Mdm Harpreet, a mother of our student, stepped up to share her story at a workshop "Opening Hearts and Minds: Embracing Disabilities through Inclusive Education" conducted by the Educational Support Programme Team for our staff. It was one riddled with struggles and helplessness, but also about a journey of courage, progress and gratefulness. She started off talking about two contrasting experiences of two families who were each navigating the challenges of raising a child.
The first family's story unfolded in the embrace of a healthy pregnancy, resulting in the joyous arrival of a neurotypical child. Both parents were working professionals, and the mother, after taking maternity leave, seamlessly transitioned back to work with the support of family, a helper, or a nanny to care for the child. Financial stability and a robust plan for the child's future defined their trajectory.
She then invited everyone to consider the second family, whose journey took a different turn. They welcomed a child with medical complexities, from which point the course of their lives were forever altered. The child's mother, once eager to resume work, found her plans reshaped by the needs of her child. The child's challenges meant delays in milestones, potential visual or auditory impairments, and a constant fear of leaving the child in others' care.
Their financial strain was not bound by a mere 18 to 24 years but stretched across a lifetime, including the years beyond their own. She then pointed out that these families exist in parallel worlds - one marked by achievement, and the other by isolation and survival.
The story of the second family is not unlike Mdm Harpreet's own story. She is the mother of Zavi, a child from Little Olive Tree Ang Mo Kio who has been with us for a year since 2023. Zavi lives with cerebral palsy and cortical visual impairment.Mdm Harpreet elaborated that the isolation that families such as hers face is perpetuated by a lack of understanding in our society.
Neurotypical children and adults often lack exposure to those with disabilities, leading to misunderstanding and even judgment. This ignorance manifests in public spaces, where reactions to individuals with disabilities may seem perplexing to the uninformed observer.
"It is imperative that we bridge this knowledge gap. I believe in the power of inclusive education, not just for my child but for all children. Inclusion goes beyond textbooks and classrooms; it cultivates empathy, compassion, and understanding. Our children, regardless of their abilities, deserve equal opportunities to be seen and heard.
They should attend classes with their peers, where they can learn not just from books but from shared experiences. Special needs education has its place, but it should not segregate our children. They deserve the chance to interact with diverse abilities, fostering a sense of belonging and acceptance, " she shared.
Inclusion goes beyond textbooks and classrooms; it cultivates empathy, compassion, and understanding. Our children, regardless of their abilities, deserve equal opportunities to be seen and heard.
Mdm Harpreet described how her personal experience was the epitome of the positive impact of inclusive education. When her son, Zavi, started school at Little Olive Tree, his transformation was astounding. His vocabulary evolved from single words to full sentences. His visual impairment, once a challenge, became an opportunity for growth as he observed his peers' behaviours. Behavioural issues diminished as he learned appropriate conduct through interaction.
For her, those school hours became precious moments of respite. As a caregiver, she cherishes the time to recharge, pursue further studies, volunteer, and teach other children with disabilities. In these hours, she regains the strength necessary to support her child while facing her family's unique challenges and celebrating their slow but significant progress.
Finally, Mdm Harpreet expressed her heartfelt gratitude to our principals and teachers: "Educators, your role in this journey cannot be overstated. The impact you have on our children's lives reverberates far beyond the classroom. By embracing inclusive education, you not only equip our children with knowledge but also foster an environment where acceptance thrives. These transformative experiences highlight the potential of every child, dispelling misconceptions and nurturing a society founded on empathy and understanding. Thank you."
Educators, your role in this journey cannot be overstated. By embracing inclusive education, you not only equip our children with knowledge but also foster an environment where acceptance thrives. These transformative experiences highlight the potential of every child, dispelling misconceptions and nurturing a society founded on empathy and understanding.
We are blessed to be part of Zavi's progress and transformation journey, and relieved and thankful that we are able to bring joy and love to yet another family. We hope to do even more for the children in our ESP as we create opportunities for them to experience a fulfilling childhood and an education that they deserve.
Read more inspiring stories of our children from the ESP here: