28 February 2017
Mr Desmond Choo
MP for Tampines GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development:
(a) how is the Ministry enhancing the capabilities of caregivers and parents to care for children with autism;
(b) how are pre-school teachers provided with the requisite training to teach children with mild autism; and
(c) how can the community play a role in helping autistic children to learn.
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may have needs that range from mild to severe. For those with moderate to severe needs, they are referred to the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC). EIPIC provides learning and therapy intervention for 0 to 6 year olds at risk of moderate to severe disabilities, including Autism. EIPIC services are currently available at 19 Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWO) centres located across Singapore.
EIPIC centres train and involve parents and caregivers in the intervention for their child. This equips parents and caregivers to better care for their children with special needs, and the child also benefits when the intervention continues at home. In addition, children in EIPIC may also attend pre-school for education, inclusion and childcare. In such cases, the EIPIC centres will work with the child’s pre-school teacher on strategies and tips on how best to engage the child in the classroom and in activities.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development, with the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), has worked with training institutes and educational providers such as Ngee Ann Polytechnic in rolling out specialised training such as the Specialist Diploma in Early Childhood Learning Support (SDELS), and the Advanced Diploma in Early Childhood Intervention (Special Needs) (ADESN), to equip EIPIC teachers, Learning Support Educators (LSEds) and classroom teachers in pre-schools with the necessary skills to support children with a range of developmental needs. Learning Support Educators provide targeted short-term intervention for children with mild developmental needs, and guide pre-school teachers in integrating these children in the classroom setting.
The community has a crucial role to play in supporting children with special needs. Children with special needs should be accommodated in community activities and play settings, so that they can learn and grow together with typically developing children. The inclusive playgrounds in our community are a good example where accommodations enable interaction between children with special needs and their typically developing peers. Such inclusions pave the way for the community to become more open and supportive towards children with special needs and their caregivers.
Corporate and individual contributions, coupled with a grant from the Care & Share Movement, were used to fund the five inclusive playgrounds built by NCSS. These playgrounds were the fruits of a very successful 3P (public, private and people) collaboration. We hope that there will be many more such partnerships and collaborations in building inclusive facilities, or creating inclusive settings.
In the education system, the Ministry of Education seeks to enhance integration between students in mainstream and Special Education (SPED) schools by facilitating meaningful and purposeful interactions between these two groups of students. Under the MOE’s satellite partnership model, some SPED schools practise ‘social integration’ with their mainstream partners. Others like Pathlight School allow their students to join their mainstream peers in class. The satellite partnerships enable students in SPED schools to remain integrated with the larger community.
We will like to encourage corporates and community agencies and groups to actively create opportunities for better integration and inclusion of children with special needs, through the infrastructure or programmes they put in place, or the activities they organise. Our society can do more to enable these children, like any other child, to realise their true potential as they become integral members of society.