Update 28-Sept-17: Ayub now attends Acton KL and it's wonderful :) We're waiting for the…
My Autistic Child Attends Acton KL School And It’s Amazing
We uprooted the family and moved to a new home so that Ayub could attend pendidikan khas primary school at SK TTDI 2. For a lot of reasons that didn’t work out.
So we placed him back in the Dyslexia Association of Malaysia full time until his teachers advised us to actively search for a permanent school for him because he was too advanced for their level of teaching and didn’t have a learning disability. They saw immense potential in him that the association didn’t have the skills to unlock.
For many months we visited schools, spoke to principals and headmasters, emailed enrollment offices back and forth. Private schools, international schools, homeschool centres, private tutors. I spoke to so many.
- Any school that required Ayub to take an entrance exam to get a place was instantly struck off my list. That ain’t the kinda school I want any of my kids to attend.
- Others politely turned us away because they didn’t have the training to deal with special needs children.
- Schools that were created specifically for special needs kids couldn’t cater to high-functioning children and the teachers were concerned Ayub would regress.
- The private schools that did have special needs programmes came with fees that were so far out of our budget we would be living on the street and we still wouldn’t be able to afford it.
And then I found Acton KL.
What is Acton KL?
It’s a child-led school that allows the kids to learn at their own pace within a structured environment.
If you have a child who has a-typical development, you’ll understand how amazing this is. A school that allows the children to learn at their own pace. No stress, no pressure, and most importantly… no grades.
There are no tests or exams. The children aren’t separated into classes based on their “intellect.” In fact, the children aren’t even separated based on the year they were born.
There is the Elementary School where kids between the ages of 6-11 attend. Then there’s the Middle School where kids between the ages of 12-15 attend. But age doesn’t really matter. Because that’s the truth. Age doesn’t matter.
Ayub is 8 years old and in Elementary School. There are only around 10 kids. For a child with sensory issues and ADHD, small groups are perfect for him. (He was having daily meltdowns in public school, I think it’s all the noise and people that trigger him.)
Is Acton KL a school for special needs children?
Not specifically. They don’t discriminate against anyone. However, the guides are not trained to deal with special needs kids. It works for Ayub because he’s high-functioning and because we happen to live VERY close by to the school.
He has had meltdowns. When it happens his guide calls me to let me know, and we bring Ayub home immediately.
What do the kids learn in Acton KL?
The kids have Core Skills, which include spelling, typing, mathematics and so on. They work on Core Skills daily for an allocated time slot. It’s up to them which Core Skill they wish to work on for that day. Each child is given their own laptop and account, and complete their Core Skills at their own pace in their own time. They use different online programs for each Core Skill.
Ayub’s favourite program is Khan Academy.
Sprints & Projects
The school year is separated into 6-week “sprints.” Each sprint will have a specific topic such as: entomology, entrepreneurship, cooking and chemistry, architecture etc. Within the sprint the children will learn about these topics in different ways. This includes field trips, online research, having an expert give a talk and Q&A session at school, doing controlled experiments and so on. While they learn, they will also be working on a final project on that topic. At the end of the sprint, the children will have an exhibition and present their work.
For the entrepreneurship sprint, the kids brainstormed and set up their own business ventures. They learned about costing, revenue, and profit. They spoke to real entrepreneurs who run successful businesses. They researched, created, and tested their products and services. In the end they took part in The Children’s Business Fair where they set up their own booths and sold their goods.
But what subjects are taught?
All subjects and none at all.
As the sprints are based on a single topic, a range of subjects are taught throughout that sprint. For example, when they were learning about entrepreneurship, they talking about money management. That includes the school subjects like maths, economics, and finance. They also talked about marketing. That includes art and design, copywriting, digital strategy, and public relations. And they talked about product and service creation… Well, you get the point.
There are no teachers, there are only “guides.” These guides are INCREDIBLE. They give the children structure, then will step back and allow them to lead. If things go awry, they’ll step in to guide them back on course.
The kids also have physical education twice a week. They tend to bring in outside coaches for specific sports. Right now they’re taking swimming lessons at The Club.
How do you know if the kids are doing well?
No tests, no exams, no grades. There’s zero comparison between one child and another. It’s all about your kid’s individual progress.
When you leave kids to learn on their own, they really do take it into their own hands to learn. Because LEARNING IS FUN. Finding out new things about the world is fascinating. Bad teachers and bad schools make learning suck.
I don’t know how the other parents judge if their child is learning well, but I have seen tremendous positive change in Ayub. From the way he speaks and carries himself with confidence, to the way he reads, writes, and uses Google to find knowledge at home.
The computer programs the kids use for their Core Skills have an element of gamification to them. They get stars for passing a stage, they get to level up, their avatars get cooler. It becomes a game. It’s truly play and learn. Plus, as an added motivation, they are awarded “points” for their progress. These points get converted into “Eagle Bucks” which is their in-school currency. With their “Eagle Bucks” they can purchase goods at the “Eagle Store.”
Ayub has come home with small Lego sets and other toys and trinkets. All of them sit on his highest shelf in his room. He’s proud of them because he earned them. And I’m proud of him.
How much does Acton KL cost?
The fees are RM6,000 per term, three terms a year. So RM18,000 per annum.
There are no school uniforms, no textbooks. Pretty much everything is included. We topped up RM300 this term for swimming classes because Acton is using professional outside coaches to teach the kids.
It’s pricey, but we manage. And it’s worth it.
This is the happiest I have seen Ayub
Ayub has been through a lot. From the time he was 2 years old, he’s struggled in daycare and kindergarten. Teachers telling me he’s difficult, won’t sit still, won’t listen, isn’t learning… Primary school was worse. But that’s all behind us now.
With therapy and Acton KL, Ayub is blossoming and improving in every way.
If you’re interested to find out more about Acton KL:
Here’s their website: http://actonkl.org/
The school is still very small and hopes to grow in time. They are very careful about the students they allow in. Not based on merit or grades, but based on the family’s values.
If you expect report cards and standardised tests, this is not the place for you. If you want your child to sit 8 hours a day and learn geography, history, science and all from a textbook, this is not the place for you. Parents are expected to be fully committed to their child’s growth within school. That means attending gatherings, meetings, field trips and so on. You have to be willing to be an active participant at school.
If you’re looking for a school for your special needs child, or your regular child, I cannot say Acton is perfect for you. Because it may not be. I can only wish you the best in finding a safe place for your little one to grow and learn.
If you need help, guidance, or just someone to bitch to about how shitty things can be, just leave me a message in the comments section below! I probably know how you’re feeling right now 😛