Smart Nation should support people with special needs

Metta School student Gabriel Choong Qing San, 17, learning how to shop in a supermarket using virtual reality software while being observed by President Halimah Yacob during her tour of the school yesterday. ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI
Metta School student Gabriel Choong Qing San, 17, learning how to shop in a supermarket using virtual reality software while being observed by President Halimah Yacob during her tour of the school yesterday. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Student Muhammad Nur Haidar Haziq Nordin, 19, cleaning glassware at the school's cafe as part of his ITE skills certification course in hospitality services.
Student Muhammad Nur Haidar Haziq Nordin, 19, cleaning glassware at the school's cafe as part of his ITE skills certification course in hospitality services.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

President says those with disabilities need more social support, job opportunities

Singapore should leverage technology such as virtual simulation systems to better integrate those with special needs, including students, into society, said President Halimah Yacob.

Speaking to reporters during a visit yesterday to Metta School, which caters to students from the ages of seven to 21 who have autism and mild intellectual disabilities, she said this should be done as part of the country's Smart Nation push-a national effort to support better living using technology.

Madam Halimah cited the school's virtual simulation systems, which are activated by motion sensors and allow students to experience everyday scenarios.

Students can practise tasks such as taking the MRT and making purchases at the supermarket, all within a safe environment.

During her tour of the premises, the President saw Metta School's different vocational facilities, where students aged between 17 and 21 receive vocational training as part of the curriculum.

To prepare students for the workforce, Metta School offers Institute of Technical Education skills certification in areas such as baking, food preparation and housekeeping operation.

This is Madam Halimah's fourth visit this year to a school that supports students with special needs. She had previously visited Beatty Secondary, Westwood Primary and Zhenghua Secondary schools.

During the visit, the President expressed her hopes that employers would be more willing to provide opportunities to students with special needs, as well as exercise greater patience and flexibility when training them.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

At the end of the day, it takes more than just the school to do the job of helping our students with special needs. It requires a whole community.

PRESIDENT HALIMAH YACOB, on how all of Singapore society plays a role in integrating those with special needs.

 
 

Referring to Sweden's Special Introduction and Follow-up Support programme, which helps individuals with special needs to find lasting jobs, she said Singapore society as a whole has a part to play in integrating those with special needs.

"At the end of the day, it takes more than just the school to do the job of helping our students with special needs. It requires a whole community," she said.

Madam Halimah's comments follow a courtesy call by Prince Daniel, a member of Sweden's royal family, on Wednesday.

The two discussed ways to improve support for those with special needs and better integrate them into society.

To get the community on board, Metta School principal So Kah Lay said the school regularly schedules outings and community engagements for the students to learn social etiquette and how to access community services.

"We get our students into the public space so that members of the public are familiar with our students. This way, others in society can understand our students better, so there is greater inclusion," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2019, with the headline 'Smart Nation should support people with special needs'. Print Edition | Subscribe