President Halimah calls for greater support for special needs children

President Halimah Yacob interacting with six-year-olds (from left) Eureka Chong, Jothy Kanna Deepak and Ivan Ong at Rainbow Centre Yishun Park School. With them are (from far left) early intervention programme assistant director Janice Leong and teac
President Halimah Yacob interacting with six-year-olds (from left) Eureka Chong, Jothy Kanna Deepak and Ivan Ong at Rainbow Centre Yishun Park School. With them are (from far left) early intervention programme assistant director Janice Leong and teachers Noor Azlina Mohd Ali (partially seen) and Farhanah Huasen Waryouni.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Student Danial Isaac Abdullah has an Instagram account full of stunning photographs, which capture the symmetry in everyday situations and architecture.

The talented 17-year-old has more than 100 posts and 300 followers on his account. He also has cerebral palsy.

For nearly 10 years, he has attended the Rainbow Centre Yishun Park School for children with special needs, where he learns art skills like perspective drawing techniques.

President Halimah Yacob met Danial and viewed his artwork when she visited the centre yesterday.

Praising the centre's work, she said: "I hope there will be greater support for children with special needs so that they can also be part of the community instead of developing on their own.

"Research has shown that early intervention makes all the difference for children with special needs," Madam Halimah added.

The Rainbow Centre has early intervention programmes for children aged six and below. It also provides special education for those aged seven to 18.

It has two campuses - in Yishun Park and Margaret Drive - and will open a third in Marsiling next year catering to students with autism.

The centre had 1,346 students from April last year to this March.

COMMUNAL SPACE FOR KIDS

This is a really wonderful concept. It's right smack in the middle of a neighbourhood... The children get to grow up and develop in an area where there are other facilities so they're not so separated and isolated.

PRESIDENT HALIMAH YACOB, on having special needs centres in residential areas.

The President sat in on its early intervention programme classes for children aged four to six diagnosed with developmental delays. She also visited vocational workshops, observed a speech therapy session, and toured a visual art studio.

Said Madam Halimah: "This is a really wonderful concept. It's right smack in the middle of a neighbourhood... The children get to grow up and develop in an area where there are other facilities so they're not so separated and isolated."

The centre's staff also visit homes to introduce programmes for very young children. Madam Halimah hailed this as an example of being inclusive. "We see some of them are talented, like Danial. What the centre does is give him that encouragement, that support, to help him develop his ability," she said. "Danial's example shows that children with special needs may have certain intrinsic abilities that we need to help to unravel."

Danial, who showed Madam Halimah his perspective drawing of a heritage building in Chinatown, said he "felt very nervous because she is the President". She told him his drawing was "very nice", he added. On his passion for photography and art, Danial said: "I hope to inspire people."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2017, with the headline 'President Halimah calls for greater support for special needs children'. Print Edition | Subscribe