No need to wait for Govt to build inclusive society

A recent survey found that 28 per cent of parents with special needs children regard Singapore as inclusive ("Wanted: Legal boost for rights of special needs kids"; July 5).

It is not easy to establish an inclusive society, but, at the same time, there have been encouraging stories which we can draw strength and learn from.

As a mother of a moderately autistic young adult, Ms Choo Kah Ying, founder of Awakening Minds, has been creating awareness on autism through her website, Facebook, and in public forums.

In her own efforts and initiatives, she has been giving examples about what an inclusive society entails.

It was inspiring to read about how two HDB officers went "beyond their scope of duties, by concealing a grey putty from a painted white area, with just tissue paper and Scotch tape", to ensure her son would not have a meltdown.

Ms Choo even described this experience as a validation to a parent of an autistic child that "if people came together to share the responsibility of helping autistic individuals, then parents and families would not feel so alone and helpless".

Other than Awakening Minds, there are also a few other groups which have been spreading public awareness. Let's Play Lah aims to bridge the gap between individuals with special needs and the community, by organising regular play dates for special needs children and their families.

Local theatre company Pangdemonium recently produced Falling, a play about a family raising an 18-year-old son with severe autism. Pangdemonium also hosted a post-show dialogue where caregivers and experts shared their experiences with the audience.

These groups mentioned are only a few out of many groups initiating ground-up support for the special needs community. These examples show that initiatives can sprout quickly and organically, from individuals and groups in the community, as opposed to being determined by the Government.

More can be done to understand the experiences of parents with special needs children. Parenting experiences can be shared, public awareness campaigns can be created and play dates between children with special needs and those in mainstream programmes can be arranged.

Everyone can do something in contributing practical steps to build an inclusive society, but it takes willing people to do the work to create that shift within society.

It is not so difficult to build an inclusive society when everyone is doing their part to make it happen.

Yeow Beng Zhen (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2016, with the headline 'No need to wait for Govt to build inclusive society'. Print Edition | Subscribe