Sometimes working in a traditional job-setting is not the best choice for young adults with special needs. They may not be able to enter the workforce in a regular way, and need to transition to living with support. Jayne Nadarajoo, Founding Director of ASPIRE and MSIS (Melbourne Specialist International School) spoke to us about how ASPIRE focuses on pre-vocational training (job training), fitness, art and social skills for individuals with special needs. Jayne says “We are really proud of our nurturing and supportive community and aim to provide equal opportunities for differently-abled students”
Jayne tell us about ASPIRE?
ASPIRE focuses on the transition from school to independent living, living with assistance or transitioning to work. All students are provided with opportunities to continue being engaged and involved in activities that are developmentally appropriate
We focus more on talent development as well as helping our students increase their chances of employability. Our children can work specifically on their dance, drama, art, and music talents, and even work-place training in food and beverage, administration, or as preschool teaching assistants. This helps to open up more possibilities for our students.
We work hard to engage our students in many activities each week. We are working on friendly competitions, events, activities to help them discover their interests and learn new skills. This helps our students build their confidence in a social setting.
What inspired you to launch ASPIRE a few years ago?
Our vision was to launch a centre that optimises the quality of life for young people with disabilities. We wanted to keep the focus on talent development and learning skills so our students could transition into independent living or to a working environment.
We are really proud of our nurturing and supportive community and aim to provide equal opportunities for differently-abled students.
We offer both full and part-time options, for 2, 4 or 5-day placements which provides great flexibility around what is best for the student.
Ultimately, we want to be recognised as an excellent centre for people with disabilities, and be known for offering world-class services in Singapore.
What types of disabilities does ASPIRE cater for?
We have students with multiple disabilities like Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other genetic disorders.
How is ASPIRE different from MSIS?
ASPIRE is dedicated to providing continued support and learning for teenagers with disabilities from the age of 16+ years, whereas MSIS takes children from aged 3 years up to 21 years.
The students join us after graduating from other special needs schools in Singapore or transition from small groups offered in therapy centres.
MSIS focuses on offering a balance of academic, pre-vocational training and a visual performing arts curriculum. So the academic component at MSIS is more diverse and comprehensive for our students.
Depending on the child’s needs, children can move across to ASPIRE if it makes sense to their learning development, or they can stay on at MSIS until 21 years.
Since both MSIS and ASPIRE cater to children 16-21, when does it make sense to select ASPIRE over MSIS?
The decision will be based on the needs of the student, as they all have different learning approaches and may require more time to gain confidence in themselves.
ASPIRE encourages independence and gives students an opportunity to use the skills acquired at school. It is an ideal set up for students graduating from a special needs school, who are more suited for an adult activity centre rather than a school.
How is ASPIRE expanding?
We are launching enrichment classes on weekday mornings and afternoons starting in September. We will be taking expression of interests for Saturday morning classes and holiday programmes too.
These classes will be a stepping-stone for children with special needs. They can interact with other children and engage in wonderful activities in a relaxed school-type setting as opposed to a therapy centre.