New programme to pair up special needs students with peers from mainstream schools

(From left) ITE College West students Iskander Shah, 17, Mohd Mubin, 18, and Benny Chan, 17, programme head and Delta Senior School (DSS) instructor Valerie Lim and DSS student Seti Humaira, 17, pictured before the launch of the buddy programme by Th
(From left) ITE College West students Iskander Shah, 17, Mohd Mubin, 18, and Benny Chan, 17, programme head and Delta Senior School (DSS) instructor Valerie Lim and DSS student Seti Humaira, 17, pictured before the launch of the buddy programme by The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) that pairs up students with mild intellectual disability and students from Institutes of Higher Learning to help the former integrate into the community, at the inaugural "We Are Able" Conference on Jan 18, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

A new programme which aims to boost the confidence of intellectually disabled students by providing more opportunities for social interaction was launched on Saturday.

The programme, called "Buddy'In", was launched by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) at the inaugural "We Are Able" conference. The first of its kind here, it will pair up 10 students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College West with students from the Association for Persons with Special Needs' Delta Senior School.

Under its pilot run which is slated to start in March, each pair of students will be encouraged to spend at least 80 hours together over a span of six to nine months. Besides working on a "graduation" project, they will be encouraged to participate together in activities such as leadership camps, meeting each other's families and watching movies.

Through the activities, these students with intellectual disabilities will hopefully pick up social cues and learn age-appropriate social behaviours.

"We hope Buddy'IN will forge life-long friendships between the buddies that last beyond their school years into adulthood, and that the buddies will learn from and inspire each other," said Ms Tina Hung, NCSS's deputy chief executive officer and group director for service planning and development.

Another three students from ITE College West will also undergo training by NCSS to help persons with disabilities learn social cues. They will also document interaction between the buddies.

The programme also aims to create awareness and acceptance of persons with disabilities in the community.

ITE College West student Benny Chan, 17, who volunteered for this programme, said: "It's my first time doing something like this... The programme will broaden my mind and learn how to include (people with special needs) in society."

In the long run, Buddy'In will also be implemented with other special education schools and institutes of higher learning, including polytechnics and other ITE colleges.

Madam Halimah Yacob, Speaker of Parliament and NCSS adviser, was guest-of-honour at the conference. In her speech, she mentioned some examples of progress that has been made over the past few years for persons with disabilities. These include an accessibility code which was introduced by the Building and Construction Authority in August last year to cater to the needs of the disabled.

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