Our focus on parenting children with special needs this month, gave us the privilege of doing FB Live sessions with Li-Hsian and Jochebed respectively. Both women have a great amount of experience working with children who have different kinds of special needs.
Li-Hsian Choo: Raising Neurotypical and Special Needs Siblings
Li-Hsian Choo is a children’s book author, a children’s programme facilitator and coordinator, and a mother of twins – one neurotypical and one with Down syndrome. While raising both of them, Li-Hsian also constantly champions the need for inclusive education – a learning environment which includes both regular children and those with special needs.
Grace had a chat with her about how its like to raise twins who have such different learning needs under one roof and what inclusive education looks like. The conversation covers a few things that Li-Hsian learned along the way:
- Children with Down syndrome are similar to any kid as they too have the same wants and needs of any child their age, but their abilities develop at different rate than others, and that is what requires a different sort of attention.
- It’s normal to want your special needs child to keep up with the syllabus, but the most important thing is that they just keep learning – even if its at a different pace. Don’t compare. Just focus on the “Keep Learning” principle.
- It’s okay that they don’t get things perfect, but keep acknowledging their effort. This is something that can also apply to regular children.
- A blended learning style works well for children with special needs because they may not have the ability to learn like others. Eg. Learning how to write using an app as well as traditional pencil and paper. This helps to develop a combination of fine motor skills.
- To teach her special needs child to relate to other children and adults so she learns how to rely on other people for support and be able to ask for help when she needs it.
To remember that the regular sibling also has “special needs” too and its important not to neglect him / her. One-on-one time with each child is great!
- Loving your children also means teaching your special needs child to be independent is important because one day, both children will need to look after each other when they’re grown ups and it would be too much for just one person to be completely responsible for the other.
- Inclusive education is important because children learn by mirroring others too and giving them the chance to interact with different children will enhance their learning experience naturally.
- Exposing her special needs child to regular children at an early age helped to prepare her for an inclusive learning environment when she was old enough to start school.
- To remember that our education system is based on methodologies from an age that prioritised standardisation – whether it was in the industrial production or in educating children, but today there’s more awareness that people have such different learning styles and needs. It’s important to find a school with teachers who are able to recognise this as well.
Watch the full video for all the in-between stories that Li-Hsian shares!
If you’d like to ask Li-Hsian more questions about raising siblings with different learning abilities, email [email protected] and we’ll put her in touch with you.
Jochebed Isaacs: Managing Challenging Behaviours with Children with Autism
Jochebed Isaacs has over 10 years of experience in working with children who have autism. She is the Director of the Early Autism Project Malaysia – a centre that provides early intervention therapy for children who are on the autism spectrum. Jo is also a mother of two regular children and tells us how managing challenging behaviours with children is sometimes very similar to managing such behaviour with regular kids as well.
Some of the things that were covered in the conversation are:
- Misbehaviour is often the result of a child trying to get attention for something – whether its their parents’ attention or to get away from something.
- 90% of your energy in managing difficult behaviour should be done before the tantrum. You need to have proactive strategies in place before their difficult behaviour surfaces, not just during.
- For children with autism, managing the 90% requires a more creative way to prepare them because they need to learn through constant repetition. Eg. Pictures are used to describe real-life scenarios to prepare the child and teach them appropriate behaviour in various scenarios.
- Constantly reminding children to communicate their feelings appropriately. Eg. use your words instead of just screaming.
- Recognising differences between a child having a meltdown and when a child is throwing a tantrum.
Asking ourselves as parents, “What do we really want to see our children achieving in or improving?” is an important in order to know what to focus on because every child is different and everyone’s parenting preference might be different too.
- Knowing how to choose an experienced, trained, and trustworthy therapist for your child who might be on the autism spectrum.
- The importance of providing early intervention in order to close the learning gap for children with autism as soon as possible.
Watch the video below for the full story:
If you have any questions on how to help a child with autism, you can get in touch with Early Autism Project Malaysia at their website here, and also learn simple but effective ways parents can manage their children with autism at home by watching the Autism At Home videos for free.