SINGAPORE: Greater support in special needs education, moving Singapore from tolerance to greater acceptance and the active inclusion of children with special needs and their families by society – these are some of the hopes of parents of children with special needs, a survey has found.
The second part of the Lien Foundation’s Inclusive Attitude Survey, the results of which were released on Monday (Jul 4), polled more than 800 parents of children with special needs on the challenges they face, and how Singapore can be more inclusive.
PERCEPTION OF INCLUSIVENESS
According to the survey, only about 28 per cent of parents of children with special needs surveyed perceived Singapore as being inclusive. This is roughly the same as the perception of the general public.
The majority of parents surveyed – 77 per cent – supported inclusive education. But only slightly more than half (57 per cent) of those surveyed agreed that adults are comfortable interacting with their child.
Almost half of the children with special needs do not have "typically developing friends", the survey found.
Children with special needs also spent too little time outside, with 31 per cent of respondents saying this was because they were afraid of being judged as "not being a good parent".
CHALLENGES FACED IN SOCIETY
Parents of children with special needs often had to give up their jobs to care for their child, with two in five families having a parent who quit their job to look after their child.
These parents made up about 60 per cent of primary caregivers to children with special needs. Helpers and grandparents made up 16 per cent and 13 per cent of caregivers, respectively.
The majority of those surveyed – 72 per cent – said that laws on providing access to key amenities, suitable opportunities and child protection policies were needed to promote the rights of children with special needs.
CHALLENGES IN EDUCATION
Five in 10 parents faced difficulties enrolling their children in preschools, with 55 per cent finding that preschools were unwilling to take in children with special needs.
About half were satisfied with their child's education in mainstream preschools, although only a third of parents surveyed were satisfied with the curriculum and facilities offered for their special needs children.
The first part of the survey, released on May 31, found that close to two-thirds of respondents felt that Singaporeans are willing to share public spaces with children with special needs, but are not willing to interact with them.
A National Council of Social Services survey of 1,000 people with disabilities conducted earlier this year also revealed that 62 per cent of the respondents do not feel accepted or included, and felt they were not given opportunities to reach their full potential in society.
While more resources have been dedicated to improving the lives of children with disabilities through more funding for education and therapy, at least one expert said that more needs to be done.
Researcher and clinical psychologist Dr Kenneth Poon said more inclusive facilities should be built, and more training provided for staff in public and community spaces.
“We can (also) foster more opportunities or relationships that can be developed between typically developing children and children with special needs," he added.