Inclusive attractions for kids with special needs

Staff of local attractions learn about disabilities and how to plan activities for children needing special assistance

Parents of children with special needs can soon look forward to activities tailored for their kids at various local attractions.

Children with autism, for example, could be given worksheets that play on one of their strengths - attention to detail .

Forty-five people from the staff of 45 local attractions recently attended a session to learn about various disabilities and how to plan activities for visitors with disabilities.

They aim to put their newly acquired knowledge to use by customising exhibits at their workplaces for those with special needs.

One of the trainers, Dr Noel Chia, said: "Some stamps are so detailed. Children with autism always look for the details. If you provide them with a magnifying glass and a worksheet asking them to look out for details - like the number of sheep in the stamps - these are things that they would love."


"Some stamps are so detailed. If you provide them with a magnifying glass and a worksheet asking them to look out for details... these are things that they would love."

DR NOEL CHIA, on how to engage children with autism

Dr Chia, an associate professor in the Early Childhood and Special Needs Education Department at the National Institute of Education (NIE), conducted the training with Dr Wong Meng Ee, an assistant professor in the same department.

The one-day session was initiated by the Association for Singapore Attractions (ASA), which has 50 local attractions as members, including KidZania Singapore, Snow Venture and Gardens by the Bay.

The ASA and NIE hope to hold a second, more in-depth session targeting specific attractions and disabilities, or for the pilot group of attendees.

Ms Tresnawati Prihadi, chairman of training and manpower development at ASA, said: "We have not reached a stage where we can say that our attractions are very inclusive attractions. In other countries, I think there are more efforts being made to make it happen.

  • Activities for kids with autism


    • What is the theme of the stamp?

    • How many reindeer are there?

    • How many Christmas trees are there?

    • What do you think is in Santa Claus' bag?

"I'd say this is the beginning for us and we want to equip our staff to be able to understand and handle special needs guests."

Physical disabilities are usually provided for, she added, with ramps and lifts.

According to the trainers, being inclusive of those with sensory, developmental and physical disabilities is not difficult.

"Adding multi-sensory details, like hearing and tasting and smelling can help engage visitors with special needs," said Dr Chia.

Braille can be added, and 3D printing can be used to make small models of the Merlion that visitors with visual impairment can feel instead of see, Dr Chia added.

Ms Prihadi is also the general manager of the Singapore Philatelic Museum, which sent two people in charge of education to the training. She hopes they can now plan activities for those with special needs.

Ms Nurdiana Rahmat, community and access manager of National Gallery Singapore, felt the activities shared during the training were most useful.


    ••Which community group is this?

    •• What are they celebrating?

    •• What food do you see on the stamp?

    •• How many green ketupats can you count?

"They had some handouts that some special schools did with students on the autism spectrum. I felt the handouts that they shared can be adapted," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2015, with the headline 'Inclusive attractions for kids with special needs'. Print Edition | Subscribe