Mummy says that I am a big girl now, and I know big girls go to school so that they can learn about the world and be smart. Mummy says that I am a good girl, and I know that teachers like good girls because they are not naughty in class.
I’m a big girl now – almost 5 years old! – and I’m a good girl, but I don’t know why I cannot go to school like other children.
Mummy says it is because I am very special girl, and most of the schools in Singapore are not used to special children like me. Mummy says that many schools don’t teach special students like me because a lot of the mummies and daddies of the other children are scared that I will be mean to my classmates. It makes me sad because I want to have friends but sometimes I don’t know how to tell other people what I am feeling.
Mummy tells me that it doesn’t matter because my REAL friends will know that I am a good girl and will not be mean to them on purpose. Mummy says it is okay, because even though it takes me some time to talk to people, she knows that I am trying my hardest and that makes me a brave girl.
Mummy says it is hard to find a school that is used to special children like me, and it makes me sad. I know it makes mummy sad too, because sometimes I hear her wishing it was easier to find a school that can see how smart I am, when she thinks I am not listening. I think mummy is a brave girl too – mummy has been trying to find a school for a long time even if it is very difficult. I think she is very brave.
Mummy has put my name down on the waiting lists for many of the special schools so that they know I really want to learn many things and be a big girl, but Mummy says that there are so many special little children like me and not enough places. I wish there were more spaces so we can all learn and be big boys and girls!
Mummy tells me that in two more years, it will be easier to find a school for me. She says once I am 7 years old, there will be a lot more schools that know how to teach a special girl like me!
Mummy tells me that it is because schools for children below 7 years old are owned by uncles and aunties and not the government, these schools are more expensive and have less places. But once I am 7 years old, there are more schools for special children like me. I might even be able to choose the school I want to go to when I am 7 years old!
Even though I don’t go to school, Mummy makes sure that I learn as many things as I can so that I will be smart. Mummy has enrolled me into the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children so that I can learn things like how to communicate. It is nice, because my teachers know that I am special and I am trying my hardest to learn and be good.
But I wish I could learn more things, I wish I didn’t have to wait until I am 7 years old.
I wish I could go to school like the other boys and girls.
While there are 20 government-affiliated Special Needs Schools in Singapore that run different programmes catering to distinct disability groups of children, these schools only take in students aged seven years and above. The pre-school sector in Singapore remains privatised, with few options for special needs pre-schools. Existing special needs pre-schools in Singapore, such as the Kindle Garden, are oversubscribed or have significantly higher school fees compared to normal pre-schools, making it harder to secure a place for special needs children.
Joel Koh is an aspiring part time writer and journalist with a day job.