Keep long-term interests of special needs kids in mind

I agree with the Ministry of Education that we should not rush into making special needs education compulsory at this stage ("Why no compulsory education yet"; July 31).

By all means, offer free quality education to all children with special needs. However, don't take away the option to choose something more suitable, and don't force children (especially those with autism) into an environment they are not yet prepared to handle.

Children with autism are handicapped in their social skills; they have to be properly prepared to be able to have meaningful social interaction with mainstream peers.

Ignoring this issue will not only create severe stress for these children, but also reinforce any negative perceptions from their mainstream peers.

The mainstream educational system is least able to serve children with special needs. If parents can offer a better option such as homeschooling, we should empower them to take that initiative. In fact, we should consider giving teacher training to these parents so that they can continue supporting their children after school hours.

Rather than promoting inclusiveness and homogeneity at all costs, we should focus on helping special needs children develop employable skills while pursuing their interests, so they can lead dignified lives as adults.

When others see that those with special needs are also making important contributions to our society, they will naturally develop respect and acceptance.

Let us keep the long-term interests of special needs children in mind, rather than focus on political correctness or short-term victories.

Let us envision happy adults working together to make our society a better place, instead of just children mixing freely with one another in school.

Dino Trakakis

Director

Autism Recovery Network

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2016, with the headline 'Keep long-term interests of special needs kids in mind'. Print Edition | Subscribe