President Halimah Yacob calls for more support for children with special needs

President Halimah Yacob talks to a pupil during her visit to the Rainbow Centre Yishun Park School for children with special needs. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - 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 on Wednesday (Oct 4).

Praising the centre's work, Madam Halimah 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," she added.

The Rainbow Centre has early intervention programme services 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 providing special education for students with autism.

The centre had 1,346 students from April 2016 to March this year.

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The President was shown its early intervention programme classes for children aged four to six diagnosed with developmental delays. She also visited vocational workshops that prepare students for jobs, observed a speech therapy session, and toured its 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 from birth. Madam Halimah hailed this as an example of being inclusive, by providing support to children with special needs.

"We see some of them are talented, like Danial... I think few of us can be as talented as he is in terms of his drawings and art pieces," she said.

"What the centre does is give him that encouragement, that support, to help him develop his ability... Danial's example shows that children with special needs may have certain intrinsic abilities that we need to help to unravel. We cannot just think of them in terms of their disabilities but their abilities," she added.

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 of people and buildings, Danial said: "I hope to inspire people."

Correction note: This story has been edited to provide the correct figure for students at the centre from April 2016 to March this year. The figure should be 1,346.

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