National

Guidelines on supporting preschool children with disabilities under final review

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

The government’s first set of guidelines to help facilities improve services and opportunities for preschool children with disabilities are close to being finalized.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on Tuesday disclosed a draft of the guidelines at a meeting convened to discuss child development support.

The recommendations are intended as a reference for child development support centers on how to adjust individual learning plans for each student, and include a detailed checklist on how to address each child’s needs.

To date, the ministry has introduced guidelines for educational institutions on after-school support but said it wanted to tackle the earlier stage of child development.

The draft has been prepared based on feedback from associations and groups that provide care for children with disabilities, including Down’s syndrome or autism.

The ministry also said the aim was to ensure children nationwide had access to and were provided with equal opportunities to nurture creativity, develop individual skills and actively participate in society.

It also wanted centers to open better channels of communication with parents who often struggle to accept their child’s disability, which usually happens when the child is around 3 years old.

The ministry also recommended counseling and other forms of parental support within different categories, including health management, exercise and other movement-based activities; language and communication skills; perception and behavior; and human relations.

As an example, basic skills could be developed through daily activities such as putting on clothes, cleaning, tidying, toilet training and using mobility aids.

Information on tools and programs to help with reading and writing are also highlighted.

The guidelines clarify the role of institutions and carers providing such support, the ministry said.

They correspond to regulations set out in the child care support services law, which was revised in 2012 to boost support for children with developmental disabilities.

The move comes as the number of facilities providing services for children with special needs has nearly tripled in recent years, according to the ministry.

In April 2012 there were 1,737 day care centers and other facilities supporting children with disabilities nationwide, but that number has risen to 4,500 as of last October.

“It’s a step forward,” said Takayuki Ariyoshi of Tokyo Parents’ Association for Intellectual Disabilities, which works to provide better learning environments for children with disabilities.

Ariyoshi said that until now there had been no instructions on programs addressing the individual needs of preschool children in particular.

“It’s very important that these guidelines will ensure aid for preschoolers,” which was insufficient, he said, adding the existing system lacked a well-developed framework.

“The guidelines might also help in the development of children with suspected disabilities, as they will receive more attention,” Ariyoshi added.

The guidelines are slated to be approved by the ministry in May and will likely be distributed to municipalities in late June.

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