Teacher helps disabled through sport

STUDENT Toh Sze Ning, who has cerebral palsy, was initially doubtful that she could take part in a sport called boccia.

As she could not feed or dress herself, she wondered how she could take part in a game involving moving a ball.

But thanks to her former teacher Lanny Kwok Ping Ping, the 19-year-old, who started learning how to play some seven years ago, went on to be ranked 16th last year in the world in the paralympic sport.

Yesterday, Madam Kwok, 43, from Spastic Children's Association School, was among three recipients of the Outstanding Special Education Teacher Award at the annual Special Education conference held at Singapore Expo.

"The sport gave the students a boost in self-esteem and expanded their social circle and cognitive skills; I was glad to be part of it," said Madam Kwok.

She had helped Ms Toh by watching YouTube videos of the sport with her and arranging for a helmet with a pointer so that Ms Toh could use her neck muscles to propel the ball forward.

In boccia, participants with neuromuscular disabilities move around in a wheelchair and aim to throw balls as close as they can to a target ball. The balls can be moved with hands, feet or, if the disability is severe, a device.

Mrs Lynette Yeo from Katong School and Madam Asmah Abdul Khamid from Tanglin School were the two other recipients of the outstanding teacher prize.

Mrs Yeo, 38, had led a team to run a pilot project using an iPad application to teach grammar and vocabulary to her students.

Madam Asmah, 57, led a team to develop vocational-education initiatives in Tanglin school.

The awards are presented by the Ministry of Education and National Council of Social Service. Some 171 nominations for 81 teachers were received from 16 special education schools.

Four schools were given the Innovation Award in a nod to their efforts to enhance learning through thinking out of the box.

Awwa School, which caters to children with multiple disabilities and autism, was among them. Its games arcade allows students to develop social skills through play. Those with physical disabilities can use their jaw muscles to play online games via a jaw pointer to navigate touchscreens.

"Children with autism prefer to keep to themselves so such games encourage them to interact with their peers and build teamwork," said Mrs Ruby Seah, 51, principal of the school.


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