Singapore may be small, but when it comes to schools, therapy centres and organisations for children with special needs or learning differences, there are some good options. Here are some of the best available programmes, specialists, services and therapy for kids with learning differences and difficulties. We’ve also covered early intervention programmes, special education schools, assessment and therapy centres.
Integrated International School
The team at Integrated International School (IIS) strongly believe that children of all abilities deserve a tailored and quality education. The inclusive school teaches students the importance of self-belief, confidence, individuality and happiness, paving the way for their journey of success. They take great pride in providing a nurturing environment, with two educational approaches: mainstream and supported learning. On-campus support services include a specialist team of behavioural therapists, counsellors, psychologists, occupational therapists as well as speech and language pathologists. They work closely and collaboratively with teachers and parents to design Individualised Education Plans (IEPs) for students.
If a student is struggling academically, behaviourally, emotionally or socially, teachers are highly trained to identify when a child may need additional support. Their smaller class sizes (1:5 teacher-to-student ratio) allows teachers to provide an individualised learning experience. In addition, there are unique purpose-built facilities such as the multi-sensory Ocean Snoezelen Room and Occupational Therapy Jungle Gym. There are also private suites for counselling, speech and naturalistic applied behavioural analysis (ABA) therapy sessions.
The Winstedt School
At The Winstedt School, everything is directed towards holistic and inclusive education for diverse learners. An essential component of the instructional framework is integrated therapy, which is interwoven through all areas of teaching and learning. Through regular push-in classroom and recess hours by the experienced team of occupational and speech-language therapists, students receive therapy inputs at the school (during lessons), on the playground (during recess) and also for special occasions like field trips, camps or school events.
Winstedt students participate in targeted therapy groups along with their peers, where they pick up executive functioning, language and social skills (using the Social Thinking teaching framework). These help them to better navigate relationships and curricular routines in the classroom. Close collaboration and contiguous planning between teachers and therapists is a high priority at Winstedt. This allows therapists to streamline the focus of classroom strategies and review their efficacy for each student. Additionally, students at the school also have access to supplemental individual and paired therapy sessions on campus (if recommended – not included in school fees).
Melbourne Specialist International School
Melbourne Specialist International School (MSIS) caters for children aged three to 21 years with special needs. Making use of a child-centred visual and performing arts programme, literacy, numeracy and living skills are taught using concrete learning experiences in dance, drama, music and visual arts to keep students engaged. The school also offers an Early Intervention Programme with White Lodge International Preschool, allowing children with additional needs to attend preschool alongside their peers in an inclusive learning environment.
MSIS also provides a wide range of therapies and programmes. These include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and physical education. Older children can go on field trips around the neighbourhood and also enrol in pre-vocational training. For instance, they can work at a nearby cafe or as a teaching assistant at White Lodge Preschool. The school also has specially designed facilities such as a sensory room, gym and outdoor equipment.
Dover Court International School
Dover Court International School is an inclusive school, welcoming students with diverse needs, offering an extensive range of support to empower them to reach and exceed their potential. Catering to students aged three to 18, the school offers three differentiated learning options to accommodate this. Pathway 1 offers a mainstream classroom experience while Pathways 2 and 3 give students increasing levels of support (smaller class sizes and therapy programmes). The school’s learning approach aligns closely with the English National Curriculum, with adaptations to meet the needs of students, whether it’s short-term intervention or more structured ongoing support. At the Secondary school, student needs are primarily met by tailoring lessons to meet individual needs.
Learning experiences at Dover Court are personalised and the most appropriate curriculum pathway is selected. The aim is to offer support in the most inclusive and least intrusive way. A combination of high-quality assessment practices, a focus on pastoral relationships and regular communication with parents allows teachers to identify students who require additional support. A student-centred collaborative problem-solving process is used that involves parents, teachers, special needs coordinators, external agencies, educational psychologists, counsellors and the student.
Psych Connect offers various services that cater to a range of learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and nonverbal learning disorder. Support services are also available for other conditions that impact learning. These include ADHD, autism, language disorders, mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, executive functioning difficulties and performance anxiety.
To begin, the centre conducts psycho-educational and diagnostic assessments to find out the challenges the child faces and what contributes to them. This allows them to customise the best treatment approach. The centre’s team of psychologists and therapists also work with the child’s family and school to create a specific treatment plan. The specialist psychology clinic not only offers individual and/or group educational therapy (targeting underlying skills that affect learning) but also other support services. These include shadow support, art psychotherapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy. Therapy services are mobile and family centred and can be done at the clinic, the child’s school or home.
Kaleidoscope Therapy Centre
Ready Lets Go is Kaleidoscope Therapy Centre’s early intervention programme for children aged two to seven years. It’s designed to address the skills that are necessary for children to attend preschool. These include emotional regulation, paying attention, communicating, socialising with peers and performing simple tasks. Students receive daily speech and occupational therapy in order to address their individual needs. Sessions start with one-on-one support, followed by children being placed in small groups with others of similar levels when ready. The programme runs five mornings per week (8.30am to 12pm). Parents have the option of having their child attend only three mornings or have an extended day until 2pm.
The centre also offers occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, educational support and educational psychology services. Educational psychologists help to investigate learning needs through consults with parents and teachers, observations and psycho-educational assessments to evaluate IQ, strengths and weaknesses. This allows them to come up with a suitable treatment approach to help the learning and development of the child, including practical steps to take in the classroom or referrals for other therapies.
With over 22 years of experience, Dr Ruth Manasseh is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist who specialises in trauma, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, personality problems, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Her company Try Psychotherapy recently introduced art psychotherapy services, which are helmed by Chloë Benjamin. The treatment caters to children and adolescents with a range of learning differences, special needs and challenges. She provides individual and family sessions at the clinic as well as tailored on-site services for schools (student, parent and staff workshops). She also conducts dedicated group sessions for students to work on specific concerns and challenges that affect learning.
Art therapy allows children to express and explore complex feelings and emotions that may be difficult for them to verbalise. The therapy can be helpful for children who experience challenges such as social anxiety, depression, ADHD and autism. It can also improve symptoms of stress, cognitive and sensorimotor functions, emotional resilience, self-esteem and self-awareness. The discipline stems from psychotherapy and psychoanalytic theory, and encompasses psychoanalysis, attachment-based psychotherapy, psychoeducation, mindfulness and mentalisation-based treatments and techniques.
The Gifted Lab
The Gifted Lab is a specialist psychological practice and learning centre that offers psychological assessments, customised educational programmes and brain training for preschoolers, children and teenagers. Its psychological reports are internationally recognised and accepted by international and Singapore schools, examination boards for exam access arrangements application, and medical professionals. Psychological services include personality, gifted, cognitive, attention, socio-emotional behavioural and learning difficulties assessments. The International High IQ Society Test and counselling services are also offered. As for educational programmes, they consist of high-ability enrichment programmes and personalised education therapy and coaching. Brain-training sessions can be conducted at the centre or online, and they’re personalised to train and improve each child’s cognitive abilities.
Since 2006, the Gifted Lab has been providing professional consultation to clients all over the world. This includes the USA, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, China, India and South Africa. Principal Psychologist Dr Wilson Chan serves as the Honorary Supervisory Psychologist of MENSA Singapore and has been featured in The Straits Times, Shin Min Daily and on national television on nurturing intellectually gifted children.
All Hands Together
All Hands Together recognises that every child is differently abled. They cater to kids who have learning difficulties, alternative learning styles, developmental delays, special needs or just need an extra boost in a particular area. Lessons are personalised and conducted using fun activities that involve purposeful engagement and multi-sensorial experiences. They offer five different programmes. The Early Intervention and Homeschool Hub programmes are carried out in a school-based setting while the Learning, Lifeskills and Social Smarts programmes provide additional support through one-on-one sessions at home or at the school.
Developed in line with the MOE’s Nurturing Early Learners (NEL) curriculum, the Early Intervention Programme offers one-on-one personalised lessons paired with small group sessions to promote social-emotional development and build school-readiness skills. The Homeschool Hub Programme is a school-based programme with personalised academic lessons, group-based lessons and activities to develop social, life and independent skills. Both programmes have a teacher-student ratio of 1:3 to 1:6 and include an Individualised Education Programme and half-yearly assessments to monitor progress. Children can also access speech and occupational therapy sessions. The Learning Programme offers personalised monthly lesson packs. Choose to teach your child with support from the team or arrange lessons with one of their tutors. Using experiential learning and practical teaching, the Lifeskills Programme helps children to work on daily living and other necessary skills for improved quality of life. They also work on vocational skills to help your child transition from school to the next stage in life. The Social Smarts programme addresses social interaction challenges and is conducted either one-to-one or in groups.
Bridging The Gap
Bridging The Gap’s mission is to help students bridge the physical, cognitive, social and psychological gaps in their lives. The centre offers inclusive and accommodating support to help children reach their fullest abilities. Their approach is holistic and specially designed to facilitate and nurture learning. Services include early intervention, school readiness, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, educational therapy and social skills training, just to name a few. They also offer Shadow Support (integration in a mainstream environment) and a Bullyproof Programme that helps children overcome bullies without violence.
Catering to children aged 18 months to 10 years, sessions are conducted in small groups, with a 1:2 teacher-student ratio. This allows for an intensive learning experience. The centre believes in close collaboration among teachers, therapists, parents as well as caregivers, so that individualised goals can be planned for each child. They also customise manipulatives, seating areas and lighting to suit different learning styles. In addition, children have access to a sensory integrated gym and play area, and all the facilities, resources and equipment are well maintained.
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