Support for children aged below seven with developmental needs to secure preschool placements

Parliamentary Question, 4 March 2020

Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Social and Family Development since the shift of early intervention services from MSF Disability Office to Early Childhood Development Agency (a) how many children aged below 7 with developmental needs have been (i) declined for enrolments or (ii) expelled by preschools; and (b) how is the Early Childhood Development Agency supporting families with children with developmental needs secure preschool placements.

Mr Desmond Lee: Today, many young children with developmental needs are enrolled in a preschool. Three-quarters of children aged five to six who are enrolled in the Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC) are also enrolled in preschools.

There is a range of support available within preschools for children with developmental needs. For example, about 550 preschools offer the Learning Support and Development Support programmes, which cater to children with learning and mild developmental needs respectively.

However, some preschools may find it challenging to cater to a child with moderate to severe developmental needs. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) receives feedback on a few such cases per year. Where needed, ECDA works with parents and stakeholders such as SG Enable, EIPIC centres and preschools to find a solution that meets the needs of the child. This includes engaging the parents and the preschools to better understand the child’s needs, and arranging for the preschools to work with EIPIC centres to adopt appropriate strategies to support the child. ECDA may also refer the child to suitable preschools which are better placed to support the child’s development.

The Government is continuing to enhance support for children with developmental needs in preschools. For example, we introduced the Development Support-Plus (DS-Plus) programme last year to cater to children who have made sufficient progress under EIPIC and are able to transit to receiving intervention in a preschool setting with added support. Under DS-Plus, early intervention professionals from EIPIC centres work with the child in his or her preschool up to twice a week, co-teaching the child alongside the preschool teacher. We have also set up the Inclusive Preschool Workgroup, which will develop recommendations on how to better support children with moderate to severe developmental needs in preschools.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

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A full-time human, and part-time everything else.

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.