A Student Volunteering In Special Needs Schools Education Essay

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Today was my first day of volunteering in S.M.K Bandar Sunway. This school is just like any other secondary school however, they have a division for special education to educate children with learning disabilities. The senior assistant of Special Class, my supervisor is Hjh. Juairiah Hj. Johari and her team of teachers are nurturing the children with learning disabilities to heighten their skills and capabilities by emphasising more on skills rather than academics. This is clearly because; these students will be able to use their skill to get into attachment programmes for a fair amount of allowance. This encourages the students to be independent and responsible. This month, is known as co curriculum month, hence the Children focus more on cooking, art, gardening, music and creative work. Everything was very new to me but the students and teachers were very warm and friendly. Every morning the students would cook and have their breakfast, therefore all the cooking ingredients are prepared the day before. Tomorrow's menu was fried rice, so I helped the children slice and dice the necessary ingredients. Then my supervisor, Pn. Juairiah told me to help the children make Christmas cards out of recycle paper. Basically the students will stamp the card with designs or they will be given cut-outs to be glued to the card. At times they will have to layer the cut-outs to give it a 3D effect. Whenever the students comply with what we ask them to do, we give them a positive feedback stating that they have done a good job to get a repetitive behaviour.

The next half of the day, all the teachers will adjourn to the Children Creative Center also known as 3C, located in Sunway. It is said to be the country's first large-scale establishment dedicated for child development and the management has given a spacious amount room to the special class students of Bandar Sunway to carry out their activities with no charge at all. With the space given, Pn. Juairiah has segregated it to a kitchen, an art area, storage area and meeting area. Today, when we arrived the children were given cut-outs to layer, which later can be used on the cards.

Thursday, 5th August 2010 [ 9.30am - 3.30pm]

In school this morning the children cooked the fried rice with the ingredients prepared the day before. After their breakfast they were required to clean up the cafe. This includes chores such as sweeping, mopping, wiping the windows, cleaning the table tops and washing up all the mugs and dishes. The students were motivated to complete their task as they will be rewarded with ice-cream, once all the chores are completed.

Whereas, in 3C the students were asked to decorate the plain ceramic mugs, plates and bowls with decals, which later will be fired and sold to the public to generate funds for the student's activities. The plain ceramics are donated to the Bandar Sunway School by Inhesion's Industries. This gives the students and parents a chance to enhance their creativity by designing the ceramics, as different people have different ideas.

Friday, 6th August 2010 [ 9.30am - 12.30pm]

Being it a Friday, school finishes at 12.30pm and there is no 3C today as the Malay students have their prayers. So the students have to clean up the place after their cooking and breakfast as usual and today they were asked to clean and wipe the drawers. One of the students by the name of Fitri, who is autism, was asked to clean the drawers. He refused to do what was asked; the teacher had to constantly persuade him and teach him as well as show him what needed to be done. After much convincing, Fitri managed to finish his task although there was a lot of hesitation and supervision. I was later told that he is very lazy and needs to be pushed to complete his work. He loves to constantly repeat phrases, as this is one of the characteristics of autism. Before this he was in an Islamic International School and he could not cope up with the other students and felt out of place. The school was so dirty and the environment was not suitable for him as his parents saw no changes to his behaviour. Hence they found out about the Bandar Sunway School for special needs and pulled some strings to get him in. Up to day his parents have seen a tremendous improvement in his behaviour and they are happy with the results.



Monday, 9th August 2010 [ 9.30am - 5.30pm]

Pn. Juairah decided to treat the children to a Sunway Lagoon adventure since it was co-curriculum month. Twenty students and seven teachers including me, was chosen for this outing to have some fun. Each teacher was in charge of two to three students, whereby we had to keep a watchful eye on them. Here, I felt I was given a chance to work within the non-traditional settings and embrace diverse roles and responsibilities. The non-traditional setting meaning the environment outside of school, here I had to be the student's friend as well as a teacher looking out for them. The students did not want to feel constrained, instead it was their time to let loose and enjoy. We started off by going on the theme park rides, the smile and laughter one the students face is priceless. Next we headed to the wet park to have our lunch, which was sponsored by Sunway hotel. Sadly the food was not ready so the students were allowed to swim and build up an appetite. Once the food arrived, all the students were called out to have their lunch before they can head back into the water. We manage to get all the students out except for one student by the name of Karl Lau. He is a Down syndrome child who loves to eat and based on my research I was told that Down syndrome children do not know when they are full. They can constantly eat; hence it is the job of the parents and educator to control their food consumption, if not the chances of them becoming obese is high. To think it would be easy to get him out of the water for food, due to his love for food! Well we were wrong; it was one of his challenging behaviour days where, he was stubborn. He did not want to comply with any of our terms and refused to come out of the water. My supervisor told us to let him be and just ignore him. Once most of the students were done with their lunch and went back into the water, Karl Lau decided to have his lunch. Pn. Juairiah refused to let him have his lunch mainly because he did not want to listen and she believed that it would be a way of behaviour modification for him. After all he did have two and a half servings during breakfast. Behaviour modification in a sense whereby, we use the response cost principle. Meaning that, if you do not want the child to behave in a certain manner, we should remove a pleasant stimulus which in this case is the food, immediately after the action occurs. This response did result to aggression and hostility, Karl was very upset and started calling his mother on his hand phone stating he wanted to go home. Pn. Juairiah informed his mother of his tantrum and once he cooled off she sent back into the water. He only got his food, once we left Sunway Lagoon to be taken home. The children left with happy hearts as the day came to an end and we had to leave.

Tuesday, 10th August 2010 [ 9.30am - 2.00pm]

As it was a tiring day for the student who went to Sunway Lagoon yesterday, a number of students did not turn up today. It was rather quiet, besides the normal cooking for breakfast, washing and cleaning up the cafe. Upon completion of their routine task, some of the students were given recipes to be copied down and later added to each individual's folder. Whereas, the rest of the students had to carry out accounts work. Here they were given money to count, add and subtract as well as list down the accounts under credit or debit.

Every Tuesday afternoons, the children will go for their co-curriculum activities in Sunway Pyramid for bowling and ice-skating. This is courtesy to Sunway Group, who gave the school 11 weeks of free lessons and training for bowling in conjunction to their co-curriculum month. Whereas, for ice-skating; the student only have to pay RM5 per week to join in their ice-skating activity. I would have to say the students are privileged to be studying under the Bandar Sunway Special Class as their main focus is on developing skills and organizing activities for these students. It was very exciting joining the students bowl, some of them are very talented and they can bowl very well. The normal schedule is 1pm to 2pm is bowling, and then the students together with the teachers have lunch at Mc Donald before going for bowling, which is at 3pm to 4pm. Based on my observation, I see the passion the teachers have for these students, and moreover they treat the students as their own children. I believe this is what cultivates the bond between the students and teachers.

Wednesday, 11th August 2010 [ 9.30am - 3.00pm]

It's the first day of the fasting month, the students were lethargic and it was quite a bit of a challenge to get them to do work. However the teachers and I gave them simple exercises to do like copy down recipes and simple additional math. Some of the students will complete their task although they are slow but some of them would talk more and try to divert the teacher's attention so that they can get off from doing their work. Linda is an autism student who recently joined the school, she is able to use language effectively but she uses unusual metaphors or speaks in a formal and monotonous voice. Students with autism normally have the tendency to talk to themselves. Linda loves to repeat dialogs she has grasp from television and when the teacher scolds her she would console herself saying "it's ok Linda, don't worry Linda". Yet she lacks the desire to have a conversation with anyone apart from her parents and siblings. Towards the end of the schooling day most of the students completed their work.

In 3C, students from Sunway College organized some activities for the children as it was part of their social project. They had games for ice-breaking and later previewed a movie for the students to watch. Before the student from Sunway College left, they were shown to the display of all the children's creative work which was for sale. All the students bought a ceramic mug to show their support and encouragement to the children. Majority of them, from their reaction were amazed of the children's craft work and talent. They were informed that if any of them who like to volunteer is free to join us; as volunteers are always welcomed to join and we can never run short of them.

Thursday, 12th August 2010 [ 9.30am - 3.00pm]

My supervisor had a visitor from the Education Department today. She came over to the school to see how the students were so that she can write a report on the progression of the school. Meanwhile, the student had to make cards for Christmas, and I had to mentor as well as supervise them. They were given design stamps to create patterns on the card. Some of the students are well versed with their job; nonetheless Aisiah is a slow learner student and she often has coordination problems which makes her everyday activities challenging. She is a rather quiet person and it is difficult to understand what she speaks. I had to hold her hand and guide her to stamp, so that it does not smudge. I felt her motor skills were not strong but with much coaching and various methods her motor skill can be refined. As I coached her, there was slight improvement and towards the end she was able to stamp on her own. I constantly gave here encouragement and praised her when she did a good job.

Another batch of student from Sunway College visited the children today in 3C. As usual they had planned out activities and games for the children which, was very much fancied. While the children were doing their own activities, the parents help with designing the cards for Christmas. This activities among the teachers and parents helps strengthen the bond between them, moreover we as teachers tend to learn a lot from the parents regarding their child. Some of the parents will share their worries or anguish, while others would share the humour the child has brought out of them. From this I realized each parent had their fair share of psychological and emotional distress but they have learned to overcome it.

Friday, 13th August 2010 [ 9.30am - 12.00pm]

Friday's are much anticipated by me, as it's the weekend. Somehow, the day I spent volunteering swifts by so fast. It was spring cleaning day and each student was given a chore. They had to sweep, mop, wipe the windows, clean the table tops, arrange the utensils, wash the rags, clean the refrigerator, wipe the ornaments, arrange the things in the cupboards and clean the fan. This would help the students build their skills as well as prepare them for their attachment programmes. The teachers are encouraged to supervise and not help the student as they have to learn how to be independent. Some students rarely do any domestic chores at home because they have maids or they are too pampered by their parents. However, this does not apply in the school! All students must learn to do all these tasks; hence there is always rotation where the students carry out different tasks every week. Some students are able to work independently how ever there are a few who need to be constantly coached or supervised. Since it is the fasting month, the students finish school at 12pm on Fridays.



Monday, 15th August 2010 [ 9.30am - 3.00pm]

My supervisor, Pn. Juairiah was out today hence I joined another class which teaches handiwork. Here the students were taught how to make necklaces, bracelets, rings and earnings using beads. I was taught the different beading methods and how different beads are used for certain type of jewellery. Once these costume jewellery is completed, it would be sold to the public for a fair price. All the material used to make these jewellery, are bought by the teachers, who would later claim from the school. The students are given the beads and they have to thread it using different methods to get different designs. The teachers will tutor them furthermore because this is done on a daily basis for the past few weeks some of the students are very talented and have an eye for detail. This activity is said to be favourable for children with Down syndrome and autism as they like repetitive behaviour. It is also a way to boost their self-esteem and self confidence by installing pride to their work.

When we reached 3C, my supervisor and I took a few students out to buy ingredients to make cookies for Hari Raya. These cookies will be given to all our sponsors, VIP's and parents as a token of appreciation for all their support towards the children. Pn. Juairiah believed that by taking the students with us, they will learn how to look for the ingredients stated on the list as well as calculate how much the bill would come to. They will also be familiarized with the ingredients and items required, plus they may question other ingredients or items which they see. Although for us it may seem like just a simple outing, for these children it is a learning process and an experience.

Tuesday, 16th August 2010 [ 8.30am - 1.30pm]

My supervisor asked me to share my talent with the students, and since I am well versed with baking, Pn. Juairiah handed me the responsibility to bake all the cookies and cakes together with the children. I was happy as I was put in charge and it was my time to step up and take control. Therefore, today morning I went straight to 3C with the children to bake London Almonds. I supervised and mentored the student to weigh the ingredients and the methods that followed. Here the students were able to practice their motor skills by rolling and shaping the dough. All the students participated enthusiastically and we managed to complete our first batch in three hours. Then we cleaned up and prepared for tomorrows cookies. The students were again asked to measure the ingredients and pack it up. Here we were able to test the students on their mathematical skill as some of the measurements needed to be doubled or some even tripled.

At 12pm we took the student for bowling at Sunway Pyramid. Everything was going smoothly, when suddenly Aizat a slow learner started fighting Karl Lau because Karl hit him for taking his bowling ball. Aizat started showing his tantrum and used vulgar words to scold Karl however he didn't react. The teachers and I calmed him down and once he toned down, both of them had to apologize to each other due to their behaviour. We explained to Aizat that how he reacted was not right and we did not want to see it happening again if not he would be punished. Later I was told that Aizat is mentally unstable and he is under medication, that is why at times he can be very moody and his anger turns into an outburst.

Wednesday, 17th August 2010 [ 8.30am - 3.00pm]

All the measured ingredients were brought to the school to continue our baking session. Today I thought the students to make Almond biscuits. Again I supervised, mentored and modelled to the student on what and how to make the cookies. Once the dough was made the students had to cut the cookies using a cookie cutter. Each student was given a task, however half way through they got bored and wanted to change their task. Hence after every half an hour I would rotate the student to do different chores so that they too will get a chance to get a feel of the whole baking process. I do understand that these students have a very short attention span; therefore mixing up their task will help support learning at the same time in a step by step fashion it will help ensure maximum learning occurs. I did face some challenges where, one or two students could not perform the task I had given them; for an example because Down syndrome students have short broad fingers, they found it difficult to place the almond which was dipped in egg yolk on the top of the cut cookie without reshaping it. Although they were persistent to continue with that chore I had to switch student mainly because these cookies had to look nice because we are giving it to people. As it is some people have the perception and a very low regard for students with learning disabilities; furthermore if we hand them cookies which is not presentable we would not be able to change their mentality.

When we adjourn to 3C, we packaged the cookies made for distribution and prepared the ingredients for the next day. There was a teacher from another school who teachers Japanese art to children with learning disabilities. She comes in monthly to share her knowledge with the students by making various Japanese handiworks. She thought us how to make "kumihimo" which is known as the Japanese art of knotting or braiding. It was really amazing to open up our creativity to all the different types of art. She taught the students and teachers, and then the teachers had to mentor the students. This art is made out of string, which once completed can be used as a key chain or bracelet or anklet.

Thursday, 18th August 2010 [ 8.30am - 3.00pm]

Given that we are still in the process of making cookie; the children and some of the teachers came straight to 3C in the morning. Today I was fully in charge of the students as my supervisor was not around. I have to say that it was one of my most challenging days solely because they student refused to be focused and make cookies. They were in their play mode and they were easily distracted. They would measure all the ingredients and would run off to fool around. I kept calling them back to finish their chores before they were allowed to play but nothing worked, what is more they did not take me seriously. I knew then intervention was need and I had to use a bribe or in psychology we call it reinforcement. So happen this coming Saturday, the students were invited for an open house Raya celebration in Sunway Hotel and they will be getting some festive money. Therefore if they cannot go it would be a lost consequently I had to use this against them. Before I knew it all of them were in the kitchen and we managed to complete two types of cookies; Cashew nut cookies and Nestum cookies. I informed my supervisor what had happened, and she told me she would have done the same thing because sometimes these students need to be motivated by using reinforcements.

Friday, 19th August 2010 [ 8.30am - 12.30pm]

There is two parts in making London Almond cookies; first you make the biscuit then you coat the biscuit with chocolate. This morning we went to 3C and coated all the biscuits, as no child can resist chocolate, all the student's voluntary came into the kitchen to help. Most of them watched and learned how it was done, then we selected some of them to coat the biscuits with chocolate and some of them topped the biscuits which were coated with almond nibs. It was a simple task and all the student naturally got the hang of it. We managed to coat about 300 cookies and packaged them to be given out. The day flew by fast and we left at 12.30pm being it a Friday.

[I was on leave from 22nd August-27th August 2010 as I was away on vacation.]



Monday, 30th August 2010 [ 8.30am - 3.00pm]

After a week of vacation I was looking forward to going back and seeing the students because I missed them. Today we went straight to 3C in the morning and I was asked to teach the students how to bake chocolate cakes. The chocolate cakes too will be packaged and distributed in the hamper. Making cakes are much faster as compared to making biscuits. The children weighted all the ingredients and I showed them the following procedures. All in all we manage to bake five cakes and just like London Almonds, there is two parts to the chocolate cake. Bake the cake and coat the cake with chocolate once the cake is cooled down. While baking Siak Thong, a slow learner told me he wanted to help me mix the batter thus I passed it over to him. He took over and continued to mix and all of a sudden he started crying. I was shocked and asked him what happened; he refused to answer yet in between his cry he was mumbling. The teachers told him to take a break and told me to ignore him as he wanted attention or he was frustrated about something. I found that incident rather strange, and then my supervisor told me he is emotionally unstable. She explained to me that learning disables (LD) at times are very good at one task but struggle with another tasks. Due to this they are mismatched between ability, expectations and outcomes, which cause disappointment to them resulting to a cascade of emotions and behaviour. We were unable to coat the cakes today as they were still freshly baked from the oven. However we managed to cut the cakes to the packaging size and stored them away for topping on Wednesday as tomorrow is a public holiday.

[Tuesday 31st August 2010 was a public holiday for Independence Day]

Wednesday, 1st September 2010 [ 8.30am - 2.30pm]

This morning we went to 3C to coat the chocolate cakes and wrap as well as prepare the hampers to be handed out to the people concerned for Hari Raya. Half of the student helped with the hamper making and the other half helped me coat and package the cakes. A learning disable by the name of Dinesh was very helpful; although he was playful he helped me get the job done fast and efficiently. He looks like any other 17 teen year old teenager but sadly he is a learning disable; though his reading is slow and laboured nevertheless doing math seems almost natural to him. At the end of the day all the hampers were packed and ready for delivery.

Thursday, 2nd September 2010 [ 8.30am - 3.30pm]

In view of the fact that we had a lot of balance ingredients, we went to 3C to try and finish up the ingredients because the following week is the Raya holidays for two weeks. Just like any other day the students came in to help however, we still had a lot of ingredients left so we kept it for after the break. It was an entertaining day, because Gavin a student who has learning disabilities is a real chatter box. Although he is dyslexic, he can constantly talk and talk, where to a certain extend he can get pretty annoying. His sister is one of the special class teachers and he is terrified of her. Therefore whenever he gets out of hands, we would threaten him stating we will inform his sister of his mischief. He would straight away tone down and apologize. As a volunteer I enjoy my internship because the children never ceased to bring a smile to my face.

Friday, 3rd September 2010 [ 8.30am - 12.30pm]

Just before the holidays, the school had a closing ceremony as we just finished the Independence month. Here all the student in the Bandar Sunway School; the normal student as well as students from the special class came together in the school hall to celebrated the closing ceremony. There were various performances by the student which was very entertaining and such a joy to watch. Sitting in the hall made me reminisce my schooling days and how much I missed it. The students from the special classed carried out a very good performance and loud applauses from their audience. In fact I was rather taken back, on how they manage to pull off such an outstanding show. I believe the teacher who choreographed and trained the student did an amazing job, nonetheless the students too would have worked very hard to grasp everything they were taught. The ceremony ended with all the students singing the national anthem. The students and teachers were excited and looking forward to their two weeks of holidays for the festive season.

[School was closed for two weeks for Raya holidays from 4th - 19th September 2010]



Friday, 20th September 2010 [ 9.00am - 3.00pm]

After the long two week break, it was really nice getting back to work and seeing the students. The festive mood was still in the air, with all the cookies and festive money going around. Nevertheless, it was back to the academic cycle for the students. Meaning that the student now had a timetable to follow in school, where the go to their classes at that period depending on the subject. Since my supervisor was not around because she had a seminar, I assisted one of the teachers by the name of Pearly, and help her out in her classes. Her schedule was as such;-

9.30am- 10.00am: Social Personality ( here students are taught how to groom themselves, fold cloths, make their beds, wash toilets, wash cloths, sweep and mop)

10.00am- 10.30am: Music (students are taught various dances and moves)

10.30am- 11.00am: Social Personality (different class)

11.00am- 11.30am: Music (different class)

11.30am- 12.30pm: English (students are taught colours, body parts, shapes..etc)

I found the academic schedule very interesting as the students are all mixed and there are about eight classes in total, with roughly eight to ten students in each class. It was such joy being around these children teaching as well as mentoring them. I was told by Pearly that some of the student did not know how to hold a broom or a mop before when they first came to this school. However after much training and mentoring they can now sweep and mop well. Based on my research, some of the characteristic of students with learning disabilities which can be seen in these students are;-

They get poor grades despite placing significant effort.

The student needs constant, step-by-step guidance in their tasks.

Some students are not able to remember problem solving steps because they do not comprehend tasks or the logic behind it.

Many of them have poor memory of spoken or written material.

Most LD students have difficulty mastering tasks or transferring academic skills to other tasks

A vast number of them cannot remember skills and facts over time

A handful of student have strong general knowledge but cannot read as in dyslexia, write as in dysgraphia, or do math as in dyscalculia at that their level.

Several of them have difficulty with communication and language processing, expressive, and receptive language.

A few of the students may be very frustrated with school and homework

Many may have low self-esteem.