Would my child be able to cope in his school? Would he be able to catch up in class? Would he have friends? These are just a few of the numerous concerns which would worry any parent, regardless of the child being in a special education or mainstream school.
Stemming from the main fear and anxiety of putting the child in an unfamiliar setting on his own, it is understandable that those concerns worry most parents. It is every parent’s wish and hope that their child would be able to adapt in a new environment and be independent enough to take responsibility of his own learning.
Depending on the child’s condition, it is possible to place a child with exceptionalities in mainstream school. There are avenues for both parents and child to seek assistance in integrating and getting the best out of a mainstream school’s education system.
In primary schools, there are Allied Educators for Learning and Behavioural Support [AED (LBS)] who are trained specifically to support children with special needs. On top of socialisation and organisational skills, they also assist in specific reading skills. Besides AED (LBS), there are teachers who are trained in special education too.
With an average of 7 trained staff in special education in the school catering to over 1000 students at any one time, there is a need for another group of individuals to collaborate with the family and school to ensure an enriching school experience for the child; shadow support teacher. This is crucial in complimenting the collaboration between the school and family.
A shadow support teacher as its name suggests, is a trained therapist working closely with a child to help him integrate and blend in together with his peers in school. Accompanying the child in school throughout the day, the shadow support teacher facilitates the child in adapting to the daily routine of lessons and also in social interaction with his peers. Whilst doing all that, they work together with the main classroom teacher and the subject teachers to ensure consistency of strategies used to help the child go through his days in school.
When adapting to a new school environment, any child would feel anxious and insecure as they are not familiar with the place. For children with exceptionalities, the anxiety is likely to cause a meltdown and disrupt their ability to focus. Thus, it is important to have someone to prevent a meltdown episode.
Facilitating social and organisational skills is one of the main focuses of a shadow support teacher, based on the objective of ensuring full integration of the child in school. Roping in support from classmates is vital too as they are the best people to help the child fit in the school scene. By being with the child and facilitating socialisation amongst his classmates, the child will slowly adapt and get to know the people in his new environment. Having people whom the child is comfortable with in a new environment, it makes the child feel secure and thus be able to perform to his best with such support.
In another light, it creates awareness and nurtures a sense of understanding to the peers that some of their friends need an extra helping hand to go about with school.
Once the child has adapted to the environment and routines while being aware of what is expected of him in school, the shadowing will fade off and eventually stop, to instil a higher sense of independence for the child. After all, it is a goal that most parents want to achieve; knowing that their child has no problems adapting and adhering to the demands of a school on his own.