Preschools highlight special needs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 February, 2010, 12:00am

More than two-thirds of mainstream kindergartens say they have at least six special-needs children on their rolls, and some as many as 10.

Researchers said the survey highlights the need to help such children before they reach primary school.

Carried out between September and November by two academics at Baptist University, the study canvassed almost 500 teachers at 90 kindergartens with 200 to 300 children.

Half the respondents estimated their schools had as many as 10 children with learning difficulties. Some 70 per cent reported at least six.

The survey - the first on the special-education needs of preschool children - was commissioned by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

'We want to bring out the message that there are children with learning needs before primary school,' one of the researchers, Dr Frances Lee, said. 'Early intervention can reduce the difficulties they face.' The critical detection period is three to five years old, she said.

Fellow researcher Dr Felix Chao Lap-yan said kindergarten teachers could provide more comprehensive care than those at other stages of education. 'They are in the best position to spot children who may have special needs and to communicate those needs to parents.'

Lee said kindergarten teachers should be trained to recognise symptoms of special-needs children.