Saturday, September 4, 2010

Introducing the “Bridges” program

Following is an article I wrote for the first ICS parent newsletter of the school year:
At ICS we believe that as everyone is made in the image of God, everyone is equally valued. We know that regardless of their academic performance, each child is important and has something of significance to contribute to his or her family, friends, and community. Because of this conviction, we have commenced an exciting new program that aims to integrate students with more significant special needs into the ICS community.

Known as “Bridges”, the self-contained classroom can be found in Room 410 on the elementary side. A group of seven students aged between five and eleven years old will be based in this classroom with integration into mainstream classes whenever possible. These students have diagnosed disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder which affect their learning to such a degree that they require a non-standard course of study. 

Their adapted curriculum will be based on individualised education objectives set by their parents and the Bridges teacher. Integration subjects and durations will vary for each student according to their abilities. It is natural for staff and families to have concerns about the Bridges program. Perhaps you have had little exposure in the past to these types of disabilities and the behaviour problems associated with them. We have plans to inform students, staff and families about specific issues relating to the Bridges class in order to promote a smoother integration for these students into the school community. Some questions have also been raised about whether funding for this class will be deducted from tuition of the general student population, and the answer is no. These students pay separate fees to cover the costs for their special resources and staff salaries. As mentioned earlier, the Bridges students are on a non-standard course of study; therefore, their progress will not be included in the academic data of ICS.

Because of their disabilities we or our children may be unsure of how to engage with the Bridges students. With the exception of their disabilities, the Bridges students are just like our mainstream population. They are children who can learn and grow with the right help, and who respond positively when treated with kindness.If you or your child happen to see a group of students walking through the school, remember to treat them with the respect you would give any other class. We want them to feel safe and welcome at ICS, so wave and smile. If the opportunity presents itself, talk to these children and get to know them. We hope and pray that ICS will be the right setting for them to maximise their own unique gifts and talents.

I have taught in numerous special education settings in Australia, but I am extra thrilled to be in a Christian international school at the time when it is opening its doors to these students. I can’t wait to see the positive outcomes for the Bridges students, their families, ICS staff, the mainstream classes, and the wider school community as we begin this integration program and ultimately gain a richer and more diverse student body.
Many of you have asked how my new job is going. Obviously due to confidentiality reasons I can't share much about my individual students or the staff with whom I work. I will say, however, that I love my class; they are a great group of kids. This is my first teaching position  in a mainstream school which, needless to say, has been a learning experience, and I have had to deal with a few intolerant attitudes. I am feeling a bit isolated, unlike my previous school settings where all the staff were special needs trained and supported each other well. On the other hand, I love speaking openly to my students about the Lord and teaching them Biblical truths and Christian songs. We are already planning for a second Bridges class in the middle school. Please pray for that and about HR issues in the special education department at ICS.


  1. So well written Renee (as always).

    Praying for you in your new role.

    Great to chat last night!

  2. The article was great Renee. I hope you get a lot of positive feedback from staff and parents. I'm sure that the parents of the children you are teaching are so grateful to have an experienced teacher to help their children.

  3. Excellent! Well done--both in the writing, and in the work!

  4. God is blessing ICS and the people of Hong Kong with your presence...praying for you and your work daily :)

  5. Wow! Renee you have been gifted and blessed! Great article! Great opportunity! Great woman!
    Will pray for you, your class and your colleagues!