Small Steps to Big Dreams: Cultivating Inclusivity Starts Young
It is easy to emphasize the importance of diversity and an inclusive society, but when interacting with Persons with Intellectual Disability (PWIDs), how many of us can honestly say that we understand their needs? After all, if we do not interact with PWIDs on a regular basis, misunderstandings may easily arise and discomfort can set in.
This is something that PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Bukit Timah Blk 207 hopes to change through its collaboration with its neighbour, MINDS Faber Training & Development Centre (FTDC).
“Our PCF Sparkletot’s vision includes nurturing children with a caring heart,” Senior Centre Principal, Ms Emelyn Undik Durias states. She explains, “We want our children to be able to celebrate the unique strengths and abilities of each individual — which is why it’s important to foster inclusivity and diversity in our children.”
Creating Common Platforms
To encourage inclusivity, the preschool has been collaborating with FTDC since 2018 to organise community events where children and PWIDs get to know each other.
These activities take place several times a year. In 2018 and 2019, for example, the children participated in a fire drill at the Clementi Fire Station with FTDC clients. Between 2018 and 2022, celebrations were also held on occasions such as National Day, Chinese New Year, and the annual launch of the Early Childhood Development Agency’s (ECDA) annual Start Small Dream Big (SSDB) initiative — a programme that encourages preschools to create platforms for children to give back to the community.
During these celebrations, PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Bukit Timah Blk 207 organises a donation drive for parents and children to participate in. The children then visit FTDC to deliver the gifts and spend time with FTDC clients singing, dancing, doing crafts and more. In return, FTDC clients have created artwork for the pre-schoolers to display at the centre.
Learning Lessons on Inclusivity
Ms Sohfiyah Binte Abdullah Sani, Lead Teacher at PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Bukit Timah Blk 207, observes that these events are well received as the children enjoy the social aspects of singing, dancing and doing crafts with the FTDC clients.
Furthermore, she adds that these experiences are not just for the pure aspect of having fun. They are also a valuable opportunity for the children to learn about empathy, respect and acceptance of those who are different from themselves.
“During these events, we always remind the children that they should not laugh at, look down on or be afraid of the people they meet,” she explains. “Instead, we emphasise the need to support people with special needs and encourage the children to put themselves in each other’s shoes so they can be more understanding.”
Changing Attitudes One Step at a Time
As a liaison between PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Bukit Timah Blk 207 and FTDC, Ms Sohfiyah shares that the most meaningful moment for her so far was during a virtual SSDB event during the pandemic when the children had to wait for their turn to stand in front of the camera and say goodbye to FTDC clients. The children’s eagerness as they stood in line patiently to do so showed her that they “have become more confident and caring people,” she says.
Parents have also noticed the difference in their children. Ms Glaiza Manalo, whose family lives near MINDS FTDC, was pleased to see her two children become more mindful and respectful of PWIDs outside of the classroom. “I believe both my children have become more understanding and accepting of people with different developmental needs,” she says.
Experiences like this are why parents who were initially concerned about their children being too young to interact with PWIDs, have now rallied in support of any MINDS initiatives that their children can participate in.
Never Too Young or Too Small to Make a Difference
Looking back over the past few years of working with MINDS, Ms Sohfiyah reiterates her belief that these events are an opportunity to change the way people view people with disabilities. She has faith that each encounter, no matter how small, can create a “ripple effect” that continues to spread over the years.
Ms Emelyn echoes this sentiment. “We hope that through our partnership with MINDS, we will be able to educate both our children and parents about the importance of diversity and inclusivity, ultimately helping to eliminate the stigma and create a more compassionate society.” she concludes.
As we progress in our mission of improving the quality of life and inclusion of PWIDs and their families in society, we invite organisations like early childhood schools, residential committees, and community groups to join us in building a culture of kindness and empathy for persons with special needs.
Step up and engage with PWIDs! As the community at PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Bukit Timah Blk 207 has shown, you are never too young or too old to change your perspective and make a difference. Start your organisation’s journey to building an inclusive society with us! Explore partnerships and collaborations with MINDS here.
The Colour Socks Parade is MINDS’ annual event to showcase the gifts and abilities of Persons with Intellectual Disability (PWIDs), raise awareness of PWIDs in the community and to foster meaningful engagements between PWIDs, their families and the wider community. Join The Colour Socks Parade – Virtual Challenge to show your support for the PWID community! Details and registration are available here.
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