Author: DPA Singapore

Self-Reporting Mechanisms, and Role of Allies in Cases of Abuse

The Disabled People’s Association (DPA) is both outraged and saddened to read a recent article highlighting a case of bullying by students: “Assumption Pathway School takes disciplinary action against girls seen bullying student in viral video”. While it is encouraging to read of the swift actions by the teacher Ms Norashsikin and the management of Assumption Pathway School, it is simply unacceptable for cases like this to be an occurrence in any school.

Bullying is a horrible thing for any child to experience, but to share the act on social media for others to view in effect victimises the student all over again. In this case there is more at play than bullying, from the comments on the original video it appears they targeted the student because she has an intellectual disability. If this is true, then this is a case of abuse fuelled by discrimination. Such cruel inhumane, and degrading treatment cannot be condoned. The consequences should be proportionate with the actions of these abusers.

This act was detected and reported because it was shared on Twitter, but how many other cases of discrimination motivated bullying go unnoticed because the perpetrators don’t post videos online?

DPA has urged authorities to simplify abuse reporting mechanisms so that they are more accessible to persons with cognitive impairments and intellectual disabilities. Sharing materials about reporting bullying and abuse in easy read format can help those with Intellectual disabilities. It is also important to understand the role of allies in standing up for their fellow students and community members with disabilities.

In 2013, DPA had run its public education campaign (“Their greatest disability is our apathy”) that focused on how particular actions and choices can profoundly affect an individual with disabilities. Years on, this message is still very much relevant. Despite the uncomfortable actions being done to her, the student clearly lacked the empowerment to report this case. It is in this moment that we would like to know what schools are doing to encourage those within the school community, including teachers and students, to report and stop bullying and abusive behaviour.

With current options relying on caregivers and allies reporting cases of abuse on behalf of the person with disability, we are not doing enough to empower those being abused to ask for help.

DPA urges the management and staff of all schools, both mainstream and Special Education schools, to review their current abuse reporting processes to truly make learning and education a safe space.

After all, education will not be inclusive by merely enacting the Compulsory Education Act. It cannot be business as usual. Otherwise we run the risk of doing a huge disservice to the students who rely on these safe spaces in their formative years.

 

Mr Richard Kuppusamy, President

Disabled People’s Association

Tel: 67911134

Address: 1 Jurong West Central 2, #04-01 Jurong Point Shopping Centre, Singapore 648886

 

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Travelling With A Disability on Jetstar Asia

Travel. A word that can either bring to mind delight or dread depending on whether you have a disability.

While many individuals eagerly look forward to vacationing, many airlines still have not done enough to ensure that persons with disabilities have a pleasant time travelling.

Although some tourists with disabilities have had good experiences, many do not. On 10 August 2017, the Guardian ran an article about ‘Disabled passengers forced to wait hours to disembark at Heathrow’[1] and in a Straits Time article from 12 November 2017 Mr Richard Kuppusamy, President of the Disabled People’s Association (DPA), shared about his wheelchair had been damaged in transit and that it took the airlines responsible six weeks to repair it.[2]

Jetstar Asia is an airline which had been recognised as one of the “Top 10 Airlines by Passenger Carriage” by Changi Airline Awards yet, one particular incident took a passenger’s experience to a new low.

Earlier in the year, DPA was approached by Dr Rupa Chandrashekar, a US citizen who recently visited Singapore. As an avid traveller who has travelled to over 75 countries, Dr Chandrashekar has seen her fair share of airline policies as a passenger who uses a wheelchair.

Ushering in her 2018 with Jetstar Asia however, left an indelible mark, and not for the best of reasons.

On January 1, Dr Chandrashekar was travelling from Singapore to Manila, Philippines. After checking in at Changi Airport, she informed the Jetstar agents about her needs regarding the wheelchair at the flight gate. This was in addition to having informed the airlines about her travel needs a month ahead of time. In her past experience, she would have given her wheelchair at the gate, boarded the airplane, and then received it again at the gate upon arrival.

This time however, she was informed that her wheelchair would be going into baggage claim. Even with the best of airlines, seasoned travellers would know that any wheelchair handled like baggage can be damaged. Dr Chandrashekar refused, stating that this was highly unusual and that her wheelchair was fragile. Only to be told by Jetstar Asia agents that her exchange was causing the flight to be delayed, although there was still 30 minutes left of boarding time, and she would need to wait till after all passengers had boarded.

After boarding the remaining passengers, Jetstar Asia agents informed her that they had decided to take her off the flight list for being “a disruptive passenger”. Jetstar Asia staff did not provide any assistance with finding an alternative flight for Dr Chandrashekar nor did she receive any assistance whilst going between various Changi Airport terminals trying to find another flight to the Philippines. After four hours, she managed to get a flight with Philippines Airlines at her own cost.

Dr Chandrashekar wrote in to Jetstar Asia to complain about how she was treated.

Here is Jetstar Asia’s response:

“If they feel that your behaviour is disruptive in any way, it is their responsibility to act. In the interest of flight and passenger safety, Jetstar Asia has a strict policy of denying boarding to any customer, or offloading any customer who makes inappropriate comments or behaves inappropriately inflight or on the ground. Our airport staff and/or crew will only allow a passenger on to a plane if they believe that his or her behaviour will not disturb or affect the safety or comfort of others.

On the date in question, our staff formed the view that your behaviour was unacceptable and subsequently decided to offload you from the flight. While I understand that this was disappointing for you, I’m afraid you agreed to these conditions when you made your booking. 

I’m sorry to hear your feedback about the way our staff dealt with this situation. Please be assured that your comments will be forwarded to the team involved to assist with training and performance management.”

It is highly unbecoming when an airline, a service provider, does not take responsibility for the poor customer service received by a passenger, failing to address that wheelchairs can be brought to the aircraft door, and instead places the blame in its entirety on the passenger.

We urge Jetstar Asia to look at its processes to be an airline that caters to everyone’s needs, not just for passengers without disabilities.

In stark contrast to how Dr Chandrashekar was treated by Jetstar Asia staff, the counter staff at Philippines Airlines listened to Dr Chandrashekar’s requests and knew about wheelchair handling procedures. At the boarding gate, Dr Chandrashekar again requested that her wheelchair be at the gate in Manila and the Philippines airlines staff sent a message to their counterparts at Manila airport. When arriving in Manila, the inflight crew again informed the ground staff about Dr Chandrashekar’s request and her wheelchair was waiting for her at the gate.

Dr Chandrashekar is understandably upset about this incident and reflecting on it she says:

 “As I think about this incident, it angers me that Jetstar Asia would treat me in such a way for having a voice and advocating for myself and about my disability. If voicing my concerns is “disruptive behaviour” then, that’s a shame. I cannot believe that Jetstar Asia would treat people with disabilities in such a way.”

DPA reached out to Jetstar Asia customer service a couple of times to discuss what happened with Dr Chandrashekar, but did not receive any response.

A Good Day Out : Tote Board’s 30th Anniversary

Tote Board commemorated 30 Years of Giving with “A Good Day Out” on 10 February 2018! As one of the partners, Disabled People’s Association spent the day at this all-inclusive carnival held at Gardens by the Bay. This milestone event which brought together more than 15,000 beneficiaries and members of the public was graced by Guest of Honor Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and dedicated to the beneficiaries and social service organizations who partnered with Tote Board to give hope and improve the lives of all in Singapore.

Our Inclusion Ambassadors and volunteers arrived bright and early to set up our E-DATS (Experiential Disability Awareness) booth showcasing three different types of disabilities – General Awareness & Sensory, Autism, and Psycho-social. Aiming to raise awareness and encourage better understanding between persons with and without disabilities, our disability-specific booths offered interactive and experiential activities such as wheelchair challenge, lip reading, signing and experiential goggles. All who came by our booth engaged in a fun time of learning through problem solving exercises led by our Inclusion Ambassadors, and supported by our volunteers. Inclusion Ambassadors are DPA members with disabilities who are trained to engage with various target groups and raise awareness on disability.

We also had the honor of having Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong personally visit our booth, to meet and understand the work of our Inclusion Ambassadors, and try out our various experiential activities that conveyed the important message that disability is only one characteristic of a person and does not comprise one’s sole self-identity. People with disabilities do not require other’s pity or sympathy. Instead, they need support, acceptance, inclusion, and recognition that they have equal rights as anyone else.

DPA had many meaningful conversations and interactions with members of the public through this event, and we look forward to creating a more inclusive Singapore together!

Watch this video to find out more about the advocacy work that our Inclusion Ambassadors do!

Project Smile by Temasek Secondary School

We’re always thrilled to welcome student groups interested in volunteering and collaborating with us at DPA. So when 9 students from Temasek Secondary School recently approached us to run Project Smile, we were more than delighted to say yes!

Project Smile is a project with the simple aim of bringing smiles to the faces of persons with disabilities, while promoting inclusion and giving back to society.

The objective of the Project Smile Team was to develop a deeper understanding of the needs and concerns of persons with disabilities, with the hope of eventually promoting inclusion and gaining an increased confidence to effectively interact with persons with disabilities. Hence, their first step was to schedule a site recce and consultation at the DPA office to better understand and explore how we can collaborate together to make this happen.

Prior to the actual event, the team members of Project Smile attended a Disability Awareness Talk Series (DATS) conducted by our Training Consultant, Ms Asha, to learn how to disable the disability and embrace inclusion.

Armed with knowledge, the Project Smile team met with some of our Inclusion Ambassadors to take their project a step towards reality.

On the afternoon of 2 August 2017, 3 of our Inclusion Ambassadors – Joseph, Margaret and Sakina – who are wheelchair users, participated in Project Smile. After a quick round of ice-breakers and self-introduction, the Project Smile team led our Inclusion Ambassadors in a session of origami and a game of bingo. Vibrant laughter and chatter filled the room as time flew by! A short song performance by the team quickly evolved into a sing-along session together with our Inclusion Ambassadors. As the session came to a close, the friendship built between the team and our Inclusion Ambassadors was undeniable. The team left with their hearts full and were tremendously inspired, while our Inclusion Ambassadors wore smiles on their faces the whole time – a clear evidence of the joy and warmth flowing from within them.

The Project Smile Team also raised a total of $360.50 in donations which was then presented to DPA. Raising the amount solely by selling bubble tea to their schoolmates, it was heartening to hear them share the funny stories and challenges they faced in the process of their fundraising activity.

DPA would like to extend a big thank you to the Project Smile Team – Nurfareha, YuXuan, Jonathan, Jia Xuan, Elena, Zeta, Mus’ab, Damien and Sandro – together with their teacher, Mrs Verma, and parent helper, Mdm Noorjan for being such a blessing to the community!

Design For Humanity, Makerthon 2017

On 26 July 2017, DPA conducted a disability awareness talk and some experiential activities for participants of Design for Humanity – Makerthon 2017. Our Inclusion Ambassadors Margaret, Rosie and Timothy shared the barriers they faced in their daily lives and motivated the participants to come up with assistive devices that will increase their functional independence.

Design for Humanity is a collaboration between Engineering Good Student Chapter (EGSC), the Innovation and Design Centric Programme Student Club (iDCP SC), as well as the Institute of Engineers Singapore NUS Student Chapter (IES-NUS). DPA works with them to raise awareness and help participants to better understand the needs of persons with disabilities.

The theme of the Makerthon 2017 was ‘breaking barriers in the workplace – making workplaces more Inclusive for persons with disabilities through design’ and it aimed to expose more students to humanitarian engineering, empowering them to apply their technical skills for social good.  The Makerthon 2017 was a three day event (26 – 28 July 2017). Participants were given the opportunity to identify a specific area to work on. They generated new ideas, learned relevant technical skills and came up with various exciting prototypes.

The finals were held at National University of Singapore on 28 July 2017. Six teams participated in this Makerthon. Their ideas were presented before a panel of judges to receive feedback. The judges were Dr Dawn-Joy Leong (Board member, Disabled People’s Association), Associate Professor Loh Ai Poh (Director of the Innovation & Design-Centric Programme), Associate Professor Tay Seng Chuan and Associate Professor Mehul Motani.

The winning team combined affordable technology with an innovative social model and developed a button that persons with disabilities would be able to use to call for assistance. The prototype was a simple button that lit up when they needed help. Those who are willing to help can approach the person with disability to offer assistance. The winning team consisted of five students from National University of Singapore (NUS), three students from the Faculty of Engineering and two students from the Faculty of Science.

Assistive devices enable persons with disabilities to function effectively, overcoming the limitations that they may face in their life. DPA encourages students to generate innovative ideas for affordable, accessible and effective technology that can help make workplaces more inclusive for persons with disabilities.

DPA congratulates all the participants and organisers of this Makerthon and welcomes brilliant brains to take up these type of future challenges to create prototypes that can be turned to real solutions promoting inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Metanoia by Ngee Ann Polytechnic

The following blog post was written by a group of students about their experience working on ‘Metanoia’, a day event held at Ngee Ann Polytechnic where they traveled across the campus on wheelchairs to truly understand the challenges faced by persons with disabilities.


On 24 July 2017 (Monday), a group of five Ngee Ann Polytechnic students comprising of Roy Tan, Pay Pei Qi, Lee Si Ying, Sindy Teo and Lee Yu Hsien collaborated with the Disabled People’s Association (DPA) in organising a wheelchair simulation event, ‘Metanoia’ at Makan Place. Disability awareness and volunteer training was conducted by DPA on 20 July that helped the volunteers to gain confidence to interact and include people with disabilities. During the event, students sat on wheelchairs to navigate themselves around the school with the accompaniment of Inclusion Ambassadors; Ms Sakina and Ms Margaret. This was indeed a memorable experience for the students as they were able to better understand the perspectives of people with disabilities and change their attitudes towards them.

Acts like making way for persons with disabilities in lifts can make a difference to them. Some other obstacles faced are the steep slopes in Ngee Ann Polytechnic which was supposed to be of help to them but it became an obstacle. Other than having the wheelchair simulation, inclusion booths were also set up to raise awareness and promote inclusion for people with disabilities and DPA.

Metanoia had another activity; “Human Library”. Inclusion Ambassadors from DPA shared their personal stories with the participants. Participants were able to empathise with persons with disabilities and learnt that disability can also be a form of ability. During the session, Ms Noraini and Ms Sakina introduced themselves and were open to questions asked by the participants. This was a valuable experience for the participants and they felt that this segment was beneficial for them.

Wheelchair experiential activity, disability specific inclusion booths and human library session helped the participants to understand the abilities and needs of persons with disabilities. The event ended with a blast with participants gaining lots of insights of persons with disabilities and learnt that they too play a crucial role in making the society more inclusive.

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So, how did Metanoia start out?

Mr Roy Tan came to know about DPA when he volunteered for the DPA & VSA Joint Flag Day 2017 on 25th March 2017. And when his team and him was asked to create an campaign for Persons With Disabilities a few months later, Roy thought of DPA.

The event was named Metanoia as it was a Greek word for making a change in one’s life. With common objectives to embrace differences between the typical and atypical, both DPA and Metanoia has agreed on the collaboration to take up the project.

As part of DPA’s advocacy initiatives, the association had conducted an interesting interaction session for Team Metanoia on 6th May 2017. Inclusion Ambassadors, Margaret and Joseph, shared their experiences and guided the students to do the experiential activities. Students led by Mr Roy Tan, remarked that it was a fulfilling learning experience that raised awareness about disability and inclusion of people with disabilities.

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Contribution : The Malta Camp

Every now and then, DPA features a member’s article focusing on a variety of topics. Today we bring to you a piece by Ms Noraini.

In mid June, one of DPA’s members, Noraini attended The Malta Camp held in Singapore. The following piece is quite an interesting read, as she shares with us her account of the camp, and the various activities that she enjoyed.


I attended The Malta Camp Inaugural Asia Pacific Summer Camp Singapore 2017 held at the Singapore Sports School from 8th to 11th June 2017. I was selected and given the opportunity to go for this camp. I was quite surprised to have been selected, as the camp was mainly for youth. I also managed to get selected for the invitation-only Gala Dinner that kicked off the event. There were participants from several Asia-Pacific countries, and they travelled to Singapore all the way from   Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong and the Philippines. It was an experience meeting all these individuals who had gathered in Singapore for the inaugural event- especially for people with disabilities. We were all coming together as one – to celebrate joy, happiness and inclusiveness!

Time really flew at the camp. The Opening Ceremony of the Malta Camp Singapore on 8th June was held at the Singapore School of Sports. It was officially kicked off by Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth, Ms Grace Fu.

I was delighted to see a few familiar faces at the event. There was Karen Zainal whom I got to know through a Human Library event, and Dr Michael Thio, a board member from Wise Enterprise, where I work part time. He attended the event with his wife. Not forgetting Dr Donald Poon, a doctor at Raffles Hospital.

Despite being an event focusing on Disability, and Inclusivity, there were some challenges when navigating my way during the event. For example, the accessible toilets were not very easy to get to. However, with some ingenuity, I managed to get around the obstacles.

The facilities at the Sports School were manageable for wheelchair users. We had volunteers from Nursing backgrounds who patiently assisted us with our requirements, even though they needed to rush off for work.

I was very heartened when they would take the time to assist me in getting ready every morning for breakfast, as well as before the planned outings.

The volunteers also encouraged me to go out to IFLY with the rest of team. IFLY is located at Sentosa where you could experience the thrill of skydiving, but indoors! I accompanied the team over to IFLY, however, I decided not to take part in the skydiving activity.

Over the next few days, we played games like bowling, and crafting sessions where we made lamps together. The outings organised by the team, such as the one to Botanical Gardens, was incredibly fun!  Other fun activities were the disco that was held for three nights, having meals together with other participants from the camp, and getting to interact with each other more.

However, the best part of all this was making new friends with people with disabilities from around the region.

Cultural Exchange Night was where a volunteer gave me a box of chocolates from Switzerland. Over the next four days, everyone felt like ONE BIG FAMILY!  I had a wonderful time at the camp! I also learned to be more independent for those days away from the home.

Two of the participants I truly admired were from Thailand. One is a wheelchair user, and the other is visually impaired. Both flew over to Singapore without any assistance. Adding to that, they were also the champions for this year’s polo game!

The last day had a fun carnival organised.  We played games, ate lots of candy floss, and even the traditional Singaporean treat of having an ice-cream sandwich! The carnival also had balloon art where we had balloons twisted into interesting shapes, following this, we had a Minnie Mouse Magic Show.

This camp was an unforgettable experience indeed, with lots of sweet memories with newfound friends. I did not feel like saying goodbye. It was also an inclusive experience, where we helped and encouraged each other.

My special thanks to all the participants, volunteers and organisers of this Order of Malta Inaugural Asia Summer Camp.

Next year, the camp will be held in the Philippines, and I hope more Singaporeans will join in then!


Noraini Bte Adnan is a member of DPA and is an active advocate on disability issues. She enjoys carrying out research on health, disability advocacy, and other youth issues. Noraini also loves going to events such as The Malta Camp, as she enjoys interacting with people from different countries, and with different abilities. She believes that society should not look down on people with disabilities.

We Are Recruiting Inclusion Ambassadors!

Are you interested to advocate for inclusion for people with disabilities? If so, apply to be an Inclusion Ambassador and contribute to making society more inclusive.

What is an Inclusion Ambassador?
Inclusion Ambassadors are our members with disabilities who are trained by DPA to effectively engage with public to raise awareness and promote inclusion of people with disabilities at various outreach events. Our Inclusion Ambassadors uphold the mission of DPA and promote self-advocacy.

What does an Inclusion Ambassador do?
Inclusion Ambassadors engage participants from different walks of life. These ambassadors interact with participants and share their powerful insights / personal experiences in an interesting and constructive way. Through the experiential activities and interaction, Inclusion Ambassadors help the participants to gain confidence in interacting with persons with disabilities and to be more proactive in promoting inclusion.

What are the benefits of being an Inclusion Ambassador?
This is a paid opportunity where you can raise awareness whilst getting compensated for efforts. DPA trains and mentors our Inclusion Ambassadors. You will get exposure to different engagement methods including discussions, meetings, forums and interviews. Inclusion Ambassadors also learn to work as a team.

How do I apply to be an Inclusion Ambassador?
You need to be a DPA member to apply for Inclusion Ambassadors programme. Selected candidates will undergo training to develop necessary skills to be an Inclusion Ambassador.

We encourage individuals with disabilities to become Inclusion Ambassadors. You can visit this link to apply for DPA membership.

For more information, please email training@dpa.org.sg or call 6791 1134.

DPA’s Volunteer Training Session

At the Disabled People’s Association (DPA), we recognise the importance of training our volunteers to prepare them for their role with us! Understanding that with a diversity of volunteers and the variety of roles and activities they undertake, our training always seeks to provide them with a broad range of skills to not only be competent, but also confident in their supporting roles.

On 15 July 2017, DPA conducted a Volunteer Training Session for our volunteers in order to equip them with the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitude to work effectively with persons with disabilities, caregivers, volunteers, and the public. The training was a great learning experience for all volunteers who attended!

Informational and interactive sessions offered participating volunteers a unique opportunity to personally interact with, and learn from our Inclusion Ambassadors. Inclusion Ambassadors Aisha Ibrahim, Kagda Sakina and Rosie Wong shared valuable insights and answered the varying questions presented to them by the volunteers. Experiential activities helped the volunteers to understand the needs and concerns of persons with disabilities better.

A special crafting session was also incorporated into our Volunteer Training this time. Laughter and colours filled our premises as volunteers, together with our Inclusion Ambassadors, worked hand in hand to create marble mugs, canvas paintings, braille bookmarks and customised notebooks. Through art, the spirit of inclusion lit up the atmosphere and warmed our hearts.

DPA appreciates all our volunteers and recognises their time and contributions! Our volunteers are advocates of inclusion and representatives of DPA at programs and events. Their volunteer experience directly impacts the way in which they represent or personify DPA and its mission – To be the voice of persons with disabilities, working with them to achieve full participation and equal status in society through independent living. Together with our volunteers, we celebrate inclusion and appreciate their contributions in our journey together.

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Interested in joining DPA as a volunteer? Sign up here.

ARC’s WeCAN Early Intervention Programme

Here’s another rather interesting programme brought to you by the Autism Resource Centre (ARC). Valerie took the opportunity to visit ARC’s recent Open House to find out more about the WeCAN Early Intervention Programme (WeCAN EIP). Continue reading to find out more!


Autism Resource Centre (ARC) held an Open House for their WeCAN Early Intervention Programme (EIP) on 17 July, Monday which aimed to provide the public with a more comprehensive knowledge of the programmes they were offering. The programme was developed to meet the needs of young children with autism and their families, and this objective seemed like a pressing need due to the high turnout of concerned parents eager to find out more about early intervention programs available for their children diagnosed with autism.

Internationally accredited by the Early Intervention Programme since 2008 (by the National Autistic Society, United Kingdom), WeCAN EIP was developed to provide early intervention for young children, aged 18 months to 6 years, diagnosed with autism. The programme’s developers strongly believe in equipping caregivers well in order to enable them to assist their children with autism achieve their full potential by being an active participant in their child’s intervention team. Therefore, parent participation is a critical component in ARC’s program where parents are highly involved in the individual educational planning of each child. This includes personal class observations and reflections, hands-on practice sessions in class, outings and parent communication nights.

The Early Intervention Programme is built on the following guiding principles:

  • Individualised – Skills that are functional and useful to each,
  • Meaningful to Child – What they look forward to when they come to school,
  • Spontaneous Use of Skills – For children to attain lesser support from adult in future,
  • Generalisation – Ability to use same skill in different settings,
  • Maintenance – To maintain current skill learnt and progressively build other skills upon it moving forward.

A walk around the school campus and taking a look at the various classrooms used for the different levels within the programme revealed various focus areas, ranging from work habits to self-regulation, functional communication to social skills, life skills to curriculum skills, with a gradual development of social relationship skills. This is to ensure effective early intervention where, after the diagnosis of the child, children are able to learn how to be with other people, learn how to learn, acquire crucial skills for pre-school, and eventually are prepared for Primary School.

Closing off the Open House with a Q&A session, it was clear from the issues raised that the most pressing concern facing parents of children with autism was the waiting list to enter Early Intervention Programs (EIPs) and Special Education (SPED) Schools. This is a matter of supply and demand where the number of students wanting to enroll, far outnumber the available teachers. Keeping in mind that in such programmes and schools, the teacher-student ratio per class tends to be much smaller than that of a mainstream school.

And this is where DPA’s work in raising awareness amongst Singaporeans comes into play. It is for reasons such as these, where students lose out on meaningful engagement and specialized curriculum, that we encourage more individuals who are looking to become teachers, develop their skills as a special needs educator.