Mrs Yeung’s son was still unwilling to talk when he reached lower kindergarten. His comprehension was poor and he was developmentally behind by about 18 months.
“At that point, I became concerned and decided to take action,” she explained.
“Fortunately, there was a service that could help. After receiving training from child care workers, he speaks a lot more and is more confident. His comprehension skills are better now.
“Even his relationship with his classmates has improved.”
The service Mrs Yeung is referring to is the Pilot Project on Tier 1 Support Services in Kindergartens/Kindergarten-&-Child Care Centres.
Launched by the Social Welfare Department (SWD), the project provides short-term support for eligible children under the age of six who are awaiting assessment, assessed to have borderline developmental problems or single disability but not eligible for subvented pre-school rehabilitation services, or having disabilities or special needs in the spectrum of learning, social interaction, behaviour and emotion, to facilitate their integration into mainstream primary schools.
It also provides training and advice for teachers and child care workers to conduct screening and make adaptation to teaching methods and curriculum to address the diverse needs of children.
Parents are also offered support in fostering a positive attitude and effective skills in addressing the specific needs of their children.
Vergo Cheng is one of the educational psychologists that advises teachers and child care workers on how to handle such cases.
“I will work with my special child care worker and the class teacher to adjust the teaching tempo or fine-tune some of the activity design so that teachers can provide enough opportunities for that particular child to participate in the learning activities.
“I will share some strategies with the teachers to co-design some visual aids to allow the target student to understand more about at this moment, ‘where should I go?’ or ‘what can I play with?’”
During training with a child care worker, the child is given the opportunity to play with typically developing peers and their interaction is observed.
“We will enter the classroom during a group play session, then we join in their game and facilitate their interaction with other children by either demonstrating for them or acting as a bridge between them,” Senior Special Child Care Worker Chung Wing-yee added.
As at the end of June this year, the project teams of the six commissioned non-governmental organisations served a total of 3,924 children and conducted over 50,000 assessment, professional consultation, training and counselling sessions to school personnel and parents.
The SWD has also commissioned a consulting team to evaluate the mode of operation and effectiveness of the pilot project. The initial findings of the evaluative study showed that after receiving early intervention services, about 70% of children joining the evaluative study made progress in respective developmental domains, including cognition, language, social skills, fine motor, gross motor and self-care skills.
Following positive feedback from parents, the Government has earmarked annual recurrent resources in the 2023-24 Budget to regularise the Tier 1 support services from next month and expand the coverage of the services from around 80 Kindergartens/Kindergarten-&-Child Care Centres at present to nearly 900.