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LCQ15: Early childhood education services provided for children with special educational needs

     Following is a question by the Hon Cyd Ho Sau-lan and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (November 3):


     Some children, due to congenital or acquired diseases, have unfortunately become physically handicapped (including visual impairment, hearing impairment or intellectual disability (ID)). These children may be admitted to the special child care centres of the Social Welfare Department (SWD). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of children who need to study in special child care centres in the past three years; among them, the respective numbers of those with hearing impairment, visual impairment, mild ID, moderate ID, severe ID or other disabilities (list in table form);

(b) what assessment procedures a child has to go through to enroll in a special child care centre;

(c) what qualifications do teachers at special child care centres possess (including the number of teachers and the special education courses that they have studied) (list in table form); and whether children studying in special child care centres receive different training according to their disabilities;

(d) of the respective numbers of children who were admitted to mainstream primary schools, schools for the visually impaired and special education schools after completing the three-year programme offered by special child care centres since their establishment in 2006 (list in table form);

(e) given that the Ebenezer School and Home for the Visually Impaired (Ebenezer School) had organised a pre-school programme in the past for students to be enrolled in the Ebenezer School, of the difference between the said programme and that provided by SWD's special child care centres; and whether special child care centres also offer training on braille reading and on "the use of tactile sense to replace visual sense"; and

(f) whether SWD and the Education Bureau have established the special child care centres after taking into account professional advice from the education sector?



     The Government strives to provide children with disabilities with early intervention through pre-school rehabilitation services, including Special Child Care Centre (SCCC), Early Education and Training Centre and Integrated Programme in Kindergarten-cum-Child Care Centre. Our aim is to enhance their physical, psychological and social developments, thus improving their opportunities for attending ordinary schools and participating in daily life activities, and helping their families meet their special needs. My reply to the question of Hon Cyd Ho Sau-lan, is as follows:

(a) and (b) Before deciding whether a child needs pre-school rehabilitation service, an assessment will be conducted by a doctor or a clinical psychologist to ascertain the abilities and service needs of the child. He/she will then be referred by social workers of the Social Welfare Department (SWD), the Hospital Authority or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to the Central Referral System for Rehabilitation Services of SWD to waitlist for the service. The number of children assessed to be requiring SCCC service in the past three years was as follows-

Year                      No. of children
----                      ----------------

As at September 2008      About 2,100
As at September 2009      About 2,200
As at September 2010      About 2,500

     Generally speaking, a substantial number of children receiving pre-school rehabilitation services are suffering from multiple disabilities. Hence, we are unable to provide details by categories of the children's disabilities. Indeed, to meet the varied developmental needs of children with disabilities, SCCCs at present adopt an integrated approach to provide comprehensive services. Having regard to the varying needs of children with different disabilities, suitable support services, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, clinical psychological services, etc, are provided in a flexible manner. In view of the increasing service demand, SWD will continue to increase pre-school rehabilitation service places.

(c) Subvented SCCCs are funded under the Lump Sum Grant Subvention System. Under the System, the operating NGOs are required to employ special child care workers, social workers, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists according to the service agreement. NGOs are allowed to deploy the allocated resources flexibly and decide on their staffing arrangement (including the actual number of special child care workers) to meet their service needs. Therefore, SWD does not have the statistics on the actual number of special child care workers.

     Under the existing requirements, child care workers need to complete training courses recognised by SWD and register as child care workers under the Child Care Services Regulations before they are allowed to work in SCCCs. Since 1985, SWD has been providing special child care workers with in-service training through the "One-Year In-Service Course in Special Child Care Work" (the Course) delivered by subsidised training bodies with a view to enhancing their knowledge and skills of caring for children with disabilities. Organised annually for 45 trainees, this is a one-year part-time certificate course whereby trainees will have to undergo training of about 210 hours. Apart from the above-mentioned training opportunities, SWD has been providing training subsidies to child care supervisors and special child care workers in pre-school rehabilitation services since 2008 to enable them to attend recognised diploma, certificate or degree courses in early childhood education to enhance their knowledge, skills and methods. SWD also organises thematic training programmes, e.g. courses on identifying children with specific learning difficulties or attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder, to meet the training needs of special child care workers. To provide special child care workers with suitable training and further learning opportunities, training bodies or NGOs have also offered special child care education courses in recent years.

     As mentioned in (a) and (b) above, SCCCs adopt an integrated approach to provide comprehensive services. Operating NGOs will flexibly arrange suitable activities and training and conduct regular assessment having regard to the varied developmental needs of children. Based on the assessment results, they will formulate learning goals and design training activities for the children.

(d) All the children with special educational needs, including those who have received training in SCCCs, can be admitted to ordinary schools or special schools (including schools for children with visual impairment) through primary one admission mechanism or placement mechanism for special schools. SWD has not conducted any survey on the primary placement of children who have attended SCCCs. Prior to the children's discharge from SCCCs, staff members of the SCCCs will offer professional advice to parents on further studies and rehabilitation services of their children to facilitate parents to make suitable choices for their children. To enable children with special educational needs to receive early support services upon their admission to primary schools, the assessment information on the children concerned will be passed to their primary schools as soon as possible subject to the parents' consent.

(e) The Ebenezer School and Home for the Visually Impaired has been operating the Ebenezer Child Care Centre since September 2006 under SWD's subvention to provide SCCC services to pre-school children with visual impairment. The institution has ceased offering preparatory class for children since then. At present, those attending the Ebenezer Child Care Centre are all visually impaired children aged between two to six, including some who are also suffering from other disabilities. These children will be divided into different learning groups according to their levels of visual impairment and disability conditions.  Where required, the Centre will provide them with special training including Braille training, orientation and mobility training, etc.

     For SCCCs operated by other NGOs, their service targets are children with moderate or severe disabilities aged between two to six, and a small number of them are visually impaired. Among the children with visual impairment, the majority of them suffer from low vision of a mild to moderate level, hence do not necessarily require Braille training and orientation and mobility training.  Service operators will arrange regular assessment for these children and provide them with appropriate training and activities having regard to their abilities and needs.

(f) In service planning and implementation, SCCCs need to observe the operational guidelines as stipulated in the Operation Manual for Pre-primary Institutions jointly produced by the Education Bureau and SWD so as to meet the standards and requirements of "edu-care" services. As regards curriculum and activity design, SCCCs also need to make reference to the Guide to Pre-primary Curriculum developed by the Curriculum Development Council.  Members of the Curriculum Development Council include education professionals, such as school heads, lecturers of tertiary institutions, etc.

Ends/Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Issued at HKT 16:00


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