On the surface, Kindle Garden seems like another regular preschool. It is a picture of youthful exuberance, with children on swings and slides during playtime. Wearing their Khaki Uniforms, all of them look alike.
It’s only on close inspection that you would notice little differences in Kindle Garden’s layout.
A specially designed, life-sized toy car can accommodate a child in a wheelchair. Tactile Lines allow a visually impaired child to navigate his way to the bathroom. Also, the treehouse gives children who use wheelchairs freedom of movement.
One can tell that Kindle Garden is a place where all children, with or without unique needs, can learn and grow.
What is the Inclusive Model?
Simply put, an inclusive school supports children with special needs and disabilities. Some schools may have children with disabilities on the same campus as typically developing children. Both groups of children may have different academic classes but share playtime.
Schools like Kindle Garden go beyond this. It empowers all children and lets them participate in all activities. Around 30% of its 80 students have conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, Autism or Cerebral Palsy. It aims to give children equal opportunities and get children with special needs to understand that therapy can happen anywhere.
Children who need extra help can receive it without teachers having to segregate them. Support staff like speech therapists work with all the children in a group. They receive the same lessons, with adapted instructions.
For example, children with disabilities may receive ready-prepared materials while their typically-developing peers may have to cut their own. Children participate in activities at their levels.
Having children with special needs in classes does mean occasional disruption to lessons. That said, teachers do receive support, such as an in-house interventionist.
Children with developmental needs can take part in the Early Intervention Program for Infants and Children (EIPIC). There has been an increase in enrolment in this program, with 1200 registrations between 2012-2014, to 1600 between 2015-2017, according to the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
Inclusive schools like Kindle Garden bring relief to hassled parents, who may have to make multiple trips if they have to send their typically-developing children to one school and their Special Needs siblings to another. Parents have reflected that the teachers at such schools don’t stereotype children with special needs.
Inclusive education benefits everyone, regardless of their needs. Putting children in diverse groups enables typically-developing children to understand different points of view. They learn to negotiate differences during playtime. In short, they learn sensitivity and realize that everyone develops at different paces.
Inclusive schools like Kindle Garden are running at full capacity. There are many children on their waiting lists. The inclusive model is gaining popularity, with schools like Bright Path, a school opened by the Busy Bees group, introducing it.
The MSF is also planning to increase support for children with disabilities. It is exploring the enhanced development support program, which will allow children who have received support from the EIPIC program to continue doing so in their preschools.
Teachers, who will receive training in managing children with special needs, will have a bigger toolkit. They will develop teaching strategies centered around them. They will also get the support of therapists.
Little efforts do make an enormous difference. Inclusive schools like Kindle Garden promote inclusive education and allow all children to shine.