A Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) programme that offers support to pre-school children who find it hard to read and write will be extended to the PCF SparkleTots at Marsiling large childcare centre, the sixth pre-school to offer the scheme.
Under a tie-up between DAS and the PAP Community Foundation (PCF), the scheme is currently offered at five PCF pre-schools. It helps children with literacy, fine motor and socio-emotional skills, and was previously offered only at DAS Learning Centres.
It was announced yesterday that the programme will be rolled out to the mega centre this year, and there are plans to extend it to one more PCF pre-school a year for the next few years.
In all, 55 children at PCF pre-schools have benefited from the programme, which was piloted at a branch in Ulu Pandan in 2014.
DAS hopes the expansion will make the scheme more accessible to lower-income families. Currently, 80 per cent of the programme's students at PCF schools receive financial assistance.
Early intervention is one of the association's key tenets, and it makes sense to focus on pre-school education, said Mr Nor Ashraf Samsudin, DAS' director of specialised educational services, at the sixth DAS Pre-school Seminar yesterday.
"The learning trajectory is actually the steepest at the ages of five to nine. So (with early intervention), they are already equipped with the strategies," he said. "What we're telling parents is, 'Don't wait for the kids to fail. The signs are there.'"
Although dyslexia can be diagnosed only at age six, identifying early warning signs can lead to earlier support. Mr Ashraf said some possible signs are the failure to reach benchmarks, like being able to identify letters in sequence or to read simple, high-frequency words.
Over 300 attended the seminar to learn about effective learning strategies for pre-school children.
One participant, housewife Bibi Zulaikha, 42, said her six-year-old son has a mild learning difficulty and has benefited from the DAS programme. He has improved in his literacy skills and become more confident and enthusiastic about lessons.
Ms Clara Lim, associate lecturer at the Seed Institute, stressed in her keynote address at the seminar the need to "change our culture, our mindset, to believe that the child with special needs belongs in our classroom". She said: "Inclusion is embracing the fact that everyone has value to add."