Acceptance of special needs kids must start in the womb

Kindle Garden, said to be the first full-fledged inclusive pre-school in Singapore, allows children with special needs to learn alongside their peers.
Kindle Garden, said to be the first full-fledged inclusive pre-school in Singapore, allows children with special needs to learn alongside their peers.PHOTO: ST FILE

As a woman with a physical disability, it is disappointing to learn that Singaporeans are tolerant towards, rather than accepting of, people with special needs ("S'poreans 'don't walk the talk' on special needs kids"; Tuesday). On the other hand, I am not surprised by the findings, because before birth, a child with a disability is already not accorded the same value as other unborn children.

The Guidelines on Termination of Pregnancy state that "the contents of pre-abortion counselling may be adapted for women diagnosed with foetal abnormalities".

The selective abortion of unborn children with medical defects is an indication of how people can fail to recognise the inherent dignity and value of people with special needs.

If an unborn child with a disability is denied the right to live before birth, new laws to promote the rights of these children after birth seem hypocritical.

Parents expecting a child with special needs are bound to have concerns and fears. What is critical is how the Government, non-profit organisations and the community pool their resources together to support every parent whose child has special needs. Abortion of any child, with or without disability, is the easy way out.

Lack of meaningful interactions causes the public to have misconceptions and fears towards people with special needs, and vice versa.

When I go out, I face stares and nasty remarks from schoolchildren. As an educator, I make it my goal to educate my own students on how they should relate to one another.

I do know of mainstream schools which seek to include children with special needs. However, there is not enough support given, and some parents instruct their children to stay away from those with special needs because of "violent tendencies".

In promoting inclusion, it is of paramount importance that schools and parents are informed in advance of any disruptive behaviour, to avoid any frustration on both sides.

I have benefited tremendously from being in mainstream schools and desire the same for other children with special needs.

While I have my fair share of obstacles to overcome, I learn to respond better to people who may not understand my condition.

I grow in confidence as I look beyond my own predicament and believe that as we become more open in sharing our challenges, the community will unite.

Ho Lay Ping (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2016, with the headline 'Acceptance of special needs kids must start in the womb'. Print Edition | Subscribe