SINGAPORE - Instead of shuttling between pre-schools and early intervention centres, parents can soon enrol children with developmental needs in schools that provide both services.
The Inclusive Support Programme will be piloted at seven pre-schools around the island by June 2022.
Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling on Thursday (Oct 28) launched the programme at PCF Sparkletots @ Fernvale Block 455 in Sengkang.
Six other pre-schools will progressively roll out the programme next year. It is aimed at helping children aged three to six with medium-support needs, said Ms Sun.
Most of these children are currently supported at early intervention centres while attending pre-schools elsewhere.
This is a strain on families and children who have to rush between the two sites, said Ms Sun.
Accounts assistant Hasliani Hassim, 42, said having specialist support under one roof will help save a lot of time for her and her four-year-old son, who was diagnosed with delayed speech two years ago and attends one of the seven pre-schools.
She currently accompanies him on almost weekly trips from his pre-school Small Wonder Nordcom II in Sembawang to a speech therapist in Novena.
Ms Sun added that children with developmental needs will be able to learn important social skills when they interact with typically developing peers. These children include those with attention deficit disorder, delayed motor development and delayed speech.
The other children will also learn to be more helpful and develop empathy by interacting with those who have developmental needs.
Under the programme by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), full-time early intervention professionals and visiting allied health professionals will provide specialist support to children with developmental needs.
The pre-school will also partner the families of the children in supporting their progress at home and in school, the agency said in a statement.
The four providers of the pilot are the Ministry of Education (MOE), PAP Community Foundation, NTUC First Campus and Busy Bees Singapore.
ECDA said the providers were selected based on their experience and expertise in providing early childhood and early intervention services, their understanding of the programme's features and their ability to fulfil its service requirements.
The pilot is expected to run for three years at each pre-school, said Ms Sun.
ECDA said the programme at MOE Kindergarten @ Mayflower in Ang Mo Kio will only be for children aged five to six with hearing loss and who require signing.
It will be open to children in the K1 cohort.
An Inclusive Support Programme technical assistance team led by the Community Psychology Hub has been set up to support the pre-school providers, said ECDA.
They will be training pre-school management and staff to deepen their expertise in delivering early intervention and inclusive practices, among other things.
Members of the technical assistance team include AWWA, Rainbow Centre as well as KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
Parents who wish to sign up for their child will need a recent letter or medical report from a paediatrician registered with the Singapore Medical Council stating their child's condition.
The monthly fee is from $10 to $430, on top of pre-school fees, depending on monthly household per capita income, ECDA said.
More details on enrolment can be found on the agency's website.
ECDA said the pilot will be studied to examine its value, and the feasibility of scaling up the programme.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had announced the Inclusive Support Programme pilot in Budget 2021.
The programme follows recommendations by the inclusive pre-school workgroup set up in 2019, which is co-chaired by Ms Sun and Associate Professor Kenneth Poon, National Institute of Education associate dean of education research.
Ms Sun said the aim is to cultivate an inclusive environment from the early years and see children "learn together, develop friendships, thrive and feel a sense of belonging".
"When we start young, we have the best chance to foster shared values," she added.
Pre-schools running the Inclusive Support Programme pilot
• PCF Sparkletots @ Fernvale Block 455
• Small Wonder Nordcom II
• MOE Kindergarten @ Mayflower
• PCF Sparkletots @ Pasir Ris West Block 517
• My First Skool at Block 248 Kim Keat Link
• My First Skool at Block 406 Woodlands
• PCF Sparkletots @ Bukit Batok Block 118