The MOE has just announced in it’s press release that, 3 government-funded Special Education (SPED) schools for autistic children in Singapore will be expanding the number of school places in the next two years.
The move comes in response to the increase in the reported number of students with moderate-to-severe Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD), who require specialised and intensive programmes to support their learning.
Special education schools for autistic children in Singapore
The following is significant about the above move:
- Autism Association Singapore (AAS), AWWA and Rainbow Centre (RC) will each be opening one additional campus by the second half of this year.
- Before these additional campuses are ready, AAS and AWWA will each begin operations out of another school site so that they are able to take in more students from 2018, and the 2nd half of 2017 respectively. RC will also take in more students at its additional campus from 2018.
- Once ready, the three additional campuses will be able to take in a total of 75 additional students per year.
- MOE will continue to work with the Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) which operate government-funded SPED schools, to ensure that children with moderate-to- severe special educational needs are able to access and benefit from a quality education.
Check out the location details of these additional campuses in the picture below:
Source: MOE Singapore
According to The New Paper, school fees at these schools range from $86 to $350 a month, before subsidies.
Senior Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary, has been quoted by Channel NewsAsia as saying, “With the 75 new places per year that we are going to offer, to every Singaporean child who has a need for special education, we can say you have a place.”
“There’s been an increase in demand for places for children with an autistic spectrum disorder for a variety of reasons. One is, we are getting better at diagnosing this and diagnosing it earlier. We are also getting better at persuading families that there’s something we can do about this. We can provide a meaningful education opportunity for these children.”
What is autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a broad term for disorders such as autism and Asperger syndrome. These disorders are characterised usually by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviours.
ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some people with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.
The most obvious signs and symptoms of autism tend to emerge between 2 to 3 years of age. The exact reasons for autism remain largely unknown. Apparently, 1 in 150 children In Singapore are on the autism spectrum, even higher than the World Health Organisation’s global figure of 1 in 160 children.
Taking care of autistic children
The exact cause of autism remains unknown, though it is heartening to know that researchers are making breakthroughs in the field. Apart from medical care and therapy, here are some simple, everyday things that will help make a difference, when it comes to raising an autistic child:
• Maintain a consistent schedule
Autistic children generally find change to be chaotic. Routines work best for them, so they understand what happens next. Avoid making unnecessary changes and confusing them.
• Create a soothing environment
Choose natural or full spectrum lighting wherever possible. Autistic children are generally sensitive to loud noise. They might want to retreat to a quiet area when they feel extremely disturbed.
• Safety first
Autistic children are known to fiddle extensively with things, so make sure you have your safety barriers in place. Set boundaries and explain safety rules to the child.
• Expect stimming
Stimming refers to repetitive behaviour, as in movements and sounds. Autistic children feel good while stimming. It is their way of preventing meltdowns, increasing self-control, and focussing. Some children can stim in a harmful way though, like bang their heads repeatedly on the wall, so parents should watch out for such behaviour.
• Encourage special interests
Ever come across that child who can barely talk, but is a genius at solving puzzles? Autistic children are known to be exceptionally intelligent in some areas. These areas provide joy in their lives. Parents might want to help them improve their skills in these areas, as it would increase their self-confidence as well.
• Know your child
Understand what overtly stimulates your child. What sensory stimuli causes him to have meltdowns or shutdowns. When the child is disturbed, he may start crying, covering ears, show panicked stimming, and avoidant behaviour.
• Have regular health check ups
The autistic child may not be able to communicate if he is not keeping well. So the parent must always be extra alert and sensitive to his needs.
• Encourage communication
Talk to your child. Even if there is no response, keep communicating and interacting with him. Autistic children might avoid eye contact and keep stimming, but they might be listening to every word of yours. So keep talking and explaining things.
• Choose fun therapies
Choose therapies wisely. Avoid therapies that force the child to comply to things, and are excessively long. Allow your child to be himself.
• Be prepared for emergencies
Autistic children sometimes have a tendency to wander off on their own. What happens if the child gets lost? Always prepare a name card ready with the child’s and parent’s details. You might even want to hang it on his neck. Some parents resort to leashes, or opt for tracking devices, which can be tracked by a mobile app.
• Stay positive, love your child
Last, but certainly not the least, treat your child with kindness and respect. This will help him to grow up feeling like a complete and capable person. Never apologise to someone about him being autistic (and especially not in front of your child). Your child is different; embrace the difference, autism and all.
Source: MOE, The Straits Times, Channel NewsAsia, The New Paper
Also READ: I was not prepared to be an ‘Autism Dad’