Teaching children to be “completely inclusive” and comfortable around those with disabilities starts early, Minister Tan Chuan-Jin tells programme Talking Point.
SINGAPORE: More parents will soon be able to send their children to preschools with special needs support.
In an interview with current affairs programme Talking Point, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said 30 more preschools would be added by the end of the year to the Development Support Programme.
Piloted in 2012, the scheme supports pre-schools that take in children with mild developmental needs, by providing therapy intervention and trained Learning Support Educators who work closely with parents and teachers to prepare the children for mainstream primary school.
There are currently more than 300 pre-schools under the programme, said Mr Tan, and adding more would give children “more opportunities to interact”.
“Children with disabilities, if they are able to be in the mainstream schools, we should try to have them there,” he said.
“The difference we make is not just for those with disabilities. I would say that the difference is actually for the other children, for them to begin to be comfortable, to learn, to understand,” Mr Tan added. This is so that they can grow up to be “completely inclusive” of other Singaporeans.
He was speaking in an interview to be aired on Thursday’s (Aug 11) episode of Talking Point, which explores just how inclusive Singapore is when it comes to persons with disabilities.
Mr Tan spoke about the measures in place, as well as plans to improve both the hardware - which is physically accessibility - and the software - more opportunities to interact.
He cited the example of inclusive playgrounds, which let disabled children play alongside their able-bodied peers. “Now that’s really important, because it brings those who are disabled, who previously may not be… playing along with others in the playground, we now enable them to do that,” said Mr Tan.
“And after building that space, let’s take one step further,” he added. “Could you bring children with disabilities and other children together, programme some of their activities, so they actually do have the opportunity to use the facilities at the same time?”
It’s about “building a very different society”, said Mr Tan. “We think that it’s just about helping those who are disabled, all those with special needs. But actually, it has a lot more transformative effect than we realise.”
Catch the Talking Point episode, An Inclusive Singapore?, on Thursday, Aug 11, at 9.30pm on MediaCorp Channel 5.
Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin with preschoolers. (Photo: MSF Singapore's Facebook page)