Unique sports day for Pathlight School

From left: Lim Sook Wei, 45, Esther Tan, 40, and Valerie Chew, 43. The trio have helped to organise the inaugural sports day for Pathlight School students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
From left: Lim Sook Wei, 45, Esther Tan, 40, and Valerie Chew, 43. The trio have helped to organise the inaugural sports day for Pathlight School students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Come Aug 6, the inaugural sports day will be held at Pathlight School for 80 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in an effort to make Singapore a more inclusive nation and will be a part of their National Day celebrations.

The event will feature eight sports activities, each focusing on agility, cardiovascular training and martial arts for kids aged six to 18. Behind this initiative are four parents whose children have ASD.

Esther Tan, one of the event organisers, whose nine-year-old son has autism, said: "Some of the kids are actually very patriotic, and would sing the national anthem very loudly and very proudly. However, attending a National Day Parade is not feasible for some of them because of the sensory overload."

This condition occurs when one or more of the body's senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. Some of the environmental factors include sound, heat and crowds.

Tan, 40, added: "That's why we wished to tie up this event with the National Day celebrations, to enable these kids to be a part of the national festivities in an autism-friendly environment."

Along with more than 80 parents and siblings accompanying these autistic children from Pathlight, 16 Autism Resource Centre coaches will also be on hand at the event to provide guidance.

Organiser Lim Sook Wei said: "Our kids usually are not able to do sports externally, due to the various environmental factors. This sports day is a chance for them to get active in a controlled environment."

The 45-year-old has a 10-year-old son with autism. The two other event organisers are Valerie Chew and Lawrence Ng.

Tan hopes to see more initiatives tailored to autistic children.

She said: "I hope that this sports day serves as a catalyst and sparks a wider inclusion of autistic kids in public programmes. We're not asking for something catered specifically towards those with ASD but we wish to have them mingle along with the rest of the children out there."

For other activities during GetActive! Singapore suitable for those with disabilities, there is a Giant Games Festival and also a table tennis try-out organised by national para-paddler Darren Chua.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 24, 2016, with the headline 'Unique sports day for Pathlight School'. Print Edition | Subscribe