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All pre-schools to have inclusion coordinator to identify and support children with developmental needs

All pre-schools to have inclusion coordinator to identify and support children with developmental needs

An early childhood educator with her students. (File Photo: TODAY)

SINGAPORE: Starting from the second half of 2023, every pre-school will appoint an inclusion coordinator (ICOs) to identify and support children with developmental needs, announced Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling on Friday (Mar 5).

This coordinator, who will receive training from the Early Childhood and Development Agency (ECDA), will come from the pre-school's existing pool of staff.

"The introduction of ICOs will set a baseline for the sector's support for children with developmental needs and signal that every pre-school has a role to play in strengthening inclusion," she said at the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) Committee of Supply debate.

ICOs will work with early childhood educators to identify children with potential developmental needs for further assessment. ICOs will also connect teachers and parents to early intervention support or resources.

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Children with developmental needs refer to those with physical conditions such as muscular dystrophy, sensory conditions such as vision or hearing loss and neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability.

It also includes children with learning needs without accompanying disabilities, such as mild language developmental delays.

Children under the age of seven are eligible for several Government-funded early intervention programmes. Early intervention services include learning and therapy support.

Friday's announcement is one of the recommendations from the Inclusive Pre-school Workgroup report, commissioned in 2019. 

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SUPPORTING CHILDREN WITH DEVELOPMENTAL NEEDS

Other recommendations include expanding the Development Support - Learning Support and Development Support Plus programmes to more pre-schools.

Both programmes support children who require low levels of early intervention support. The Development Support Plus programme is for children who have made progress under the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC).

The EIPIC supports children who require medium to high levels of early intervention support.

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In 2020, 600 pre-schools offered the Development Support - Learning Support programme, which enrolled more than 40 per cent of resident pre-schoolers aged five to six. The Government hopes to cover 60 per cent of pre-schoolers aged five to six by 2025 and 80 per cent at steady-state, said Ms Sun.

In addition, ECDA will pilot an Inclusive Support Programme (InSP) at a few pre-schools, for children aged three to six who require medium levels of early intervention support. The programme will integrate early intervention and early childhood services.

"Under the InSP, preschools will be resourced with full-time early intervention professionals who will work with early childhood educators.

"This will reduce the logistical strain faced by caregivers, of shuttling between preschools and early intervention centres, and provide more integrated support," she said.

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Meanwhile, ECDA is studying how to integrate children requiring high levels of early intervention support.

The agency is also working with the National Institute of Early Childhood Development to introduce a Certificate in Inclusive Practice later this year. The certificate will train pre-school educators on how to support children of varying needs.

Source: CNA/cc(ac)

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