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Education for Special Needs Children in Singapore

“My child has ADHD”. 

This is something that is totally unheard of in the early 1980s. However, as our society progresses, parents are more informed and well-aware of the mental well-being of their children. 

Singapore’s growing inclusivity towards children with special education needs (SEN)

In the recent years, Singapore is growing into a more inclusive society with encouraging attempts at allowing children with special needs to receive as close to mainstream education as possible. This is made despite the differing educational requirements resulting from learning difficulties, physical disability, or emotional and behavioural difficulties. The opening of Pathlight School in 2004, the first autism-focused school in Singapore that offers Singapore’s mainstream academic curriculum together with life readiness skills a prominent example.

As the demand for such special education (SPED) schools in Singapore grows, three new schools for students who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will be set up over the next few years. One of the new schools would be Pathlight’s third campus. The new schools will aid in improving the accessibility of special education, helping to ensure that children with moderate-to-severe special education needs will be able to receive a quality education in Singapore. 

Due to the higher needs and greater amount of resources needed in SPED schools, six of such schools in Singapore have lowered their fees by at least 25% for Singapore citizens since January this year. This allows families of children with special education needs (SEN) to have access to a more affordable education for their children.

What are the types of specialised education services that children with SEN require?

Students with mild SEN enter the mainstream schools has they have the cognitive abilities and adequate adaptive skills to learn in large-group settings. However, those who have moderate to severe SEN require more intensive and specialised assistance in their education, thus are more suited to attend SPED schools. 

There are currently 19 Government-funded SPED schools run by 12 Social Service Organisations (SSOs). 

As children with SEN often are unable to cope with the mainstream education system, SPED schools tend to focus more time on Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) and Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) to deliver these children a holistic and comprehensive education. Through adapted programmes suited for the varying needs of a child, many SPED schools aim to deliver balanced curriculums within structured and authentic environments that promote dignity, meaning, and independence.  

Apart from special education schools (Sped schools) run by the MOE, there are several privately-run schools or therapy centres with very good teaching and therapy facilities. Examples are therapy rooms, hydrotherapy pools, vocational education programmes, society-integration programmes, and even training for jobs. These programmes have allied health professionals, such as psychologists and counsellors, who work closely with them.

Early intervention is key to helping your child reach his full potential. Choosing the right school-fit for your special needs child is also an extremely important and delicate decision as a parent. So, as parents, take your time to do your research and choose wisely!

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