K2 boy with autism goes missing from preschool in Serangoon North; ends up in Yishun

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My First Skool, a leading preschool, apologised today after a Kindergarten 2 male student with autism went missing during school hours in Serangoon North yesterday (Oct 24).

The boy was later found more than 12km away at Yishun MRT station.

Ms Justina Ong, the mother of the seven-year-old boy, said that she received a call from the pre-school at 10.48am, informing that her son had disappeared after a gardening session:

“When I received the call, I went crazy. I thought I would never get to see my son any more.”

Ms Ong said the school told her that a teacher had taken seven children outdoors at 10.15am. When they returned to class 15 minutes later, the teacher realised that Ms Ong’s son was missing.

Fortunately, five minutes after the school had contacted her, Ms Ong received a call from an employee at Yishun MRT station, saying that her son was there.

She said that, due to her son’s autism, he was unable to detail how he ended up at Yishun station. However, he told Ms Ong that he took a bus from the pre-school to Ang Mo Kio station, where he took a train to Yishun.

Ms Ong said:

“His child bus card is with me. I also do not how he managed to take the bus and MRT
“But according to the Yishun MRT staff, he was approached by an auntie in the MRT. My son told her that he wanted to go to Yishun and the auntie guided him to the MRT staff. The staff then got our phone number from my son.”

She added that Ang Mo Kio MRT station staff also confirmed that he boarded the train there.

Mrs Adeline Tan, general manager of My First Skool, made a public apology today:

“We apologise unreservedly for this incident which has caused great stress and worry to the family of a child under our care
“The boy has been with us since he was a toddler and our teachers have always conscientiously looked out for him.”

She added that the teachers at the centre “did their best to search for the child” in the vicinity of the school, before the teacher in charge of the gardening activity contacted Ms Ong. Mrs Tan added:

“The teacher-in-charge is deeply apologetic and badly shaken by this incident. She is being counselled and understands that appropriate disciplinary action will have to be taken. We are doing our utmost to engage with the parent on this incident.”

Ms Ong has lodged a complaint with the Early Childhood and Development Agency, and the case is under investigation. The boy’s mother added that she will be withdrawing her son from My First Skool.

 

22 COMMENTS

  1. I cnt help but blame the higher authorities for this. When you have a huge class size with limited manpower, this is bound to happen. Only those working in the education sector can understand this. There must be a law to reduce and limit class sizes. The teacher to children ratio is still too big!

    • i am not saying the teacher is absolved of blame but…

      1. it is not stated in the article that the teacher-student ratio for that activity is 1:7.
      2. the teacher to children ratio in singapore is 1:25 for kindergarten while NAEYC Accreditation is 1:11
      3. i have “interviewed” a few preschool teachers before that at the current rate, it is not manageable.
      4. bear in mind that this child has autism, ALL THE MORE the teacher to student ratio should be even smaller.
      5. are you a parent? have you worked in the childcare sector before? maybe you should try taking care of 7 children of all the same age, with one autistic child for a week and let me know how that turns out for you. 🙂

    • Ummul Ammatullah so are u a parent? Are u working in the childcare sector? Have u the experience of taking care of 7 children of the same age for a week? Don’t bother, I don’t even care about your opinion.

    • Yes I am a parent. I am not a child care teacher but I have volunteered and look after kids in child care before. Apart from that, I do interact with children with special needs. So no, I cannot fault the teacher fully when there are still a lot of loopholes in the system.

    • I agree with Ummul Ammatullah some centres dont follow the protocol because of profit even if it means the teachers are at stake of exhaustion and stress.

      Mohd Ihsan Ben Burtton Do you know how taxing it is on the teachers to even have one special need child in the class? And even more if its 2 or 3? You dont know right?

      Having one in a class can be difficult for teachers in terms of lesson execution and class management. Even taxing if theres more. To you 7 student may be a small number. But let me tell you, if there is one special need child even in that small number of children, it can be taxing and a great challenge for the teacher. Bringing class outside with special need child can be a big challenge. Because on top of already being vigilant and on high alert on classes of normal children, they need to be even more alert when there is one special need children, and higher if there is more than one. Have you ever tried being on high alert every seconds each day everyday for 8-9 hours while trying to multi task at the same time and put up with each kid behaviorial issues and class management all in one? Its draining okay? At the end of the day, the educators can finally let their guard down and feel so tired after being on high guard for long hours.

      If parents cant even cope in taking care one or two normal child, or cant cope even while giving full attention to one special need child, and both parents are bound to err while caring for them, then think about these teachers taking care of more than 10 children in their class in addition to a special need child. The teachers are humans all the same. If you people cannot cope with your own child or special needs child, what makes you think the teachers are like superwoman and able to? Because they have to. Its part of their job so they are doing all the best they can. But sometimes we make mistake even after giving our best. And people did not look at that effort but being unforgiving. I dont understand how people can be so sympathetic to other mothers struggles but not sympathetic towards preschool teachers struggles who handle more children than any of the mothers could have? And if people think it can so easily done, i suggest you do it for a week and we can talk about it after your experience lol.

      Im not saying the whole thing is ok. The teacher should been more vigilant if she knew theres a special child. But im also saying the worst thing for a teacher is to have unforeseen things happening. I mean come on, the child has been with them since toddler and nothing happened. It shows just how great the people there been taking care of the child. But with just one incident, we turn them upside down. We are the heartless one. We are more unforgiving for unintentional mistake than we actually give gratitude for those times our child been carefully cared for. Yes we all love our children and protective of them. We can make mistakes in raising them but not accepting if it comes to other people. But i hope while we being protective of them, we are not being heartless to the people who have given their best in caring for our child.

  2. Sigh. Incidents like these, point to operational gaps in special needs education. Does it mean a child on the autistic spectrum will be deprived of outdoor, experiential learning, because of the innate risks he poses to himself?
    The care-giver in this instance may not be properly-trained to manage children with special needs. It is too easy to pin responsibility/blame on one person.

    • I concur. If special needs children are integrated with other social groups for learning, there must always be extra pairs of eyes, with security measures in place to prevent the child from wandering off. Trained staffing adequacy, physical/mechanical barriers (i.e. double gates), CCTV. Budget constraints and profit bottomlines are often the root cause of operational gaps.

    • They shudnt be deprived but better support system should be provided. The child was brought out of the school for a gardening activity, there should have been more teachers provided.

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