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JUL 28, 2018

Preschool takes in special needs kids too

Early intervention therapy within lessons for kids with autism or other needs

A new pre-school in Bukit Timah will be taking in children aged three to six with different learning needs - whether they are mainstream children or have special needs.

 

Bright Path Preschool, which can take up to 70 children in its first batch, will offer early intervention therapy within lessons for children with autism or any other needs, even those with high IQs who may need more attention.

 

The pre-school at 55 Fairways Drive was opened yesterday at a ceremony officiated by President Halimah Yacob. It is one of the few pre-schools in recent years to offer inclusive education in Singapore's early childhood scene. Singapore's first inclusive pre-school, Kindle Garden, opened in 2016.

 

Bright Path currently has four children and is expecting around five more to join in August. The pre-school integrates professional therapy into its curriculum, eliminating the need for children to be pulled out for additional therapy sessions.

 

It has three teachers for now, two of whom are trained in early intervention. It also has a psychologist, a speech therapist and an occupational therapist joining in August.

 

It will draw up customised plans for each child upon enrolment, with input from educators, healthcare professionals and parents.

 

For instance, lessons could include horse-riding therapy, which is known to benefit people with disabilities, and developing gross motor skills with a sensory path made up of different textures and terrains, such as pebbles, logs and bumps. Instead of staying seated to do work on tables, children will be given the flexibility to draw on mirrors or scribble on fences. Maths lessons will include water play, where children are calmed by the sound of water as they learn about numbers.

 

School fees per month for all children will cost $2,850 without subsidies. This includes full-day childcare and therapy as part of the lessons. The fees for Kindle Garden are $1,880 a month for full-day childcare.

 

Bright Path will also tap expertise from other pre-schools such as Pat's Schoolhouse and Odyssey The Global Preschool in the network of centres run by its parent firm Busy Bees Asia, a global early education provider.

 

Ms Julia Teo, Busy Bees' deputy director for operations, said the new pre-school's focus is not to label children with formal diagnoses or conditions but to recognise that all of them have different learning needs.

 

"We want to bring out the kids' capacities and strengths rather than say 'you don't have this or that'," she said. "This builds their confidence and self-esteem, and then learning can come a lot faster."

 

Experts have said that letting children with special needs mix regularly with their mainstream peers from a young age not just helps build a more inclusive society, but also aids the former to improve their social and cognitive skills.

 

Ms Foo Wann Yun, 40, said her son Russell, who joined Bright Path in June, has improved in his social skills and language in less than two months.

 

"He couldn't write anything before - just a few strokes and dots - but now he can sit and write his full name," said Ms Foo, the principal of another pre-school. Russell, who is 4½ and has autism, had some trouble mixing with his peers in a previous school, but is now much happier in the new setting.

 

"It's a smaller group, not so stressful. Over here, there's no standard rule of measurement and they really cater to his needs," Ms Foo said, adding: "He loves school, he's motivated."


THE STRAITS TIMES. PUBLISHED ON JUL 28, 2018

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