S'pore Poly launches centre for special needs students

The Special Education Needs Centre at Singapore Polytechnic has a lounge area for special needs students to work on projects and socialise with one another. The centre also has a soundproof room with an expandable sofa bed where students with autism
The Special Education Needs Centre at Singapore Polytechnic has a lounge area for special needs students to work on projects and socialise with one another. The centre also has a soundproof room with an expandable sofa bed where students with autism can rest.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

They can borrow tools to help with their learning, participate in activities or take a rest

Students with special needs will now be able to borrow tools to help their learning at the first Special Education Needs (SEN) centre at an institute of higher learning here.

Such a centre, which took $200,000 and two years to set up, was launched yesterday at Singapore Polytechnic (SP) to cater to special needs students.

For example, students with hearing difficulties can borrow a device that can amplify a lecturer's voice; those with visual disabilities can borrow a mini "telescope" to help them see the lecturer or whiteboard, or a tablet that can change the size and contrast of words.

Those with autism, who need a break from the hustle and bustle of school, can rest in a soundproof room on an expandable sofa bed.

Special needs students can also take part in activities at the centre.

Mr Clarence Chua, director of student services at SP, said the centre is the first such facility in institutes of higher learning.

"We wanted a special place for them to feel comfortable, and be able to train together and manage themselves," he added.

He said there are plans to train all academic staff at SP to better manage and advise students with special education needs.

There are about 400 students with special education needs out of about 15,000 full-time students in SP, said a spokesman for the poly.

For students like Mr Ng Li Jie, 19, a Year 2 student studying for a diploma in biotechnology, the new centre is a place where he can look past his autism.

"I can get more experience and lessons from the many people in SP and learn how to handle my own challenges. Knowing that there are others like me helps me to stop focusing so much on my own needs and instead try to maximise my strengths," he said.

However, he said more could be done to make the overall school populace more inclusive.

He recounted an incident when classmates were hesitant to pick him for their groups for projects due to his special needs. "Inclusion should be taught across classes, not just for SEN students," said Mr Ng.

The launch of the SEN centre follows the introduction of the SEN fund in March 2014 for polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students with physical or sensory-related disabilities.

Under the fund, students with physical disabilities can receive up to $5,000 to buy assistive devices, while those with visual or hearing disabilities can get up to $25,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore Poly launches centre for special needs students'. Print Edition | Subscribe