It is good that many people, including Mr Wee Yeong Wei ("It's about the kids with special needs"; Oct 4), are calling for people with special needs to be integrated into the mainstream.
I am aware that at least two mainstream schools have partnered Pathlight School, so students with autism can attend self-contained classes in mainstream schools and interact with their peers.
If all mainstream schools forged partnerships with special education schools, it would ease the shortage of places in the latter and help create a more inclusive society.
However, there are limitations to this.
Children with severe psychiatric or medical issues may be best educated in schools specially equipped to work with them. And those with autism should be introduced to mainstream schools only after they have developed the social skills and confidence to make new friends by themselves.
I also propose that we go beyond inclusion and build acceptance. We should think about creating a positive impression of children with special needs among their peers, and how to make them feel valued.
Perhaps the best way is to provide opportunities for children with special needs to help their mainstream peers as part of a team. Examples include being guest participants in inter-class competitions, assisting with school events and helping teachers to prepare lesson materials.
Autism Recovery Network
This article was first published on Oct 28, 2014.
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