New school for children with autism spectrum disorder opens in Bedok
Singaporeans can send a strong signal in support of employers who hire people with special needs by patronising their shops and showing greater understanding to the people with disabilities that serve them, said President Halimah Yacob on Thursday.
Speaking at the official opening of a specialised school for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Bedok, she said Singaporeans' lack of tolerance, their impatience and sometimes outright rudeness can be a disincentive to employers hiring those with special needs.
Madam Halimah marked the opening of the school, known as Awwa School @ Bedok, by planting a sapling rainbow gum tree on its grounds. It is a species native to South-east Asia known for its rainbow-coloured bark.
The new school, which started operating in January 2022, will serve students aged seven to 18.
Principal Ruby Seah said in a speech that the new school was made possible by the support and resources pooled from the community, parents, donors and the Government.
She said: "We took in the concerns, hopes and aspirations of our students and their loved ones... with just one common purpose - to establish the best possible environment which our students can learn, thrive and grow in."
It is funded by the Ministry of Education, SG Enable and corporate donors.
The school is equipped with facilities to support students with ASD, such as a hydrotherapy pool, large therapy rooms with specialised equipment and multi-media rooms.
One of its teachers, Madam Rozilina Rohaizad, 34, said the purpose-built spaces help students with both academic skills like numeracy and life skills.
The school also has technology that lets her track the work her students do at home, which helps her shape lessons to their needs, she said.
There are currently 65 students enrolled in the school. It has capacity for 300, and one teacher for every five students.
This personalised approach to education as well as its facilities are attractive qualities to parents such as National Council of Social Service senior manager Elsie Hoh, 44.
Her eight-year-old son Nathan Ng, who has ASD and global developmental delay, was previously at Awwa @ Napiri before transferring to Bedok.
She said: "Nathan loves swimming, and we are very happy this school offers a swimming co-curricular and has a pool."
Awwa School @ Bedok is one of four government-funded special education (Sped) schools opening in 2022 as part of ongoing efforts to improve accessibility to Sped schools for students with moderate-to-severe learning disabilities.
There are currently 22 government-funded Sped schools run by 12 social service agencies.
Madam Hoh, whose husband is a polytechnic lecturer, intends for Nathan, who is her only child, to continue his education at Awwa @ Bedok until he is 18.
She said: "He is currently non-verbal so I hope that he is able to learn to communicate in some way, even if it is not through speech, and to be independent to live a happy and dignified life.
"Education for Sped students is one side of things, but Singapore also still has some way to go in community acceptance. Tolerance is fundamental and without it there is no capacity to move forward."