Parliament: Show understanding to special needs children encountered outdoors

During the full home-based learning period, teachers have provided customised materials for students.
During the full home-based learning period, teachers have provided customised materials for students.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Children with special needs, accompanied by their parents, also need to get outdoors for some fresh air during this circuit breaker period, said Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah.

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)  and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)  in particular need this for self-regulation, she said.

"I call on everyone to be more understanding when they see a parent with a child with special educational needs in a park or public space getting a bit of fresh air.

"Sometimes, the children - and they could be adult children - will not be wearing a mask. The Government understands and has stated that enforcement will be flexible for such persons," Ms Indranee said in Parliament on Tuesday (May 5).

"Give them a smile and a friendly wave to show you understand."

Special needs children requiring some time outdoors was also one of the findings from a survey of more than 200 parents of such children, led by Ms Sun Mei Lan from Friends of ASD Families, a Facebook community group. The feedback was shared with the Education Ministry (MOE).

Ms Indranee said that the MOE, the Health Ministry (MOH) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development will reflect on the group's survey findings and take them into consideration when planning support for the families.

In response to Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) who had asked how the special needs community was supported with home-based learning, Ms Indranee acknowledged the challenges that parents and caregivers of special needs children faced, especially if they have to work from home or have multiple children.

"I would like to assure them that they do not journey alone. They should feel free to reach out to their child's school for guidance, help and support," she said.

She noted that therapy services can continue as the MOH recategorised allied health services out of the public healthcare institutions as essential services in April 29.

Safe distancing precautions will still have to be taken, she said, such as keeping therapy one-to-one and prioritising face-to-face consultations for patients whose condition may significantly or rapidly deteriorate otherwise.

 
 

In all other cases, providers are encouraged to deliver outpatient services by tele-consultation.

Ms Indranee said that during the full home-based learning period, a small group of students with "very high support needs" who were assessed by schools to require school-based intervention have been invited to come back to school for limited services.

For the rest, a range of learning approaches were adopted. For instance, teachers prepared lesson packages, including online and offline materials, which were delivered to families ahead of time.

Teachers also provided customised materials for students. Schools loaned computing devices, SIM cards, dongles and routers to students without devices or Internet access to ensure that they could continue learning.

 
 
 

Assistive technology and communication devices were also loaned to those who did not have such tools. Allied professionals from special education schools, such as psychologists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and physiotherapists, also work with teachers or share intervention strategies with parents through video or via teleconferencing, said Ms Indranee.