Working with Special Education (SPED) students is demanding and requires a lot of experience. Your lessons need to be effective too, and you need to also accommodate your students’ special needs.
But getting experience can be difficult, especially since many SPED schools in Singapore require you to have experience working with SPED children before applying for a position.
One way you can get more experience is through volunteer work, and here are 5 places I recommend you to turn to.
Run by the Autism Resource Centre, Pathlight is Singapore’s first autism-focused school. Although you can apply for a teaching position in the school, there are also volunteer opportunities for you to work with the students there.
Make sure to apply under the ‘corporate volunteers’. This is because you interact more with the students than an ‘individual volunteer’. As a ‘corporate volunteer’, you bring students on outings and learning journeys.
You also plan and support major events like Sports Day with students in school. This increases your interaction with children with autism, and you learn how to communicate with them.
Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS)
They have special education schools and training centres that help the intellectually disabled integrate into society by teaching them vocational skills and providing education. They also offer these services to all ages, especially to children or teenagers in their schooling years.
Here, you help out as assistant teachers or assistant training officers, which lets you practise your teaching and lesson planning skills. This serves as a simulation for your classes with your students too, so make full use of this opportunity.
Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA)
RDA uses an interesting therapy method to help children with disability – hippotherapy or using horses for therapy. But don’t worry if you don’t want to work with the horses. As a volunteer, you can be a ‘sidewalker’.
As a ‘sidewalker’, you interact with children and help them during the session as they carry out therapy activities. Some children are non-verbal so you learn how to use non-vocal communication or speak in simple sentences which you can use during your lessons too!
Although RDA is mainly for children with physical disabilities, the association also provides therapy for children with conditions like Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
This means that you get experience working with children with various disabilities, widening your range of expertise. You also instruct the child through multiple activities, so you have more experience giving instructions and directing children.
[Rainbow Centre Singapore]
With locations all over Singapore, Rainbow Centre is an accessible and convenient organisation to volunteer at.
As a volunteer, you participate in activities like sports activities and outings with SPED children. This makes you more accustomed to interacting and communicating with children, which are skills you need to make your lessons effective.
You also help out in the classrooms and student care centres in Rainbow centre so you can practise your teaching skills. You also learn to plan lessons and activities to engage SPED students in the classroom.
Grace Orchard School
[First Sight International]
This voluntary welfare organisation caters to children aged 7 to 18 years old, ages similar to your students’. Often these children are diagnosed with mild intellectual disability and a mild autism spectrum disorder.
As a volunteer, you are expected to accompany the children on excursions, help out with co-curricular activities or support the teachers there. This is to prepare the children for entering vocational training schools or open employment.
During your time there, you might want to pick up on the lesson plans and activities that the teachers at the school offer during their classes. After all, they are tried and tested by the teachers there, so you can include them in your lessons too!
Volunteering is a fun and fulfilling way to gain more experience working with SPED children.
However, do note that many of these organisations require a long-term commitment and a lot of dedication, so make sure that you can afford to spend time at these volunteer locations.