It was a cheerful day at the Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation – National Centre (KDSF-NC) last Thursday, where the happy shouts of children filled the air. This is part of the Centre’s World Down Syndrome Day celebration, where a mini carnival with various fun activities was organised for parents and children alike to join in.
World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), celebrated on 21st March of each year, is a global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012.
Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation – National Centre (KDSF-NC) has been educating children with Down Syndrome since 1989. During these past 30 years the focus of the centre has always been on providing the best Early Intervention program for the students.
The Centre is constantly looking into improving the program and upgrading the capabilities of the teachers. The main objective of the centre is to assist the students to be ready to enrol into the government school education system.
Being a part of the down syndrome community, KDSF-NC celebrates World Down Syndrome Day every year by organising fun activities for the children. For World Down Syndrome Day this year, KDSF-NC organised a two day celebration on 20th and 21st March 2019.
This year, the KDSF-NC Parents Support Group presented a touching video for the occasion. The video starred parents and children signing and singing along to a song, which you can watch below:
At the celebration was Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister, YB Hannah Yeoh, who launched the Kiwanis 36th Motor Treasure Hunt, a charity fundraising event for the Centre, and the KDSF Football Club for the students of the Centre.
“As of 27th Feb 2019, we have a total of 534,953 persons with disability registered. Out of that, under persons with learning disabilities, we have 178,929 persons with learning disability, and out of which, 13,000 persons are with Down Syndrome,” she said in her speech.
“Recently we’ve launched subcategories for our OKU cards,” she said. Before this, there were no subcategories for learning disabilities. Teachers for these children would have to gauge the type of disability the child has. With subcategories created for special learning disabilities, it would be easier for schools to streamline and to plan out their lessons.
“I believe the numbers [of persons with disabilities] are higher, as we all know the stigma and the challenge we face with getting people to come forward and to register, but I will strongly encourage parents with OKU children with special needs to please come forward to register, and we believe these subcategories will definitely assist them better.”
“In the months to come, we want to–together with JPM–look into various ways to focus on job coaching and equipping children with special needs with skills especially after leaving schools. Our focus now is to ensure that we match the target that we set for ourselves and that is to employ 1% [OKUs] in the civil service.”
However, she added that the statistic had not been achieved yet, and the current employment percentage is 0.3%. Only two ministries have reached the 1% statistic, which is the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development.
“It’s important that children with special needs are given adequate skills so that they can go out and look for a job upon graduation when they finish school,” she said, adding that they would be able to look after themselves and contribute to the economy of the nation.
“Job coaching and job placement. That will be a big focus of Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat (Department of Social Welfare) when it comes to children with special needs.”
Yeoh also mentioned the NUR Alert collaboration with Grab, where Grab Car drivers would receive NUR Alert missing children notifications on their mobile applications. This would help greatly increase the reach of people on the lookout for missing children in the area.
There was also a showcase of the programs provided at the centre for children with Down Syndrome, with an experiential exhibition for people to experience first-hand fun activities with the KDSF-NC children.
Rosnah, a staff member, explained that the theme for this month’s activities is “Myself” where the children would learn about the different basic parts of the body.
“We teach them, ‘you hear with your ears’,” she said, while demonstrating the activity with a paper cup phone. Speaking into the paper cup phone with the string taut would allow children to sense the vibrations and stimulate their sense of hearing.
“We use a lot of Makaton signs here,” she explained. Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help the children communicate. It is designed to support spoken language, with signs that are used together with speech.
“For Makaton, it’s compulsory to say the word together with the action. For example, ‘it’s time to stop.’ ” she said, while pointing to her wrist to indicate “time”, followed with a chopping motion with her palms to indicate “stop”. She also steepled her fingers to indicate “home”, adding with a laugh that this was the children’s favourite sign.
The Centre has a lot of activities for the children to stimulate each of their senses such as hand-painting to stimulate the sense of touch or pounding aromatic spices for the sense of smell. Other than the five senses that most people are familiar with–sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch–there are two additional senses, for a total of seven.
Rosnah explained that these two senses are vestibular sense and proprioception. Vestibular sense refers to the sense of movement and balance, and allows people to sit upright when standing or walking.
Proprioception is the body awareness sense, and it gives information on our body parts relative to each other. For instance, when asking children to raise their left or right hand, even with eyes closed, one should still be able to carry out the movement.
Children with Down Syndrome usually have certain physical characteristics such as low muscle tone and decreased strength. However, through the training and therapy given at the Centre, they are able to make incredible progress in the development of their motor skills.
To find out more about the Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation, visit the KDSF website, call +6 03-7803 0179 or email email@example.com.
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