Aim: Demands for diagnostic and intervention services in childhood developmental and behavioural disorders (CDABD) have increased in Singapore. With earlier enrolment of some 50 000 children in pre-schools, early childhood educators must be well-versed in normal development (ND) and CDABD, to help detect children with potential difficulties and refer for early diagnosis and intervention.
Methods: Knowledge, attitudes and practices in ND and CDABD were evaluated among 503 pre-school teachers, most aged 30–44 years. With a median pre-school experience of 6.0 (0.1, 40) years, most had received formal training in early childhood but not special-needs (SN) education.
Results: A pass rate in knowledge (≥50% total-score) was achieved in 56%, with the overall median total-score of 50 (0, 87)%. In specific blocks on ND, autistic spectrum disorder and attention deficit/hyperactive disorder, pass-rate was achieved in 66%, 68% and 32%, with median block-scores of 56 (0, 100)%, 50 (0, 100)%, 40 (0, 100)% respectively. Results on attitudes and perceptions revealed that most supported mainstream integration and aides in the classroom, agreeing that both the government and parents should pay for such support services. While most felt unequipped, further training interested them, with >90% wanting to and feeling that they could make a difference for these children.
Conclusion: This study demonstrated educational deficits in CDABD among our pre-school teachers. Yet, most care and want to improve their skills to aid integration and improve SN education, calling for more training and resource support. Necessary changes in policy and resource allocation should occur to allow better-integrated adults of tomorrow.