Singapore

Mainstream, special ed students to mix more

Common activities and games allow them to interact and learn about each other

More mainstream schools and special education schools are joining hands to plan activities for their students to mix, in the hope they learn to interact with peers who may be different.

Students mingle through co-curricular activities, games and community projects, while teachers discuss curricula and classroom management.

Some students with special needs who are deemed academically ready can also join their peers in mainstream schools for academic subjects.

Currently, 16 special education schools and 19 mainstream schools have such programmes together, as part of the Ministry of Education (MOE)'s Satellite Partnership Programme.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, MOE said it is working towards all 19 special education schools having such tie-ups. The programme was launched in 2008 with two special education schools - Pathlight School and Canossian School - and three mainstream schools.

Grace Orchard School and Rulang Primary School, which are connected by a side gate, have organised common activities for their students since 2011.

Ms Lisa Goh, principal of Grace Orchard School, said its students, who have mild intellectual disabilities or autism, look forward to meeting pupils from Rulang Primary.

"Having interaction with neurotypical students helps them to learn social skills that don't come so naturally... It's also important for mainstream students to learn about differences from a young age, and yet also see that there are similarities in many ways."

Grace Orchard School student Sarah-Jane Lishi Joseph, 15, was attached to Rulang Primary as a library assistant for 10 weeks earlier this year.

Said Sarah-Jane, who has autism: "I learnt to be independent in sorting out books in the library and I made five new friends. I learnt to be more confident in speaking and sharing with new people."

Dunman High School and Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) Towner Gardens School have since last year significantly increased the avenues for their students to interact, from festival celebrations to weekly activities.

Dunman High School student Chin Shu Yee first got to know students with special needs two years ago during an arts and craft session, where they used play dough to help students from Towner Gardens School develop their motor skills.

"It was an eye-opening experience. The students had some learning difficulties, but they were outgoing and open," said the 15-year-old, who on her own initiative this year worked with Towner Gardens School's teachers to plan games for its mathematics carnival.

Education