Programme for kids with literacy difficulties to be extended to PCF mega pre-school

The Dyslexia Association of Singapore's sixth Preschool Seminar in the Lifelong Learning Institute on March 16, 2018.
The Dyslexia Association of Singapore's sixth Preschool Seminar in the Lifelong Learning Institute on March 16, 2018.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - A Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) scheme that offers support to pre-school children who find it hard to read and write will be extended to the PCF 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 develop literacy, fine motor and socio-emotional skills and was previously offered only at the DAS.

On Friday (March 16), it was announced that the programme will be rolled out to the Marsiling PCF centre this year, and there are plans to extend it to one more PCF pre-school a year for the next few years.

In total, 55 children at PCF pre-schools have benefited from the programme, which was first piloted at a branch in Ulu Pandan in 2014.

By offering the programme at more pre-schools, DAS hopes to make it more accessible to lower-income families. Currently, 80 per cent of the programme's students at PCF kindergartens are receiving 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 Preschool Seminar in the Lifelong Learning Institute on Friday.

"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," said Mr Ashraf. "What we're telling parents is, 'Don't wait for the kids to fail. The signs are there.'"

Although dyslexia can only be diagnosed at age six, identifying early warning signs can lead to earlier support. Mr Ashraf said some possible signs are the failure to reach benchmarks such as being able to identify letters in sequence or to read simple, high-frequency words.

More than 300 people attended the seminar to learn about effective learning strategies for pre-school children.

One participant was housewife Bibi Zulaikha, 42, who said her son, six, who has a mild learning difficulty, 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, a training institute for early childhood educators, stressed at 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".

"Inclusion is embracing the fact that everyone has value to add," she said.