How much do you know about children with intellectual disabilities in Singapore?

Nov 23, 2021   |   Jesline Yu

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In building a caring nation and inclusive society, Singapore has made ‘The Enabling Masterplan’ – a five-year roadmap that has recommendations to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities, support caregivers, and build a caring and inclusive community.

Other than that a group of youths from Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic has also taken it upon themselves to help this group of people – the intellectually disabled.

They have started their very own project, “Friends of Exceptional Children”. The core team includes Lin Jing (Project Leader), Letresa (Promotion Team Leader), Bizhen (Secretary/Assistant Promotional Team Leader), Xin’En (Videography Team Leader), and Nurin (Design Team Leader).

It is an online fund-raising concert under the Youth Action for Pandemics, arising from the Temasek Shophouse Conversations: Youth Call to Action Programme, a collaboration between Temasek Foundation and Heartware Network.

Hence through this event, they aim to raise awareness of children with intellectual disabilities and to support them through the challenges they may face.

When asked why they chose this group of people, the group leader Lin Jing answered that most people have minimal understanding of people with special needs or intellectual disabilities. Therefore, they hope to be able to share with their audiences more about these people and how they can help to cater to their needs.

In fact, this group of youths have had their fair share of interactions with children with intellectual disabilities. Nurin shared that her brother had been diagnosed with mild autism. She feels that he is not very different from the rest of us. However, it is sad to see that sometimes her brother may not be well-received in the public. She urges us to be more considerate and open-minded to this group of people, especially when they did not choose to be born with these conditions.

Xin’En has a sister who is autistic and struggles to find the proper words to express herself. Xin’En hopes that the public can bear more patience towards children with intellectual disabilities and give them more time to process what they want to say or do.

She gave an example, that when one is at a retail store, the person queueing in front happens to have such a condition and is taking longer than usual, one should be more understanding and patient.

Thus, they embarked on this project, and with the help of mentors and school lecturers, managed to contact various schools to invite their performing arts CCA groups to be featured in their virtual concert, which was held successfully on 16 October.

Through this project, they hope to raise $20,000 for Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS). MINDS has been serving persons with intellectual disabilities (PWIDs) across their entire lifespan in the past 59 years, helping and enhancing the quality of life of over 3,000 PWIDs annually, and also caring for and supporting the families and caregivers of PWIDs.

The group hopes that the funds raised can be utilised to support programmes that equip PWIDs with skills and knowledge to improve their quality of life. They also urged the public to understand and empathise with PWIDs better.

In the process of doing so, they felt a sense of accomplishment and hope to inspire the next generation of youths to volunteer.

But this journey is not one without challenges. Project leader, Lin Jing, mentioned that it was difficult to convince schools to perform in the virtual concert. Despite sending emails to contact over 20 schools, only a handful replied to them. Thankfully, Lin Jing was in a concert band CCA in secondary school and her instructor had helped link her up with other schools. Thereafter, she managed to secure enough performances to put together a concert.

Another challenge which they had faced was the limited publicity and insufficient volunteers to help out with video editing, design and promotion. Two weeks after the sign up form was opened, only 3 signed up. Thankfully, with the help of their teachers, they manage to reach out to more students within Ngee Ann Polytechnic and there were sufficient volunteers.

However, their inexperience in handling a fund-raising project did not hinder them from actively seeking help and opportunities.

According to the team, the leader Lin Jing has borne much stress and lost 8kg before the kicking start of the project. When she had embarked on this journey, she did not expect to face so many issues at every stage of the project. She was constantly worried about the progress of the project, such as not having enough volunteers. However, as the situation improved, she felt that the team’s efforts paid off and had a sense of accomplishment.

Furthermore, they were faced with many uncertainties and last-minute changes, which tested their ability to be flexible and adaptable. They had to think quickly on their feet to resolve the issue at hand.

Looking back, even though it was not the most smooth-sailing journey, they are appreciative of the help that they had received from their mentors and lecturers, which gave them valuable insights regarding the project. Besides that, the team had always assisted each other in the face of difficulties which led to its success. Some of their fondest memories include texting each other about their ideas late into the night.

This group of passionate youths hopes to tell the public that children with intellectual disabilities are actually the same as we are. They urge the public to be more aware of the glances they are throwing at this group of people as they might be rather hurtful.

One simple advice they had for us was “It will be great if everyone is able to treat them normally as they should be. They are no different from us.