A big step towards Inclusion, beginning with our young

Last month, Lien Foundation commissioned a study to find out if parents support the idea of inclusive education.

The findings showed that although 71% supported the idea of inclusive education and 69% believed in the benefits of inclusive education, only 53% said they are comfortable with their child being classmates with someone with special needs.

And interestingly, just 1 in 10 said they felt certain how to interact with children with special needs.

Photo credit: Straits Times online

Kate had a special needs child in her class when she was 2. Their class size was really small with 2 teachers to 6 students.

Her teacher was relating to me that initially, when Kate saw the boy slowly inching his way to get to a book, toy or work, she would move faster than him and get it before he did.

She would give a smug look like, “Beat you to it!”

For Kate, being the youngest of 6, that was an achievement because she always lost out to her older siblings.

Instead if chiding Kate, her teacher gently explained that her classmate is physically weaker than she is and she should be thankful for what she has, and in turn be more understanding and help him whenever she can.

The teacher was proud to say that once that was explained to her, Kate understood and never rushed for the same toy henceforth.

When they sit at the reading corner together and he gradually leans and falls onto her shoulder, she will not push him away but tries to accommodate him. She became protective of him, like a big sister.

Young children are naturally non-judgemental, compassionate and altruistic yet it needs to be nurtured.

Unfortunately at times, the adults display negative modelling out of ignorance. Only when there is understanding, can there be acceptance and inclusion.

I remember one of the first activities we had to do as occupational therapy undergrads was to sit in a wheelchair and navigate the huge and bumpy campus.

It put us in the shoes of those who are wheel-chair bound, and we were the ones who had to face the subtle looks from our peers. From that experience, we began to gain an awareness of the challenges that faced them.

It is indeed wonderful that Lien Foundation will be developing the first inclusive preschool in Singapore, together with the Asian Women’s Welfare Association, and that it is already over-subscribed. I was excited to read from their press release that:

There will also be a fascinating playground with an elevated tree-house that is fully accessible by wheelchair, and a sensory garden for water and sand play which will be open to the public after school hours and during school holidays.

The preschool will be one of the iconic developments within the Integrated Community Space at Redhill. It will not only serve the special needs community, but also children and families living in the vicinity. We are creating opportunities for our children to experience for themselves and learn from young that we can build an inclusive society where we appreciate each other’s abilities.

It is human nature to shun that which we can’t comprehend.

For when we are able to see that we are not the same but the same, to love, regardless, our society will be a better place for all.

Kate has been privileged to have the opportunity to have her eyes and heart opened.
~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~