If your child has different learning needs, then consider one of these inclusive schools, early intervention centres or special needs schools in Singapore
Singapore’s education system is one of the world’s most respected, and for good reason. However, it’s not just about mainstream education in this city-state; inclusive education and special education schools are also available in abundance here. It’s a quickly evolving sector, too, as 2019 marked the first year that Singaporean students with moderate-to-severe special needs were required to attend school under the government’s Compulsory Education framework. Singapore’s Ministry of Education (M.O.E.) also has a network of 19 government-funded special education schools run by 12 social service organisations. Younger learners and non-Singaporean students also have several options, including special education preschools and early intervention centres that can help differently-abled children thrive in supportive and safe environments. Read on for our roundup of special needs schools in Singapore, which includes local and international schools, preschools and early prevention programmes. These schools and programmes are open to Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and non-Singaporean students of differing abilities unless stated otherwise.
Special Needs Schools & Inclusive Schools in Singapore
Special Needs Preschools in Singapore
Early Intervention Centres
Frequently Used Terms and Phrases for Special Needs Learning in Singapore
Special Needs Schools & Institutions in Singapore
All differently-abled children – those with multiple disabilities like Autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other genetic disorders – between the ages of three and 21 are welcome at this special needs school in Singapore. The curriculum and therapy services are performing and visual arts-based ones, which allows students to express themselves freely – especially in ways where words aren’t always possible. MSIS also offers literacy, numeracy, science, PE and swimming; all lessons are conducted using the arts, which is in line with Australia’s Victorian Curriculum F-10. Older students can undertake work-based learning at nearby businesses that offer learning skills in F&B employment as well as teaching assistant skills, allowing them to fill roles in nurseries and kindergartens.
The school’s teaching staff are a passionate team. They are trained in occupational therapy, speech therapy and with a psychologist, an important part of MSIS’ professional development programme. The teachers also collaborate with specialist teachers in music, dance, drama and art – an element that allows them to learn and improve their teaching skills. Not only are the teaching staff resourceful and creative team players, they are also patient and have a good understanding of the students’ different conditions and their related behaviours. Additionally, MSIS’ student body comprises more than 25 nationalities, making it a diverse space for differently-abled learners.
Melbourne Specialist International School, 75C Loewen Road, Dempsey, Singapore 248853, [email protected], Tel: (+65) 6634 8891, www.msis.edu.sg
At IIS, students are taught the importance of self-belief, confidence, individuality and happiness, which helps build a foundation for them to pave their own path to success. The inclusive environment at IIS is made up of roughly 90 students from 25 different nationalities, and this special needs school in Singapore offers a mainstream educational approach (based on the Australian curriculum) and one with dedicated in-house support services. Teacher-student ratios are remarkably small (1:5 in Primary, 1:6 in Secondary), ensuring personalised attention for each child. This increased amount of attention means that teachers can collaborate closely with the school’s support staff, which allows them to customise an individualised education plan (IEP) for your child.
The goal is to offer students with different learning styles equal opportunities to enjoy quality, holistic and inclusive education. Since IIS are a mainstream school, enrolment requires that students are able to keep up with the mainstream curriculum, which would be scaffolded and differentiated according to each student’s needs. The school makes a concerted effort to not turn away students that would benefit from their dual-pronged, tailored teaching approach. Each child should feel valued, which is why IIS’ excellent support staff offers services such as behavioural therapy, counselling, social skills training, speech and occupational therapy. Made up of qualified specialists and therapists, the support staff work with children in small groups or individually. IIS also offers purpose-built facilities such as a multi-sensory Ocean Snoezelen room, occupational therapy gym and private counselling and therapy suites. The school’s educators also undergo continued learning and professional development through workshops and training.
Integrated International School, 41 Sunset Way, #01-01, Singapore 597071, [email protected] or [email protected], Tel: (+65) 6466 4475, www.iis.edu.sg
Part of a global network of USA-based Applied Behaviour Consultants, ABC Center Singapore’s expertise lies in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, which has been clinically proven to help children with autism. Led by board-certified behaviour analysts, ABC Center’s programmes are mostly one-on-one, catering to children on the autism spectrum as well as those with a variety of developmental needs. Its results are consistent with years of clinical data, and the centre uses a global training programme and a dual supervision model to ensure quality. As such, 100% of children enrolled in its programmes make progress in domains such as language, cognitive and perception skills, social, group and play skills, motor skills, self-help and reduction of tantrums and problematic behaviour. They are also able to communicate their wants and needs within a year. ABC Center is the only centre in Singapore with board-certified behaviour analysts that have expertise in the ABA R.E.A.L (Recreating Environments to Accelerate Learning) approach. It also has an EarlyPreps group programme, which is an early intervention kindergarten-type programme, that is part of the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s PPIP programme, which allows subsidies for Singaporean and PR children (requirements apply).
ABC Centre, 318 Tanglin Road, #01-57-59, Phoenix Park Office Campus, Singapore 247979, [email protected], Tel: (+65) 9423 6248, www.abccentersingapore.com
Dover Court International is an inclusive British school. Parents rave about Dover Court International’s “Learning Pathway” programme, which starts in Nursery at age 3 and continues all the way up through age 18 and allows for both integration and twinning with mainstream classes. While Dover Court International closely follows the English National Curriculum, it also has appropriate adaptions made to meet the needs of each individual student. Dover Court International also offers personalised routes for students unable to meet expected outcomes for the GCSE and IBDP, in which students either sit fewer exams, or follow routes that focus on English, Maths, Life skills and Employability through the ASDAN Curriculum. Dover Court International also offers a number of on site specialists, including teachers specialised in special needs education, an Occupational Therapist, an Educational Psychologist, a Physiotherapist, and Speech and Language Therapists. The school even has specialist suites, a sensory room, and a sensory garden.
Dover Court International School, 301 Dover Road, Singapore 139644, Tel: (+65) 6775 7664, www.dovercourt.edu.sg
This special education school in Singapore has a curriculum that helps prepare young learners on the spectrum for a healthy adult life. Its curriculum has been designed with a team of dedicated teachers and ARC(S) autism consultants, which will allow children to learn how to care for their personal needs, participate in social interactions in the outside world, transition between different activities and locations, and undertake meaningful jobs that allow them to use their skills and abilities. The school’s facilities are designed to facilitate maximum learning and engagement, giving students space to practice what they have learnt in class. It’s also surrounded by lush greenery, ensuring a calm and serene environment. Eden School is currently only open to Singaporean students.
Eden School, 101 Bukit Batok West Avenue 3 Singapore 659168, Tel: (+65) 6265 7400, www.edenschool.edu.sg
Offering special education for students between the ages of seven and 21 with mild intellectual disability (IQ level: 70 – 50) and/or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Metta School has five main programmes for different age groups and profiles. It is supported by M.O.E, and aims to help students learn to be self-reliant and empower them to contribute to society, so they may live meaningful lives.
Metta School, 30 Simei Street 1, Singapore 529949, Tel: (+65) 6788 5800, www.mettaschool.edu.sg
The first autism-focused school in Singapore, Pathlight blends mainstream Singapore curriculum with life readiness skills for learners aged between seven and 18. Its programmes are designed for students on the spectrum or with related conditions that can cognitively access mainstream academic curriculum with additional support. This is given in the form of smaller class sizes, special accommodations and a teaching staff that is trained in autism. Pathlight School primarily serves Singaporeans, but those with PR status may apply if they fit the requirements given by the M.O.E.
Pathlight School, multiple locations, www.pathlight.org.sg
Widely praised by parents for its personalised learning approach, Singapore American School aims to give every student full access to whatever academic and social support they need to succeed. In addition to fully accessible classrooms, SAS also provides learning support teachers, counselors and speech language pathologists who collaborate daily to meet the needs of every student across the school, from Preschool through Grade 12. While the majority of extra support is provided on campus, SAS does partner on an individual basis with extra support providers, such as occupational therapists, to ensure students receive any resources not already available on campus. Teams regularly work in collaboration to review student progress via classroom assessments and standardised assessments, as well as observational data. SAS also has four licensed school psychologists to ensure that all student learning needs are met.
Singapore American School, 40 Woodlands Street 41, Singapore 738547, Tel: (+65) 6363 3403, www.sas.edu.sg
This special education school in Singapore offers a comprehensive developmental curriculum, and works with its team of therapists who offer intervention in attention, regulation and motor skills. Additionally, its team of psychologists and social workers address students’ sensory and regulatory needs, while guiding and training caregivers and family members to create a conducive learning environment. SAAS maintains a person-centred approach when it comes to devising a suitable individualised education or transition plan (IEP/ITP) for each student, with an emphasis on social-emotional learning, communication, functional literacy and numeracy, and daily living and vocational skills. Each domain is complemented by expressive arts, adaptive physical education and co-curricular activities. The school is open to Singaporeans and PRs only.
St. Andrews Autism School, SAAC (Siglap), 1 Elliot Road, Singapore 458686, Tel: (+65) 6517 3800, www.saac.org.sg/st-andrews-autism-school
Catering to learners between ages 7 and 18, this special education school offers language and science, collaborations with mainstream schools and a vocational learning programme. It also has an ASD programme that helps build a structured learning environment with ASD strategies to boost learning for students. In addition to a robust co-curricular activities list – think arts, Scouts programmes, sports, gardening and music – the school also has a list of impressive facilities such as a mixed-reality dreamscape, domestic science space, multimedia lab and autism-friendly classrooms. The goal? To foster a sense of belonging while connecting students with shared interests.
Towner Gardens School, 1B, Lengkong Lima Singapore 417557, Tel: (+65) 6446 2612, www.minds.org.sg/for-children/schools/tgs
This small and diverse (28 countries represented!) international school catering to students aged four to 16 offers integrated learning support through a specialised and dedicated community of teachers, therapists and counsellors. Core beliefs include no two brains are alike and there are many paths to successful learning. The Winstedt School’s ultimate mission is to “redefine the possibilities of education for those who learn differently”.
The Winstedt School, 1208 Upper Boon Keng Road, Singapore 387312, Tel: (+65) 6715 5373, www.winstedt.edu.sg
Special Needs Preschools in Singapore
The Montessori-based special needs programme is only available at its Katong campus, and aims to promote inclusive learning for children with behavioral issues, autism, ADHD and global developmental delays. Here, the focus lies in instilling independence and self-awareness, and in developing a child’s autonomy. The preschool offers playgroup classes (18 months to three years), Nursery 1 (three and four years). Nursery 2 (four and five years), K1 (five to six years) and K2 (six and seven years), with a bilingual programme that focuses on Mandarin and English. This ECDA-approved childcare institution follows the vision of its sister-school, The Growing Academy, where learning is done through experiences. As such, its team of educators introduce projects that allow students to create their own opportunities to improve decision-making skills, build confidence and refine their social skills. Its team of ECDA-approved childcare teachers and therapists are based in the preschool for added support. Furthermore, the programmes are available for subsidies.
Modern Montessori International Katong by The Growing Academy, 865 Mountbatten Road, #05-44, Singapore 437844, Tel: (+65) 9424 1961, www.modern-montessori.com/preschool
Bright Path Preschool is an inclusive preschool for children of differing abilities that offers early intervention and specialised therapies while taking a child-centered approach. Recognising that some kids just learn a little differently, lessons are customised and adapted to each child’s individual needs to help them achieve independence and academic success. Bright Path’s advisory team has decades of experience working with children on their developmental needs. The school also has a bilingual psychologist on staff with more than 10 years of clinical experience in Asia. The school works with occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, and psychologists to bring out the best in every child.
Bright Path Preschool, 55 Fairways Drive, Singapore 286846, Tel: (+65) 6873 1777, www.brightpath.com.sg
Dyslexia Association of Singapore’s Preschool Intervention Programme meets once a week for two hours. Children are taught in small groups by a trained special needs educator who is especially focused to prepare children for primary school, both academically and socially. DAS’s Main Literacy Programme is a group class for children who are diagnosed with dyslexia that also meets twice a week. (Note: a formal educational psychological assessment with a dyslexia diagnosis is required for admission to the programme). This group class works on language and vocabulary, phonics, morphology, grammar, writing and reading comprehension. DAS also offers one-on-one tutors capable of creating custom lesson plans for individual children, as well as assessment services to confirm whether a dyslexia diagnosis. DAS is a registered charity, and can support students with dyslexia and other specific learning differences from low-income families.
Dyslexia Association of Singapore, 1 Jurong West Central 2, #05-01 Jurong Point, Singapore 648886, [email protected], Tel: (+65) 6444 5700, www.das.org.sg
Genesis provides a “whole child centered, family oriented education” to children with special learning needs who are diagnosed within the average IQ range and above. Serving children from age 2.5 up through adulthood, the school takes a multi-faceted approach to learning, focusing on areas such as social emotional development, fine/gross motor skills, cognitive/academic skills and more.
Genesis School for Special Education, 9/11 West Coast Road, Singapore 127296, Tel: (+65) 6733 1172, www.genesisschool.com.sg
Founded by Finnish educator and occupational therapist Dr. Suvi Pitkola to help children struggling in mainstream classrooms, Mighty Oaks offers intensive daily three-hour programmes that aim to equip children with the skills they need for mainstream school. Children might typically struggle with attention, language, social interaction, school readiness skills, and academic or pre-academic skills – the premises do not cater to children with physical disabilities, significant behavioural problems, or low IQ. Working with children aged 3 to 6 years of age, Mighty Oaks is the only program in Singapore fully based on the DIR-Floortime methodology, which strives to understand each child’s developmental profile (“D”), individual strengths and weaknesses in various areas (“I”), and, in contrast to behavioural methods, is relationship-based (“R”). Believing children learn best from adults they have a warm, trusting bond with, Floortime provides a warm and trusting way of interacting with children that takes their developmental profile and individual differences into account. Children at Mighty Oaks are taught in groups of three, allowing every child to receive plenty of attention from staff and in turn enabling staff – all certified special educators fully trained in the DIR Floortime method – to adapt all lessons to suit children’s needs. The program also incorporates speech therapy, occupational therapy and art therapy. Happily, most students are able to successfully transition back to mainstream school after six to 12 months.
Mighty Oaks, 312A Tanglin Road, #01-02, Phoenix Park Office Campus, Singapore 247982, Tel: (+65) 6736 2663, www.MightyOaksLC.com
An early intervention centre for children with special needs, Nurture Pods caters to children from 18 months of age up to 12 years old, addressing developmental disabilities and behavioural and communication difficulties, particularly for children with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD and global developmental delay. Specialist approaches include Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) as well as ABA and North Carolina TEACCH program, that are recommended by Singapore’s Ministry of Health to support children with ASD. They also include other intervention approaches depending on the child’s needs. Nurture Pods aims to help children develop social, academic, communication, compliance and daily living skills. They provide home-based ABA therapy, early intervention programmes at their centre, social skills class and school shadow support programme. Nurture Pods has also launched the world’s first professional school shadow certification (awarded by London Teacher Training College, UK) that teaches learners how to integrate children with special needs into mainstream schools.
Nurture Pods, 8 Sinaran Drive, #05-14/15, Singapore 307470, Tel: (+65) 6352 5938, www.nurturepods.com
This popular preschool caters to children of all abilities and also offers specialised early intervention services in individual and group settings. Its First Starts is a specialised preschool programme for children with learning needs that features a low (1:3) teacher-student ratio. Individual therapy sessions help children with clinical diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, developmental dyspraxia, and developmental delay and revolve around an individualised education plan to meet a child’s most urgent learning requirements. Group therapy sessions, meanwhile, provide learning opportunities for children in a more naturalistic setting.
Wee Care, multiple locations, www.weecare.com.sg
Early Intervention Centres
This ABA-focused therapy centre works closely with children who have autism, ADHD, speech delays, global developmental delays and behaviour issues, helping them bridge the gap between delays and mainstream curriculums. Its offerings include individual therapy, mainstream readiness programme, IQ preparation as well as social skills group learning. The team believes that new experiences are vital for mental growth, and that it’s essential to the mind’s development. As such, its team supports project collaborations that allow students to participate and transform their work into meaningful learning journeys. The Growing Academy has two branches – Punggol and East Coast – each prioritising small student-teacher ratios and individualised education plans (IEPs). The East Coast centre’s programme offers therapies in Japanese, all conducted by native Japanese therapists. The curriculum there also is curated to ensure that Japanese students will be ready to enter Japanese primary schools upon completion of the academy’s programmes.
The Growing Academy, multiple locations, Tel: (+65) 9424 1961, www.thegrowingacademy.sg
Taking a personalised approach to make learning accessible to all children, All Hands Together works closely with families to build a supportive partnership that goes beyond learning for children who are differently-abled. The school offers a variety of programmes customised to the specific needs of each child, including a three-hour early intervention programme to help children achieve their learning, developmental, social and emotional goals, as well as provide school readiness,. There’s also a home-based support programme personalised to each child’s individual learning style. Students range from neurotypical children who need a boost in one particular area, to those with severe mental and/or physical disabilities of challenges who have longer term needs. All Hands Together works with children ranging from 18 months to 18 years of age, are also baby bonus registered. A case manager will carefully monitor each child’s progress and development to ensure they achieve their goals.
All Hands Together, 5 Stadium Walk, #04-09 Kallang Leisure Park, Singapore 397693, Tel: (+65) 9025 2729 , www.allhandstogether.com
Bridge Learning stands out for their highly effective neuroscience-based, cross and non-categorical approach to specialised early intervention – this contrasts with the more widely practised, label-centric categorical approach. Bridge Learning offers personalised one-on-one and group intervention programmes to target a diverse range of learning difficulties. Using Dynamic Diagnostic Assessment™ (DDA) to identify a child’s strengths and weaknesses that can affect learning, they are able to map out an Individualised Developmental and Progress Profile (IDPP) and also incorporate Bridge NeuroGym™ and Israeli Brain Techniques to improve communication in the brain and boost academic success. Bridge Learning serves mainstream and gifted children aged 2.5 to 12 years old who have been diagnosed with (or are suspected to have) hybrid and/or mild learning difficulties and learning disabilities, including ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, auditory processing disorder, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, sensory motor integration dysfunction, and global developmental delay. Bridge Learning’s Social Enterprise financial subsidies are available for lower-income families.
Bridge Learning, multiple locations, Tel: (+65) 9021 5988, www.bridgelearning.com.sg
Providing individualised, targeted and intensive educational programmes for children from 18 months to 8 years, EIC caters to children identified with autism, intellectual disabilities, behavioural challenges and/or developmental delays. The school offers a wide array of services, including a group early intervention programme, individual early learning support, creative music, occupational and speech therapy. EIC staff are experienced educators who aim to nurture and provide children with a focused and holistic learning experience. Staff partake in regular relevant training to continue their learnings.
The Early Intervention Centre, 18 Ah Hood Road, #06-52/54 Hiap Hoe Building, Singapore 329983, Tel: (+65) 6352 8608, www.eic.sg
Geared toward children ages 2 to 4, Kaleidoscope’s early intervention preschool programme “Ready Let’s Go” is an intensive therapy programme that focuses on supporting children to develop the skills needed to succeed in preschool. This includes intensive occupational and speech therapy in small group settings. This fully inclusive therapy centre accepts children with a range of disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, and global developmental delay. All teachers possess both an education degree and a Masters in Special Education. Therapists also provide regular training on a range of topics including developmental play, sensory integration, and speech and language delay.
Kaleidoscope, 200 Turf Club Road, #07-05/06 The Grandstand, Singapore 287994, Tel: (+65) 6468 8991, www.kaleidoscope.com.sg
An early intervention centre with integrated speech and occupational therapy, KidsFirst aims to equip its students with the academic, pragmatic and functional skills needed to enter a mainstream school setting. Taking a transdisciplinary approach allows for a fruitful, comprehensive learning environment, in which goal-directed intervention can help every child reach their full potential. KidsFirst caters to children with a range of challenges, including autism, speech-language delay, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, ADHD, Down Syndrome, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Dyspraxia, among others. Their teaching and support team has over 40 years of experience between them, and all Speech and Occupational Therapists are fully APHC-registered.
KidsFirst, 19 Tanglin Road, Tanglin Shopping Centre #08-11, 33-37, Singapore 247909, Tel: (+65) 9145 2447, www.kidsfirst.co
The practice aims to bridge the gap between children, caregivers, schools and therapists. Its mobile, in-home paediatric service helps children independently perform activities such as learning in school, managing and organising their belongings, playtime and self-care – dressing up, eating or going to the toilet without help – all of which are crucial in helping them grow into successful young adults. The team of therapists here work with schools to offer individual assessments and therapy sessions, extracurricular activities, group therapy and even caregiver and teacher training workshops. Thumbs Up Therapy’s speech and language therapists are trained to support your child’s speech and language development; at the same time, they can equip you, your helper or those involved in your child’s daily care with the necessary skills to help support their language, speech, play and social skills. Want a little stimulation for your child during their school holidays? Thumbs Up Therapy also does fun school holiday camps!
Thumbs Up Therapy Singapore, 35 Jalan Mutiara, Singapore 249210, Tel: (+65) 8768 6783, www.thumbsuptherapy.sg
Frequently Used Terms and Phrases for Special Needs Learning in Singapore
We strongly suggest checking out Singapore’s Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) and the M.O.E.’s Parent’s Guide for Children with Special Education Needs, which answers the question “What does it mean to have special education needs?” with the following points:
- They have been diagnosed with a disability
- They show greater difficulty in learning as compared to the majority of his/her peers of the same age (e.g. difficulties in social, language, academic or physical abilities).
- They require different or additional resources beyond what is generally available for the majority of his/her peers of the same age.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Commonly practiced as a therapeutic intervention for Autism, ABA is a type of therapy that focuses on improving specific behaviors, such as social skills, communication, reading and academics, as well as adaptive learning skills.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism spectrum disorder (or just autism), a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
A brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
In Singapore, early intervention programmes are defined as seeking to equip infants and young children with special needs with improved motor, communication, social, self-help and cognitive skills. Early intervention activities are designed to maximise their developmental growth potential and minimise the development of secondary disabilities.
This is an educational model or philosophy where special needs students are in the same classroom as non-special-needs (general education) students, with the belief that it fosters understanding and tolerance and better prepares students of all abilities to function in the world beyond school.
“Mainstreaming” is the practice of placing students with special education needs in a general education classroom during certain times, based on their skills (while at others placing them in separate special education classes). This is in contrast to “inclusion”.
A relatively new term used to describe individuals of “typical” developmental, intellectual and cognitive abilities (in contrast to someone who may be on the autism spectrum or has other developmental differences characterizing them as “neurodiverse”).
These specialists can help children achieve developmental milestones such as fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. In a broader sense, occupational therapists work with people to help make every day living easier.
Shadow teachers work directly with a single special needs student in a mainstream or inclusive educational setting, focusing on social development and any particular difficulties that might arise from a child’s specific abilities
Speech therapists work with people of all ages with communication or swallowing difficulties, including comprehension and expression, articulation and phonology, fluency, and voice. Speech therapists can also help kids with other issues with spoken and written language, including dyslexia, dyspraxia, and auditory processing disorder.