Specialised learning aid effective in improving skills of autistic students

National 2 minutes, 18 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

SPECIALISED learning assistance improves the key social skills of students with autism in model inclusive schools, according to an official from the Ministry of Education (MoE).

Dr Hjh Romaizah Hj Mohd Salleh, permanent secretary of core education, said their data showed students with autism improved their social communication and interaction skills as a result of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) in the schools.

PECS is a form of augmentative and alternative communication commonly used as a communication aid for children with autism spectrum disorder.

“They are now able to express themselves better and minimise challenging behaviours related to communication difficulties, which in turn will positively impact their learning,” said Dr Hjh Romaizah yesterday at the opening of the Eighth National Autism Conference.

Currently, there are 254 students with autism registered with the Special Education Unit. They receive specialised learning assistance with individual education plans.

There are also nine model inclusive schools under MoE equipped with the necessary facilities.

“We welcome all individuals with autism to enrol,” said the permanent secretary, pointing out there is strong evidence that early intervention has positive learning outcomes.

Since the Special Education Unit was formed in 1990, Dr Hjh Romaizah said the support given to teachers and parents of students with autism have been “exemplary”.

She said the Educational Psychology Services Section, as well as the Speech and Language Therapy Section, were continuously working to provide more training relating to learning strategies for all their special individuals.

The Special Education Unit also builds human resources capacity through regular training and professional development courses.

To date, 218 new teachers have been trained in the Structured Learning Approach (SLA). The teachers include subject, learning support, Centre for British Teachers (CfBT) Brunei and relief teachers.

“However, in spite of all our efforts, we have to acknowledge that our success in life and in the hereafter comes from the Almighty Allah,” said the permanent secretary, noting that individuals with autism are often compensated with a different ability.

She believed it is obligatory for a Muslim society, such as Brunei, to support and contribute to the care and development of all special needs individuals.

The conference at the Al-‘Afiah Hall, Ministry of Health, was organised by the Society for the Management of Autism Related Issues in Training, Education and Resources (SMARTER) Brunei and Flinders University with the support of the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan.

Over two days, the participants discussed their innovative techniques in autism care and shared their experiences in working with individuals with autism.

Present at the opening was Australian High Commission’s Charge d’Affaires Selina Cho as well as SMARTER Founder and CEO Malai Hj Abdullah Malai Hj Othman. The conference saw participation from 100 autism specialists, academics and family members.

The Brunei Times