World Down Syndrome Day is 21 March. Swipe left to meet some folks worth celebrating!
In 2019, Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) celebrated World Down Syndrome Day with a goal of raising awareness of the abilities of persons with Down syndrome, while also advocating for equal rights for them.
This year had the theme “Leave No One Behind,” meant to highlight the lack of understanding within the community about the potential of persons with Down syndrome, as well as the importance for everyone to come together, embrace differences and walk alongside persons with Down syndrome towards a caring and inclusive society.
Click through our gallery to meet four Singaporeans who’ve benefited from DSA(S)’s ever-expanding programmes — which now start with early intervention for babies and include a dedicated Infant and Toddler Programme.
Read more: Special Education Schools in Singapore
If you’re not inspired by 14-year-old Anna Ow – a Secondary student who passed the PSLE in 2017 – then we don’t know what to tell you! You can also read on for an interview with Moses Lee, Executive Director of Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) to find out more about the important work they do, plus key info about the government’s new special education requirements in 2019.
How have DSA(S)’s programmes and services evolved over time to cope with the changing needs and demands of the local Down Syndrome Community?
To meet the changing needs and demands of the community, the Association has grown and developed many programmes along the way. The beginning of DSA(S) was spurred from a need for support among families with children with Down syndrome due to the lack of support in the past. The first programme rolled out was Family Support Services, which has now expanded into many different parent support groups and various activities facilitated by experienced professionals, parents, and staff members.
Recognising the importance of adopting a more holistic lifestyle throughout the development lifespan for persons with Down syndrome, DSA(S) developed a slew of enrichment programmes over the years with the aim of developing and showcasing the inherent artistic and sporting talents and capabilities of every individual with Down syndrome and maximise their quality of life to the fullest potential.
Acknowledging the limitations of services provided to young adults with Down syndrome in Singapore, Adult Enhancement Programme, a holistic programme was set up to position individuals with Down syndrome with necessary life skills to live independently and meaningfully.
As mainstream schools started to accept students with Down syndrome, DSA(S) introduced the Integration Facilitation Support Programme in 2009 to enhance the support system for those are enrolled in mainstream schools. In the recent years, as the focus shifted to early intervention, the only available support in place that time was for toddlers aged three years and above. To bridge this gap, DSA(S) created the Infant Toddler Programme to cater to infants as young as few months old.
As an Association we strongly believe early intervention and education – lifelong learning – is the key to an independent and enriched life for individuals with Down syndrome. Thus, DSA(S) currently provides four key services – Children’s Education Services, Adults’ Education Services, Enrichment Programmes and Family Support Services – to meet the many needs and demands of the community.
DSA(S) looks forward to more developments and would also ensure that our programmes and services continue to be relevant and beneficial.
In 2018, the government announced compulsory education for children with special needs starting from 2019. How can we continue to build an inclusive society for people with special needs?
The announcement to encompass children with special needs in the Compulsory Education Act is a step towards greater inclusion; this will help to provide students with special needs an equal opportunity for learning and realising their potential. With that in place the next step is to also advocate for mainstream schools to be more receptive to accepting students with special needs, and to ensure that there is an adequate support system in place. Schools – including preschools – are good platforms to educate and raise awareness for the young ones, and to shape their perspectives. We believe that to build a caring and inclusive society, we need to involve everyone, and that includes the children as well.
Are there any resources newly available to special needs students? Are these only for Singaporean students?
As mentioned earlier, DSA(S) has an Integration Facilitation Support Programme to provide support and guidance for children with Down syndrome enrolled in mainstream schools. These programmes are not just for Singaporean students, they are open to all.
Crest Secondary School is a wonderful place for me. I love the school and wanted to be part of it when l was in Primary 3. I feel elated whenever l am on the school grounds. The principal, teachers, staff and security personnel are friendly, compassionate and encouraging, and l can be myself. When l did something wrong, l was counselled and not reprimanded. My form teacher, Ms Hannah, and all the other teachers are always looking out for me and my classmates. She created a family within the class where acceptance is the key factor. I am glad to be part of it through study, work and play. I love all my subjects because the teachers make them interesting. The taster modules are fun and practical.
Every day when I reach home, I go through my bag to check if there are notices for my mother and if there is homework to be done.
I take a shower and take my late lunch. There is not much homework from the school. I love to study in my room. I have a study table where I complete my math tuition homework. I prioritise what needs to be done, and school work comes first. I try to complete everything within the next two days. I try to go through subject files and worksheets in the evening. I try to take short breaks and listen to music or read a book.
I have been working at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa for 5 years. I am a part-timer, I work two times a week, from 10am to 2:30pm. I am in housekeeping; I pack slippers into the plastic bag and then deliver to the different rooms. I enjoy working as I like the tasks given, they make me happy. I have to say I have outstanding colleagues, they were very nice from the start and they support me. When I was on holiday, my current supervisor sent me a video of them singing a birthday song for me and said they missed me. I do not interact with the guests.
I can go home by myself but travelling there is hard. I do not know the stops and may miss my stop. My dad drops me off after we have breakfast together in the morning. But I will take the train home myself.
I work at The Laughing Cow doing labeling and packing. I have worked for about five years since 2014. I love my job, because I like to do the labeling of cheese and I get paid. My pay goes into my bank. I like Uncle Alfred who is my assistant supervisor at my job; he covers for me when I go on holidays. I have three other colleagues; they are very good and nice. My boss is also very helpful.
There are no problems now because I can travel to my workplace by myself. At first, it was hard to travel from places to places, but my aunt taught me how to do it.
I work at DSA(S)’s thrift shop. I helped to fold the clothes and clean the shop. I enjoy folding and arranging the CDs. I like working with my friend, Wei Jian. I also like the aunties that come into the shop. Folding clothes was difficult, but now I know how to fold.
I take a train and change to a bus to get to work.
Lead image courtesy of Anna Ow