Teach kids, parents how to respond to special needs children

It is great news that we have a childcare centre and early intervention centre side by side (New centres let pre-schoolers and special needs kids interact; July 11).

I hope that, given time and the opportunity to play together, the children in the childcare centre will learn to accept children with special needs.

However, merely co-existing side by side is not enough. We cannot leave learning and understanding to chance.

The parents, teachers and children of the childcare centre must be taught how to respond to children with special needs.

For instance, children should use clear and respectful language that does not hurt the feelings of children with special needs.

Does the centre have a disability awareness and sensitivity curriculum to help the children learn about disability?

Stories and role-play about inclusion can be used to teach children about interacting and forming friendships with children with special needs.

To foster an attitude of true acceptance and inclusion, the parents must be role models and reach out to parents of children with special needs.

How adults respond affects the way children perceive and think about disabilities. This has long-term consequences on how a child will treat others who are different.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline 'Teach kids, parents how to respond to special needs children'. Print Edition | Subscribe