Use technology to help people with special needs integrate as part of Smart Nation push: President Halimah

President Halimah Yacob looks on as Metta School student Jerica Tan Hui Min pipes chocolate chip cookies in the Baking Room. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Muhammad Farid Abdul Gani (left) sets a table while Almy Alman Suaidi (centre) and Nurul Daniah Hasbald fold napkins at V Cafe. They are all year four students doing the ITE Skills Certificate in Hospitality Services. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Students Tim Lee, 16, and Kimberly Ashley Sim Wun Hong, 15, working out using the rower and elliptical machine respectively in the gym inside the Indoor Sports Hall at Metta School. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

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.

Student Gabriel Sum Joon Ho folding a duvet with President Halimah Yacob at the Housekeeping Training Room. He is a year one student pursuing an ITE Skills Certificate in Housekeeping Operations (Accommodation). ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

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.

Izaach Tan Weiwen (left) and Leong Xuan Rui (right) carrying out activities as part of their pre-vocational training in the ASD vocational training room. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

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."

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