“If they can’t learn the way we teach,
then we should teach the way they learn.”
– Lee Miao Pei, Learning Support Educator
Indeed, it takes a big heart to shape little minds. Here at YWCA Preschool, we are very proud of our dedicated team of transdisciplinary Learning Support Educators who provide an inclusive, supportive and conducive environment for children with learning difficulties.
Our Learning Support Educator, Ms. Lee Miao Pei shares more about her work and passion and how our Inclusive Preschool Programme helps every child reach their full potential and feel accepted in their communities, no matter how they break the mould.
Q: Tell us about your journey as a Learning Support Educator. How did it start and what made you choose to be a Learning Support Educator for children with developmental needs?
I started working as a therapist for young children with developmental needs after graduating from university. In that role, I witnessed many positive changes in young children with developmental needs after they attended intensive one-to-one interventions, and these sessions helped them to enter mainstream schools.
I was also given the chance to shadow some of them in mainstream schools and that was when I realised that without someone providing more attention and assistance to the children with developmental needs, it will be very challenging for both the teachers and child to manage within a mainstream setting.
Hence, I decided to try and be the ‘bridge’ between these children and their mainstream counterparts in the hopes that they can be integrated successfully!
Q: What do you enjoy most about your role?
It is very fulfilling to see children with developmental needs achieve as much as their counterparts!
Q: What are the biggest challenges or obstacles you have faced in your role?
While it is great that we have Learning Support Educators who can consistently provide weekly intervention and support, having more educators around these children and providing them with more attention within the mainstream classes would be very beneficial for them.
Oftentimes, we want to accept more children into our program but are unable to do so due to limited manpower resources. Our waitlist is long, but because of manpower shortage in this area, it is difficult for us to bring in more children who can benefit from our integration programmes.
Therefore, I would say that my biggest challenge or obstacle is the lack of manpower to help carry out strategies in mainstream classes for these children, as it is not easy to hire educators nowadays.
Q: How do you keep yourself going in the face of all these challenges?
Firstly, seeing the children improve bit by bit motivates me.
Secondly, having understanding and capable colleagues inspires me to do better and allows me to think of ways to help ease their load in class.
Lastly, I try to ‘switch off’ after work to give myself a break so that I can achieve better results and clarity when I return to work.
Q: How do you try to integrate children with developmental needs in the mainstream classes and how do you ensure that all the children are kept equally engaged during the lessons?
I use a lot of concrete and visual representations to signify how much the children have to do so that they also have an idea of what to expect. For example, I implement token systems when children do their work, or timers to count down the time. Sometimes, I sit in with them during their lessons so that I can provide repetitions or break down the information teachers are bringing across in class. Behaviour charts also help these children better understand what is required of them, especially during large group lessons.
As for the teachers, it can be challenging for them to focus on a few specific children when they have so many to care for during the lesson, so they would help the child to catch up during downtime periods.
It is also important to integrate the children socially and hence, I may ask their peers to initiate play with them and facilitate to help ‘promote’ their relationships. Teachers do that too as well.
Q: What are the misconceptions or misunderstandings about children with developmental needs that you have come across that you would like to address?
I think that there is a misconception that children with developmental needs avoid work, or in layman terms, are deemed as being lazy. Very often, these children behave in such a way as the lesson is not delivered in a way that is suitable for them. Many children are visual learners so if the teachers only educate without visualization, it will be difficult for these children to absorb any information.
As for children with higher needs, I think a misunderstanding is that they do not communicate and hence just throw tantrums. However, it is not that they do not want to communicate, it is that they really do not know how to and will need to be explicitly taught.
They may have also learnt that crying gets them attention. Therefore, we should teach them effective ways of communication that works for them. For example, we would use pictures to communicate if a child is unable to speak.
If you are unable to express yourself all the time to get your needs and wants satisfied, you would get upset too, right?
Q: How do you think we can help to make society more inclusive for children with developmental needs?
There should be more training for people who are interested in assisting in classes with children with developmental needs. With more assistant teachers in classes, teachers would be able to carry out their teaching plans and these assistant teachers can help put in place strategies that the Learning Support Educator has for the children with developmental needs. With more manpower within a single classroom, more time and attention can be given to the children with developmental needs.
As a society, we should also be more willing to accept them and not look at them through a different set of lenses. Educating the public to be more accepting is also essential in building an inclusive society.
Q: Do you have any advice for parents of children with developmental needs?
I have utmost respect for the parents of children with developmental needs. (Not to say I don’t for other parents!)
Being here in YWCA Preschool Singapore has allowed me to see the struggles that these parents face, even in basic needs like getting a school placement for their child. They may face multiple rejections, but they always get back up and try again. And if they get accepted, they will then have to work much harder to bridge the gaps between their child and their peers.
My advice for them is to always celebrate the little things that their child achieves and never give up! Also, where possible, sending them to extra therapy services may provide additional help in their progress!
Q: What are your biggest takeaways from your journey as a Learning Support Educator?
Learning Support Educators can definitely help close the gap between children with developmental needs and typically developing children. With the extra time and effort put into the children with developmental needs, we can help ease the teachers’ workload on specific children. The children also help themselves become better day by day.
Miao Pei has provided us wonderful insights into her day and career as a Learning Support Educator. It is certainly challenging, yet extremely rewarding to see her work directly impacting and positively influencing the children.
About YWCA Preschool’s Inclusive Preschool Programme
YWCA Preschool’s Inclusive Preschool Programme, formally known as Educational Support Unit (ESU), was launched in 2004 to help integrate children with mild learning difficulties into the mainstream education system in a supportive, conducive, and nurturing environment.
Our qualified transdisciplinary Learning Support Educators work closely with parents and medical professionals to develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each child and provide 1-to-1 intervention sessions using natural and multisensory techniques to ensure learning needs are being addressed.
Speak to us to find out how we can help your child reach their full potential today! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 6223 1227.
In the heart of Orchard Road, the beautiful grounds of YWCA Fort Canning played host to the YWCA Charity Carnival on 12 November 2022. Three floors were transformed that Saturday into a fun carnival ground, where community groups and volunteers showcased their talents and homemade produce through food and games stalls as well as lively performances, to help raise funds for YWCA's community programmes.
The Happy Toilet Hygiene initiative at YWCA Preschool @ Bukit Gombak is a project that aims to educate preschool children on the importance of good toilet hygiene practices. Through a collaborative effort, the Centre transformed their toilets into a vibrant space with colourful artwork and trained their students in effective handwashing techniques, toilet etiquette, and hygiene habits. The project has had a lasting impact on the lives of its students, promoting good hygiene practices and maintaining a pristine environment for students to learn and thrive. Learn more about the Happy Toilet Hygiene initiative at YWCA Preschool @ Bukit Gombak.
In this month’s Staff Spotlight, we speak to Mdm Ho Mee Khuen, one of our longest-serving staff with YWCA Preschool. Mdm Ho has served YWCA for 40 years and is currently the Centre Leader at YWCA Preschool @ Pasir Ris. We ask her about her journey with YWCA and to share with us her thoughts about the workplace culture and team dynamics.