SINGAPORE – The Republic should leverage on technology such as virtual simulation systems to better integrate people with special needs, including students, into society, said President Halimah Yacob.
Speaking to reporters during a visit on Thursday (May 23) to Metta School, which caters to students from age 7 to 21 who have mild intellectual disability and autism, she said this should be done as part of the country’s Smart Nation push, which is a national effort to support better living using technology.
Madam Halimah cited the virtual simulation systems available in Metta School, which are motion-sensor activated and allow students to experience everyday scenarios.
For example, students can practice things like taking the MRT or making purchases at the supermarket, while staying in a safe environment.
Madam Halimah said technology could also assist student with special needs to learn to be independent.
During her visit, she saw the different vocational facilities in the school. Older students aged 17 to 21 receive vocational training as part of the school's curriculum.
Metta School offers Institute of Technical Education Skills Certification in Baking, Food Preparation and Housekeeping Operations (Accommodation), to prepare students for the workforce.
The certification also enables those seeking to further their education to apply for Nitec programmes at one of the three ITEs, as long as they meet the requirements for the respective courses.
This is Madam Halimah's fourth visit this year to a school that supports students with special needs.
She had previously visited Beatty Secondary School, Westwood Primary School and Zhenghua Secondary School.
On Thursday, Madam Halimah said she hoped employers would be more willing to provide opportunities to students with special needs and exercise greater patience and flexibility when training them.
Referring to Sweden's Special Introduction and Follow-up Support programme, which helps individuals with special needs to find lasting jobs, Madam Halimah said Singapore's 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 added.
Her comments follow a courtesy call by Prince Daniel, a member of Sweden's royal family, on Wednesday.
They had discussed ways to better support 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 engagement for the students to learn how to access community services and social etiquette.
She said: "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."