Changing lives with our Education Support Programme for children with added needs
Updated: Apr 4
Here at Presbyterian Preschool Services (PPS), we believe that each child is a gift, created wonderfully and uniquely in God’s image, capable of learning, growing and glowing. Thus, we endeavour to provide education for children of various backgrounds and learning needs.
What is the Education Support Programme (ESP)? The ESP is a quality educational programme that supports children with developmental needs aged between eighteen months to six years old. Children learn alongside their peers within a regular preschool setting. The programme ensures that each child’s potential is maximised through inclusive learning, a strong home-school partnership and social services where required.
Lessons and activities are modified for children with Special Educational Needs to access, participate and learn meaningfully alongside their typically developing peers to achieve better developmental outcomes.
ESP comprises of:
In-class support during integrated lessons by Educational Support Teachers
Individualised pull-out intervention sessions depending on each child’s needs
Individualised Education Plan (IEP) for each child
Comprehensive Learning Portfolio upon graduation
Enhanced comprehensive curriculum and resources
Home-Support Programme (HSP) for parents
Real-life stories of hope from our Education Support Programme *Names have been changed to maintain anonymity.
Presbyterian Preschool Services exists to share God’s love with the families that come through our doors. We do this by loving and caring for the children as our own; doing anything less than that would be a disservice to them. Read on for a series of heartwarming stories of how our teachers and staff have sought to love our children beyond the confines of the four walls of their classrooms to give them hope to grow and glow. We hope these stories will inspire you to come alongside us as partners to bless our little ones.
Fulfilling a child's longing to go to school just like his twin sister Michael’s* premature birth caused him to be born with a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity, which means that he has an underdeveloped retina. This resulted in him being visually-impaired, which denied him the opportunity to attend school like every other neurotypical child. Given that he is also a non- Singaporean citizen, he was not able to enrol into the existing inclusive programmes recommended via SGenable.
Unlike Michael, his twin sister did not suffer any complications from the early birth. She was thus able to attend preschool since the age of 2, which made Michael wonder why he was not able to go to school with his sister. This left his family feeling bridled with guilt and grief over how one twin would always feel left out. Through the Education Support Programme, PPS managed to provide Michael his first schooling experience, where he is able to participate in lessons and learn alongside his peers through tactile and auditory means. Michael uses braille to learn the alphabet and its sounds and to recognise his name, and also refers to a tactile schedule with pop-up items for him to feel.
In the past 9 months under the ESP, Michael has progressed greatly in terms of self-help skills - the team has managed to assist him with his oral and motor difficulties. Michael is now able to chew his food with minimal gagging and eats school food instead of snacks provided from home. Michael is also toilet trained now and is able to undress and dress himself with minimal assistance. Additionally, it has been heart-warming watching his peers blossom into gentle, caring and others-centered individuals due to his presence. With Michael requiring verbal and physical support, his peers have shown great improvements in their communication skills as well as gentle physical behaviours. They often encourage him during activities and help him with tasks when needed.
Modifying commmunication and learning for a non-verbal student
Daniel* currently is 4 years old and is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. When Daniel started school at PPS 7 months ago, he was having difficulty adapting to the new environment as he is non-verbal and faces multiple sensorial challenges. This pushed the team at AMK to experiment with modifying the environment in small ways that would invite him to be more comfortable and accepting of the school environment. For example, he was given a chair with a resistance band to counter sensory challenges, and a special learning corner was setup where calming items like a windmill, a fidget toy and headphones are available for his use. His teachers also equipped him with alternative ways of communicating with them as well as his peers, such as via concrete items or objects.
In the beginning, he would also refuse to eat anything other than crackers that were brought from home. The team has worked with him consistently in introducing and exposing him to various foods. He has now started to eat the school lunch and this has helped his parents who were hoping that they could get him to eat a wider variety of food.
Over the past few months, Daniel has started participating in school activities and routines actively, and currently shows better awareness to his surroundings and the people around him. Daniel has also begun to be more independent in removing and keeping his shoes, feeding himself, as well as undressing/dressing himself. Helping a child stand on his feet again
When Andrew* first joined our childcare service at 20 months, our teachers noticed that he was always hungry. He also seemed to be smaller in size than the rest of the peers of the same age. During class activities, he would walk unstably, often choosing to crawl instead. During meal and snack times, he was eating slower and lesser than his friends. Eventually they realised it was because he was not able to chew properly.
Andrew would also show up in school without any shoes. This made going for outdoor activities difficult. Participating in indoor motor skills games were also a challenge. This means that instead of participating in those activities meaningfully, he would often end up in the side-lines. One of the first things the teachers came together to do was to buy him two pairs of shoes.
They went above and beyond because this would immediately help him participate in the daily outdoor walks and games! The teachers also received support and training from the Education Support Team to learn exercises they can do with him to improve on Andrew’s core and foot muscles.
However, the team was not content to help him only during the hours he is in school. Partnering with the social worker from Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), they learnt more about Andrew’s family situation. For Andrew, the challenges and tensions his family face at home is still a daily reality. There is more to be desired for his learning environment at home, the partnership between the school, the social worker and the family to support them must still continue, and he has not met all of the milestones the teachers hope he does.
However, he is showing progress in walking independently. He is also eating more healthily, in part due to him regularly attending school. His principal and teachers have also become part of the family’s support system, encouraging them with updates of how Andrew has progressed whenever the opportunities arise.
Going the extra mile to extend care and help
When Winston* first enrolled, the teachers noticed that he was not meeting his age-appropriate milestones. He was not able to participate in activities meaningfully in class, and struggled to socialise and make friends, even though it was clear he wanted to. The teachers believed that he is capable of learning, but he had trouble understanding and following lessons taught and activities conducted.
Over time, he lost interest and would much rather be by himself. The teachers were concerned for him, and also struggled to integrate him into the class he was in.
With the teachers' patient communication and explanation of the importance of bridging Winston’s developmental milestones, his parents sought the consultation of a specialist, who advised that he needed Education Support. This meant that Winston would be joining the Pre-Nursery Class instead of his similarly-aged peers at Kindergarten 1, and that he would also be receiving intervention at Rainbow Centre. Despite the stigma, the team saw it as a win - the earlier the child receives intervention, the more opportunities for him to grow and glow.
As for Winston, communication with his parents and grandparents still require much patience and persistence from his principal and teachers. The Education Support Team also perseveres in reaching out to the family to provide care and support by conducting home visits. There are days when they have to step in in order to care for other areas of his wellbeing too. Once, he arrived at school with open wounds as a result of severe caning. The team realised that this family would need more support and got in touch with a Child Protection Officer (CPO) from MSF.
The team’s relentless persistence in looking out for the child and ensuring that he has opportunities to learn and grow stems from their belief that we must do our best to provide a good start for every child.
A child’s steady progress in managing daily challenges
As Andy has Global Developmental Delay, he struggled with development in motor skills and social-emotional skills. His parents were highly concerned about Andy’s social- emotional well-being, as he was unable to integrate into his previous preschool. He was left out of group activities and could not participate in lessons meaningfully due to the lack of appropriate support.
When Andy first enrolled with PPS in Aug 2022, the Education Support Teacher (EST) ensured his lessons were differentiated and modified to suit his needs. For example, his lessons included more fine motor practices and had more sensorial elements, while the EST also gave him simplified instructions and tasks to complete.
One major challenge was that Andy was unable to properly feed himself during meal times with the spoon provided in the Centre due to his delayed motor skills development. The Education Support Teacher (EST), class teachers and parents decided to purchase a different spoon that was easier for Andy to handle. After a few days of practice and encouragement from the teachers, Andy was finally able to feed himself independently. This success was also shared with his parents, who eventually provided the same utensil set for him at home.
He also struggled with emotional dysregulation, and he would often have energy outbursts when he was overstimulated, causing disruptions in class. Thus, visual aids prepared by the EST as well as cooling down strategies that both EST and teachers used hand-in-hand during classes helped guide him in regulating his emotions. The teachers also worked together to explain to the children about showing kindness and being an inclusion hero to Andy, who needed help with making friends because of certain behaviours that he has challenges with. The children took time to get to know their new friend better and Andy gradually began to blend in with his friends, playing along and joining in conversations.
Overall, Andy has shown significant improvements in his fine motor skills development 5 months into joining us. He is now able to finish meals on his own and put on his shoes with less difficulties. He is also exhibiting self-regulating behaviours – he manages his emotions and actions in class better, without reminders from teachers. His parents had shared with the teachers recently that Andy had took the initiative to stand in front of the class to lead his peers to perform dance moves while singing in church! His parents continue to be supportive and active in working alongside with the EST and class teachers, proving that a strong home- school partnership is essential for child's development and progress.
Little Blessings for Little Ones
Our work at PPS extends beyond what we do for the children in the classrooms. We hope to show care and support for families in practical ways to help each child grow and glow. This way, more children can come and share in the knowledge of God’s love.
“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14
If you would like to partner us in our work, you may consider donating to the Little Blessings for Little Ones fund. Find out more here: https://bit.ly/LilBlessings