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Being a parent is tough, and it is even tougher being a parent with a special needs child.
In Singapore, we are known for our world-class education system as well as its numerous social safeguards.
Nonetheless, parents may sometimes find it challenging to navigate the different systems and services intended for children with special needs. In this article, we will explore the resources available to parents and children with special needs in Singapore!
Guaranteed Access to Education
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Singapore’s constitution grants all children the right to education, and this right unequivocally includes children with special needs.
While any parent with means would naturally want to hire the best educational therapist Singapore has to offer, all parents can rest assured that all schools within the mainstream education system have reasonable accommodations for children with disabilities.
At the same time, if parents do not wish for their children to attend mainstream schools, there are also several other options in Singapore.
SEB Oversees Special Education Services
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The Special Education Branch (SEB) takes on most of the responsibility of guaranteeing the right of Singaporean children to an education.
It’s the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) internal agency that parents of children with special needs have to get in touch with to learn about currently available services.
The SEB also works closely with schools, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to provide different services to support children with special needs. Such services include but are not limited to assessment, therapy, and access to specialised equipment!
VWOs Provide Services for Special Needs Children
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Singapore is home to a large number of Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) that either directly provide support services for children with special needs or give some form of indirect assistance.
Some of these organisations are independently run while others receive some kind of funding or assistance from private companies or government agencies.
The best-known Singaporean VWOs include the Autism Resource Centre (ARC), the Down Syndrome Association (DSA), and the Muscular Dystrophy Association Singapore (MDAS).
The scope of different Singaporean VWOs deserves another article, but parents should know that a number of VWOs offer a range of support services for children with different special needs. Additionally, some VWOs offer services aimed at supporting parents, including therapy, respite care, and counselling.
AEDs Help Parents and Teachers
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Singapore’s small but growing force of Allied Educators(AEDs) is instrumental in providing children with mild special needs the support they need to grow within the school system.
AEDs work in both mainstream and special education schools and they give children, parents, and other educators close support in areas such as behaviour management, curriculum modification, and communication.
ECDA Identifies Children with Special Needs
In most cases, the earlier a child’s special needs are identified, the easier it will be for them to develop the skills they need to excel socially and academically.
Early identification also reduces the possibility that special needs children will undergo mentally scarring traumatic experiences because of their difficulties fitting in. Unfortunately, many common developmental issues are difficult to identify and cultural norms often result in parents being in denial of potential issues.
Early Childhood Development Agency’s Development Support Plus (ECDA DS-Plus) programme is meant to address these early identification issues.
DS-Plus is an early intervention programme intended to identify and support children with mild developmental needs as early as possible, thus avoiding complex issues associated with late identification.
In addition to identifying children with special needs, the programme provides support to schools by providing special needs children therapy as well as various types of assistive technology.
Singapore Is Home to Several Parental Support Groups
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Being a parent of a child with special needs can be stressful, especially since raising a child with a developmental issue is not something most other parents could relate to.
Additionally, the deep-seated stigma against special needs children and their parents has not entirely gone away, making it difficult for parents to relate to others, even their own family members.
Fortunately, Singaporean parents can seek support from others in similar situations through local support groups and online forums. These groups provide important sounding boards for parents to share their experiences and learn from others.
Additionally, these different fora allow parents undergoing difficult times to solicit advice as well as obtain emotional support from others who understand what they are going through.
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Singapore has certainly achieved a lot in terms of delivering a nurturing environment for special needs children.
However, navigating the educational system and obtaining the resources needed to raise a child with developmental issues remains challenging for many parents.
By understanding their children’s rights and the different resources available to them, parents can better ensure their children not only receive a quality education but are able to thrive in mainstream society, regardless of what challenges they face in early childhood.