Rainbow Dreams (Third Edition) –A Holistic Approach to Helping Children with Special Needs

In Recommended Reads by Engagement

Who? –Editors and Contributors

Rainbow_DreamsRainbow Centre, a voluntary welfare organisation providing special education, early intervention and professional therapy for special needs children, put together the first edition of Rainbow Dreams in 1997 as a resource for dads, mums, caregivers, educators, students, and medical professionals. This was followed by a second edition in 2002.

As Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, President, Republic of Singapore, describes in the Foreword: “The third edition of Rainbow Dreams provides an update on the diagnosis, intervention strategies and programmes arising from new research and recent developments in the field of early childhood and special education.”

The editorial team comprises:

  • June Tham-Toh Syn Yuen, executive director of Rainbow Centre
  • Dr Kenneth Lyen, consultant paediatrician at Mount Elizabeth Hospital
  • Dr Kenneth K Poon, assistant professor and deputy head at the Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice, National Institute of Education
  • Dr Lee Eng Hin, professor in orthopaedic surgery in National University of Singapore
  • Manoj Pathnapuram, trainer and consultant in early childhood intervention and special education at Rainbow Centre.

At the same time, 42 contributors comprising parents and professionals such as educators, doctors and allied healthcare workers, make this book illuminating.

What? –Comprehensive Content

The contributors’ rich insights and perspectives fan out across six sections:

A. Singapore Context
B. Medical Conditions
C. Intervention and Support
D. Issues Across the Life Span
E. Collaboration
F. Future Directions

Section A and F give the big picture of caring for a special needs child in Singapore. Persevere through the jargon. The contributors try to make it as easy as possible to read, but vary in writing style. As such, you might find it a little tough going if you are new to the topic.

Alternatively, zoom in on the sections and chapters that you deem more relevant.

Why? –Early Screening, Assessment and Intervention

Dads will find some chapters particularly useful as these can help you detect a certain medical condition and decide whether or not to seek a diagnosis for your child.

Chapters 3 to 14 cover several conditions: developmental delay, genetic disorders, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, visual impairment, hearing impairment, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, as well as Dyslexia and associated specific learning difficulties. Each chapter explores the condition in detail –its detection, diagnosis, treatment, organisations serving the community, resources, and useful websites.

However, before you do that, do read Chapters 3, 4 and 5 as these can help you form a comprehensive mental picture of what to look out for in your child’s development.

In Chapter 3: Recognising Normal and Abnormal Development, Singapore General Hospital’s Senior Paediatrician and Neonatologist, Dr Ho Lai Yun, explains that early childhood development can be categorised into four functional areas:

  • Gross motor
  • Fine motor and vision
  • Speech Language and Hearing
  • Social, emotional, behavioural

With an understanding of the normal stages of development in these functional areas and an appreciation of natural variations, you have a basis of comparison to decide whether your child needs further investigation or all is well.

In Singapore, every newborn’s rate of reaching developmental milestones in the functional areas is documented in a Health Booklet. It serves as a reference to the rate and pattern of your child’s growth. Such information will help you look out for warning signs of developmental delay.

Patterns of abnormal development include:

  • Developmental delay: A child develops along the normal route of development but persistently takes longer to arrive at each milestone compared to his peers.
  • Developmental disorder: A child’s development is not following normal patterns but is aberrant and bizarre.
  • Developmental arrest or regression: A child first develops normally, followed by a period in which there is a failure to gain new skills, a slowing in the rate of acquisition of new skills, or the loss of previously acquired skills

Says Dr Ho: “Parents are usually the first to notice their child’s problem. What they say should not be dismissed. Often, this may be sufficient to warrant further examination and investigation.” However, the majority of developmental problems are detected through health surveillance programmes, including immunisation, health education and specific advice on nutrition and safety and developmental screening.

Where there is indication of developmental delay, a developmental assessment can be conducted by a multidisciplinary team of paediatricians, therapists and psychologists. The assessment will establish whether there is a problem, its cause, and a management plan.

Chapter 4: Developmental Delay by Dr Chong Shang Chee, Consultant and Head of Child Development Unit, Development and Behavioural Paediatrics at the National University Hospital, elaborates on the identification, assessment and evaluation of the severity of delay.

Dr Chong states the importance of early intervention “to lay a foundation in conjunction with the family, to support infants as they grow and mature into healthy individuals.”

Global Developmental Delay (GDD) differs from Developmental Delay in that there is a delay in two or more functional areas.

In Chapter 5, Dr Kenneth Lyen also states the value of not delaying treatment a child with GDD: “Early assessment, profiling developmental difficulties, strengths and needs, and early commencement of psychological, education as appropriate, provide the best chance for improvement, maximising potential and quality of life, and preventing deterioration or developing further complications.”

Organisations serving specific special needs groups contribute excellent articles as well. Chapter 7 was contributed by a team from Down Syndrome Association Singapore and Chapter 13 Dyslexia and Associated Special Learning Difficulties by Robin Moseley, chief operating officer of Dyslexia Association of Singapore is also highly recommended, especially because he adds a personal note on his experience with Dyslexia.

Where? –Facilities and Programmes

In 1992, Rainbow Centre was established to initiate the development of new programmes for early intervention and special education. This was in response to the high demand for places and services in Margaret Drive Special School (renamedRainbow Centre –Margaret Drive School) started six years earlier for children with multiple disabilities.

Some of the systems and techniques mentioned in the book are used in Rainbow Centre’s schools and programmes.

Rainbow Dreams (Third Edition) was published in 2012 as part of Rainbow Centre –Margaret Drive School’s 25th Anniversary celebrations.

To purchase a copy of the book,  email Rainbow Centre atrchq@rainbowcentre.org.sg  . Proceeds of sales go to support the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Young Children. Also available at Popular Bookstores, Kinokuniya, MPH and Times.

You can borrow a copy of Rainbow Dreams (Third Edition) from Singapore’s Public Libraries.

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published in: 20-08-2013.