Special education in Singapore: Which school will cater to your child's needs

Special education in Singapore: Which school will cater to your child's needs
PHOTO: Pexels

Education is a fundamental right for every child, regardless of their abilities or challenges. In Singapore, special education (Sped) plays a vital role in ensuring that children with diverse learning needs receive the support and opportunities they need to thrive.

In this article, we'll delve into the world of special education in Singapore, exploring its definition, teaching methods, enrollment considerations, available schools, and application process.

What is special education

Special education refers to a range of educational services and support provided to students with disabilities, learning differences, or developmental challenges. It aims to address individual needs and help students overcome barriers that might impede their learning and social development.

Singapore's approach to special education is rooted in the principles of inclusivity and equal access to quality education for all.

Teaching methods in special education

The teaching methods employed in Sped are diverse and tailored to the individual needs of each student. These methods focus on personalised instruction, adaptive curriculum, and supportive environments.

Teachers often use techniques such as differentiated instruction, multisensory learning, and assistive technology to accommodate various learning styles and abilities. The emphasis is on fostering a positive learning experience that builds on the strengths of each student while addressing their specific challenges.

Should you enrol your child on a Sped school

According to a report from the Ministry of Education (MOE), Singapore has about 35,500 students with reported special educational needs as of December 2022.

That number includes children with learning disorders such as dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and mild autism spectrum.

Deciding whether to enrol a child in special education requires careful consideration and collaboration with educators and specialists. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. If your child has been diagnosed with a disability, learning difference, or developmental delay, Sped may provide the tailored support they need to succeed.
  2. If your child is struggling to keep up with the regular curriculum and requires extra assistance, special education could offer a more suitable learning environment.
  3. If your child requires therapies such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy, special education schools often integrate these services into their programs.
  4. If your child faces challenges in social interactions or has difficulty forming relationships, special education settings may offer a more supportive environment.
  5. If your child would benefit from individualised education plans (IEPs) and smaller class sizes, special education can provide such accommodations.

Special education schools in Singapore

Currently, there are a total of 22 government-funded special education schools here, with a further six to become operational by the 2030s. These schools are equipped with trained educators, therapists, and support staff who collaborate to create a holistic learning experience.

Moreover, every primary and secondary school in Singapore has about five to 10 teachers trained in special needs education.

Here are some schools offering Sped Programs in Singapore, classified based on a child's primary diagnosed condition:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with no intellectual impairment

These schools offer the National Curriculum.

  • Pathlight School
  • St. Andrew's Mission School: The school is currently located at 11 Bukit Batok Street 25, Singapore 658712. The move to its permanent location in Clementi is projected for 2031.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with intellectual impairment

  • Chaoyang School
  • Tanglin School: The school is currently located at 143 Alexandra Road, Singapore 159924. The move to 8 Ang Mo Kio Street 54, Singapore 569185 is projected for 2026.
  • AWWA School @ Bedok
  • Katong School
  • MINDS - Towner Gardens School
  • Eden School
  • Delta Senior School
  • Grace Orchard School
  • AWWA School @ Napiri
  • St. Andrew's Autism School
  • Maitri School: The school is currently co-located with Metta Welfare Association at 30 Simei Street 1, Singapore 529949. The move to its permanent location at Pasir Ris Street 51 is projected for 2027.
  • MINDS - Lee Kong Chian Gardens School
  • Rainbow Centre Schools
  • MINDS - Fernvale Gardens School
  • Metta School
  • MINDS - Woodlands Gardens School

Mild intellectual disability (MID)

  • Chaoyang School
  • Tanglin School: The school is currently at 143 Alexandra Road, Singapore 159924. The move to 8 Ang Mo Kio Street 54, Singapore 569185 is projected for 2026.
  • Katong School
  • Delta Senior School
  • Grace Orchard School
  • Metta School

Moderate to severe intellectual disability (MSID)

  • MINDS - Towner Gardens School
  • MINDS - Lee Kong Chian Gardens School
  • MINDS - Fernvale Gardens School
  • MINDS - Woodlands Gardens School

Multiple disabilities (MD)

  • AWWA School @ Napiri
  • Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School (West)
  • Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School (East)
  • Rainbow Centre Schools

Sensory impairment

  • Canossian School
  • Lighthouse School

Do take note of the overview of the application timeline for SPED schools in Singapore.

The government has also set up partnerships between special needs schools and general education schools to promote inclusivity and intermingling between children.

How to apply in a Sped school in Singapore

Applying for special education in Singapore involves several steps:

Assessment

The process begins with an assessment of your child's needs, conducted by professionals such as educational psychologists or therapists.

Choosing a school

Based on the assessment results, you can choose a school that aligns with your child's needs and strengths. In your application form, you can list up to three schools that can support your child's primary diagnosed condition (see the list above).

Application

You can apply to enrol your child in a Sped school by filling up a four-part application form. You need to be ready with your child's personal, medical and educational information, including his diagnosed condition.

Some parts of the application form will be answered by a medical professional and a teacher.

Have digital copies of all required documents to be uploaded in your application and e prepared to complete the application form in one sitting as it cannot be saved as draft.

It's best to prepare at least one year early before your intended admission as it takes time to gather the reports to be submitted in your application.

Interview

Some schools may require an interview or assessment, if necessary, to determine the best fit for your child.

Acceptance

If the application is successful

You will receive an offer letter from the school by post or email within three to six months from the date of your application submission.

Register your child at the school within two weeks from the day you receive the offer letter.

If the application is unsuccessful

If your first-choice school has no vacancies or is unable to cater to your child's learning needs, an alternative school will be recommended.

The alternative school may not be your second- or third-choice school, but the recommendation would be based on your child's learning needs.

The school will arrange to meet you and your child, if necessary. You do not need to resubmit your application.

If the school is able to support your child's learning needs, you will receive an offer letter from the school.

The importance of early intervention

If you have a child with special needs, you may have heard the term early intervention often enough from their doctors.

In the context of education, the early intervention programme in Singapore is specialised support given to young children aged six years old and below to aid their development during the most critical stage of development.

The benefits of these programmes include:

  • Helping the child develop skills to overcome some developmental delays.
  • Improve their physical, emotional, social and cognitive skills.
  • Minimise or prevent the development of secondary disabilities, such as mental health problems.

The Early Childhood Development Agency has an Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC) that are better suited to the varied developmental needs of our children, and the changes in a child's developmental needs over time.

Singaporeans or permanent residents are encouraged to apply. You just need to have a doctor at any polyclinic refer your child for assessment at the Department of Child Development (DCD) at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) or Child Development Unit (CDU) at National University Hospital (NUH).

The hospital will recommend EIPIC if your child is assessed to be suitable. You can also approach a private paediatrician for assessment and recommendation for EIPIC. Once your child has been assessed as suitable, the hospital or private paediatrician will submit the application to SG Enable upon your consent. 

Your child may have special needs, but that should not stop them from getting support and quality education that will help prepare them for the future. If you need help in assessing whether to enroll your child to a Sped school or not, do not hesitate to consult your child's paediatrician.

ALSO READ: NUS, NTU, SMU and other Singapore university degrees: How much do they cost in 2023?

This article was first published in theAsianparent.

This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.