K.A. began her teaching career in 1985. But it wasn’t until 1989, when she began her training in Special Needs Education, that she truly found her vocation. As she says, “My special kids may lack cognitive abilities, and their intelligence level is not as high as others. But, those special kids have a hidden talent that not many people realise. A uniqueness in each one of them. It is a teacher’s responsibility to explore and develop it so they can live in equality and dignity.”
She created a unique environment called ‘Teratak Spa’ (Spa Hut) in 2008 where the special students could feel welcome and discover spa education. The environment changed regularly to avoid boredom, and to create excitement and cosy surroundings. Due to the creative atmosphere, teachers and students across the country took ‘Teratak Spa’ as a benchmark and Malaysia’s Minister of Education launched it on 20 March 2016 and aired it on television during national news.
K.A. introduced facial treatments, hand and foot massage to her students and used the vocational syllabus for guidance. She says it is not an easy subject for her students to master the skills but when they do their sense of pride is palpable. A mark of the scheme’s success came when the students are able to offer spa services to the public. This did much to erase the stigma about the capabilities of student with learning disabilities in Malaysia.
Drawing on her own expertise in performance, K.A. encourages her special-needs students to challenge the other students in theatre competitions. Surprisingly, her hearing-impaired students beat 32 schools who didn’t field groups with learning difficulties to win the competition.