have developed.
Because of her teaching experience and background, Carean Oh has always worked well with both students who have special needs. Many parents specially send their children with health conditions to her classes (whom she teaches on a 1-1 basis). Such students must be handled with care. Her teachers tend to be very careful and communicate much with these children’s parents before and after the English lessons. At the centre, her teachers who are more experienced are usually assigned to these children. No shortcuts are taken since she dedicates special teams of staff to assist the parents in terms of logistics, emergencies and arranging review sessions with teachers. Without these, it is very hard for a parent to trust their special kids to a teacher outside of home. The effort to care for these students can seem very tedious but Carean Oh sees this as a blessing, an opportunity to help these children.
In Writers Studio where she teaches and provides her educational consultancy, she believes that as a teacher, she should not choose who to teach, if she is professional and genuine to her vocation. This line pretty much sums up her passion for educating young minds.