'Supakrit Ngamdeevilaisak has limited social skills. Sometimes he does not understand why people act and feel in a certain way. He cannot align to social rules and is verbally challenged," said Kidanan Ngamdeevilai-sak, his mother, as she explains how her child faces life with autism.
Supakrit Ngamdeevilaisak, sitting, with glasses, concentrates in a class at Saint John’s International School, Bangkok. PURICH TRIVITAYAKHUN
After searching for a suitable school for Supakrit, she finally decided to enrol him at Saint John's International School (SJIS) in Bangkok.
"There are few international schools in Thailand that have full support for students with special needs," said Mrs Kidanan, adding that the small population of students and the ample number of teachers offer great benefits to caring and nurturing of Supakrit.
Not all international schools accept students with special needs. However, under SJIS' philosophy, excluding special needs students from available learning opportunities is intolerable and unacceptable.
"We are inclusive, not exclusive," said David Lowder, SJIS' head teacher. "We include children who we believe can succeed in our school at their level of capability. We want to give them every opportunity to do so," he added.
"We customised their programme to help them fit in with the school so that they can achieve success in school with support from our teachers and trained staff," said Mr Lower.
Special Education Needs
Not found in existing international schools and those that are rapidly springing up in Thailand, one of the unique attributes at SJIS is the "Special Education Needs" (SEN) programme.
Saint John's International School has been running the SEN programme since 1995. Currently, 10 percent of its student population is in the programme, according to Natalie Malon E. Aldaya, SEN coordinator. Students who take the course all have autism, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) or other challenges.
As part of the programme, students are provided with an "Individual Education Plan", which is a personalised programme to meet the different needs of the students.
"For example," elaborated the coordinator, "students who have autism are set a specific target, such as concentrating on working on a task for five minutes or 15 minutes or speaking by using the pronoun I. Students who are afflicted with autism are often confused between I, you and me."
According to Mrs Aldaya, besides studying in the same room with students characterised as "normal", the challenged students are taken out of their class once or twice a week to attend special sessions at which they are given extra help in reading, comprehension, writing and other skills.
"The good thing about SEN in this school is that it is not only SEN staff who know the plan customised for each individual special-needs student, but all teachers understand the plan and help each other to implement it," said Mrs Kidanan.
Mrs Aldaya agreed that Supakrit is one of the most successful students in the programme.
After seven years at SJIS, Mrs Kidanan has seen positive changes in her son, now in Year 6 (Prathom 6). "Today, he can read, explain things and live in a normal environment. His social skills have also been improving continually," she said.
"It isn't just the school. It is the parents. Every time that we are successful, it is because of the parents and all our staff working with the child. That's the main ingredient to help a child. You have everyone working together, not just the school, not just the parents," said Mrs Aldaya.
"It doesn't mean that after you have found a suitable school for your children, you can leave the entire burden to the school. It is not only the duty of teachers, but all of us - the school, teachers and parents - who have to work together," said Mrs Kidanan, agreeing with Mrs Aldaya's statement.
More information on Saint John's International School is available at http://www.international.stjohn.ac.th.