Not every school accepts autistic children, teacher says

By Pearl Lee

PETALING JAYA, April 3 — The move by the Education Ministry to ensure children with autism are not discriminated against is a step in the right direction, but it should be looked at holistically.

A teacher, who has an autistic child, said while sending teachers for training on how to deal and teach students with autism was the way forward, it can only work if the school administrators were onboard.

She said while she was advised by teachers her son was able to join a normal school, the school’s headmistress thought otherwise.

“The headmistress told us we should send my son to a better school. She even made us sign a letter stating we will not hold the school responsible in the event something untoward happened to our son,” said the teacher, who requested anonymity. 

“My son was turned down because the headmistress was afraid he was going to jump down from the building.” 

The teacher decided to enroll her son in a school which offered a special education integrated programme in which there are dedicated classes for such students.

“It’s a normal school but there is a special class for children with disabilities,” she said.

“There are some schools where teachers close the classroom doors to ensure the children do not run out of the classroom. Some assign teachers to accompany these children in the canteen during recess.”

She said as someone within the system, she understood the limitations faced by teachers who were not equipped with special skills to teach children with special needs.

“You cannot blame teachers for not being able to handle these children if they have not been trained,” the teacher said. 

“Not everyone knows how to deal with a child with moderate or severe autism as special attention is required for different levels of autism.”

She said students should also be thought how to treat those who were autistic.

“Students must be thought how to deal with children with autism. They should not be discriminated against. Educators play a big role to ensure these special children are not left out,” she said.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan had said on Saturday the ministry was drafting a blueprint to ensure existing and future teachers were equipped with essential knowledge and skills to teach children with autism.

The plan is expected to be finalised early next year.

He said the ministry was also formulating a structure, including making it a requirement for future teachers to take up the special needs education subject during the course of their training to help them understand and handle autistic children better.