Factors Affecting Assessment and Placement of Children with Mental Retardation by the Nyeri Central Assessment Center, Kenya
Mwihungi, H. K
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A Task Force on Special Needs Education was commissioned by the Ministry of Education Science and Technology in 2003 to appraise the provision of Special Needs Education in Kenya. The Task Force reported in August 2003 that 90% of the Educational Assessment and Resource Centers (EARC's) in Kenya were making inappropriate placement decisions due to lack of the necessary facilities and appropriately trained personnel. Available literature on assessment suggests that the assessment process sometimes results in wrong diagnosis and therefore wrong placement of children suspected of having mental retardation. This study sought to find out how the assessment and placement process is carried out in Nyeri Central EARC focusing on the factors that influence successful assessment and placement namely; the personnel involved in assessment, the assessment tools and materials used, and the assessment process. The possible reasons that could make the EARC make wrong placement decisions and how to avoid them were also addressed. Review of the related literature focused on some of the key areas in special needs education related to assessment and placement of children with mental retardation. Definitions, causes, and classification of mental retardation are covered in this study. A brief on the historical development of assessment services in Kenya is also provided. A descriptive design was employed in this study and purposive sampling done as the study touched only on the persons directly involved with assessment and placement of children suspected of having mental retardation. Data was collected using interviews, observation and document analysis with participants being the head teachers of two special schools for children with mental retardation in Tetu District, the assessment teacher at the EARC, and parents who took their children for assessment. Admission documents of individual children already enrolled in the special schools were perused to gather information regarding their placement. Data was analyzed according to the themes emerging from the study which were related to the personnel, assessment tools and the process of assessment , as well as the presence of wrongly placed children and what could be done to rectify the situation. The findings of this study pointed out that there were shortcomings in the whole assessment and placement process at the EARC as a team approach to assessment and placement was limited to the assessment teacher, the child and the parent. The EARC lacked some basic assessment tools and materials, and the tools and materials found in use there were found wanting. The study suggests a number of measures that can be taken to make the assessment and placement process at the N y eri Central EARC more effective. These measures include making use of' a multidisciplinary team approach to assessment and placement, acquisition of enough and appropriate assessment tools and materials effectively address both intellectual and adaptive behavior problems that define mental retardation. The study also suggests the re-evaluation of all children suspected of having been wrongly placed in the special schools.