Students in public special education (Sped) schools will soon have more guidance in sexuality education and relationships.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has awarded a $24,000 tender to a company to develop a guide to help Sped schools design programmes in personal safety and relationships.
This comes amid growing concern about young people becoming sexually active and not having a good understanding of consent. There have been cases where those with special needs were taken advantage of.
An MOE spokesman said the resource guide is "still in a developmental stage" and that more details will be given when it is ready. The Straits Times understands that MOE started a pilot in sexuality education in six Sped schools, including Chaoyang School, in 2013.
Not all Sped schools teach sexuality education, unlike mainstream schools which have an MOE-approved approach for it. Some school teachers may not know how to manage sexuality-related incidents in Sped students.
Dr Lam Chee Meng, principal autism consultant of Autism Resource Centre (ARC), which runs Pathlight, said the school currently does not cover interpersonal relationships, and sexual health and behaviour. But some students receive more support in understanding sexuality matters.
Dr Stephen Shore, an assistant professor of special education from Adelphi University in the United States, who will run seminars on adults with autism here this month, said research suggests that those with autism have the same "diversity of needs, wants and desires" as the general population. But they tend to grow up rather isolated from others, leaving them with a "severe lack of information in the area of intimate relationships, leaving only media to provide an education".
More people here are learning to handle such issues, with ARC seeing more interest in its workshops on puberty and sexuality in students with autism.
Parents with special needs children said the new personal safety resource will be useful.
Housewife Kartini Samuddin, 51, said her son, 16, who is in Pathlight School, is "quite independent".
But more information on sexuality will help if he has a relationship in future, she said, adding: "I prefer to answer his curiosity rather than letting him surf the Internet or ask his peers."
Mr G. Rajasegar, 49, whose son, 18, is in St Andrew's Autism School, said it is harder to teach teens with special needs, as many cannot communicate verbally and are unaware of social norms.
"We want our son to know how to behave appropriately in public, that some things can be done only in private," said the regional manager of a tourism- based company.