Support for Pre-school Operators: Skool4Kidz’s staff learn skills to help children with autism

Support for Pre-school Operators: Skool4Kidz’s staff learn skills to help children with autism

Continuous learning is a core value of Skool4Kidz, a pre-school operator with more than 40 years’ experience in the industry.

And they take this very seriously.

“Training is a way of life at Skool4Kidz,” said Teri Teo, Skool4Kidz's Director of Communications and Capability Development. She is responsible for training and development, in addition to other portfolios.

How Skool4Kidz trains its staff

According to Teri, Skool4Kidz follows Early Childhood and Development Agency (ECDA)’s skills framework closely for its teachers’ training. This includes having pre-school teachers and infant educarers attend at least 35 and 25 hours of annual training respectively. High-potential staff attend at least 45 hours of training a year.

Every year, each Skool4Kidz campus principal discusses with teachers individually and conducts a needs analysis to identify skills gaps for improvement. Thereafter, the teachers can select courses under the  ECDA’s skills framework to meet their training needs.

Beyond that, the teachers also attend coding courses as coding is part of the school’s unique programme.

Skool4Kidz also organises a yearly mass training event called "Professional Development Day". During the event, the staff learn various topics such as communication skills or other ways to improve classroom teaching. This year, more than 400 staff participated in the event.

Gathering feedback from pre-school operators

A survey conducted by e2i's Education Services team found that mainstream pre-school educators want to learn skills to help children with special learning needs.

“After consulting several pre-school operators, we found that most mainstream schools' curriculum was not deep enough and did not cover important hands-on strategies," said Corinne Chiang, the e2i senior specialist in charge of the project.

"Many instances, teachers found it challenging to communicate with parents about their children’s learning issues because parents doubted or denied the teachers' words out of shock. This made it difficult for teachers and parents to work together to help the child.”

Partnering pre-school stakeholders

To help these pre-school teachers, e2i approached Autism Resource Centre Singapore, ARC (S) – one of Asia’s largest autism bodies, to customise a course for preschool educators.

“ARC (S)’s Autism Intervention, Training and Consultancy (AITC) arm is the largest provider of autism training programmes for professionals and caregivers in Singapore and Asia. We are confident in partnering them to pilot this tailored programme with hands-on strategies for mainstream pre-schools. We believed it would help pre-school teachers and staff address special learning needs in their classrooms,” explained Corinne.

This was the second run of the “Autism Series for Preschool Educators” course. Teachers, learning support educators and supervisors from PCF Sparkletots, NTUC First Campus and Busy Bees attended the first run. e2i supported each participant with a 50% course fee subsidy.

Reasons for attending the course

This year, two Skool4Kidz’ staff Ang He Lin and Brenda Chua attended the “Autism Series for Pre-school educators” course.

For learning support educator, He Lin, the course was directly relevant to her job scope.

“When I received the course mailer, I felt that it will help me better understand the underlying reasons of a child’s behaviour,” she explained.

He Lin identifies children with mild developmental needs through screening. These needs include poor fine motor skills, as well as difficulties recognising letters and numbers. The children were flagged out by the teachers to He Lin.

Additionally, she also provides recommendations for an intervention package. This is then approved by doctors. If the parents agree to the intervention, He Lin will conduct 1-to-1 lessons with the child.

Benefits of the autism course for He Lin

Attending the course has proved fruitful for He Lin.

“The course was very enriching. The trainer conducted activities to let us experience how a child with autism experiences classroom learning. They also used visuals to show how to adjust the classroom environment to help them. These adjustments are helpful for all children,” He Lin shared.

“The trainer shared that these children do better with established routines. Children need routines because they do not know what are deemed acceptable behaviours in class. Thus, we need to set expectations for them through routines.”

He Lin interacting with a student.

Before the course, He Lin typically takes around one month to try a new intervention strategy for children with autism. If it works well, she moves on to another strategy.

After the course, He Lin felt more informed about autism and was more willing to try new strategies.

When asked if she will recommend the course to others, He Lin said: “The course is more suitable for pre-school teachers with some experience because they can pick up strategies and behavioural triggers of children [more easily].”

Benefits of the autism course for Brenda

For He Lin’s colleague Brenda, the course helped her differently.

As a case executive, Brenda works primarily with parents. She makes appointments with the parents to share the intervention packages with them. Additionally, she provides suggests to families with financial difficulties. If the family faces any other issues, Brenda provides information on community resources for them to seek help.

“What happens in the family affects the child’s learning and behaviour,” she explained.

Brenda works as a case executive at Skool4Kidz.

In Brenda's case, she attended the course to learn how to better communicate with parents whose children exhibit challenging behaviour.

“I am now more sensitive towards parents with a child who has developmental delays or learning difficulties. Sometimes, parents may be unaware of or have difficulties accepting that their child requires more support. I build a relationship with parents by listening to them. Besides that, I also help them to focus on their child’s learning issues,” she said.

If you are a Singapore-registered company that needs help with your employees’ training, contact e2i’s industry specialists today to find out how they can customise training programmes or provide assistance for your business needs.

By Elena Owyong

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