SPD Education Programme 2009 – Disabled Students Get More Support Through Handbook for Teachers and Higher Financial Aid

Singapore, 31 January 2009 – The Disability Resource Handbook for Teachers will be launched at the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) Education Programme Awards Presentation Ceremony on 31 January. It is aimed at creating a more supportive environment in schools for students with physical disabilities.

Produced by the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) with sponsorship from Wearnes and South East CDC, the contents include information on different types of physical disabilities, tips on how to interact with the students and the challenges they and their families face because of their special needs, as well as information on how the curriculum and environment can be modified to integrate disabled students in a mainstream classroom. Practical advice such as wheelchair handling techniques and even a checklist for physical access are also included in the handbook.

The handbook addresses the fears and apprehensions of teachers who are assigned a student with disabilities in their classroom for the first time. Mr Jeyaram Kadivan is an Allied Educator (formerly known as Special Needs Officer) in Learning and Behavioural Support at St Gabriel’s Secondary School. He finds the handbook very informative and useful for teachers and Allied Educators (AEDs).

“The handbook is certainly a useful and handy reference. Its sections on interacting with students with special educational needs and the challenges they face provide users with a better understanding of students with physical disabilities. As an AED in Learning and Behavioural Support, it helps me to create more holistic lesson plans to help students with special educational needs develop into all-rounded individuals who will ultimately become assets to the society.”

An additional $41,100 will also be given out to more than 137 bursary and scholarship award recipients and/or their parents with disabilities to use to enroll in programmes and services such as therapy services, learning and development programmes and IT training in SPD. Pegged at $300 per recipient per year, the SPD Service Card ensures that these students/parents with disabilities will not be deprived of essential services to help them maximise their potential, which they may otherwise forgo during the economic crisis.

For 19-year-old Nurshazhilla Bte Abd Razid whose father passed away in August last year, this is a welcome respite given the harsh economic climate ahead. The first-time recipient of the SPD bursary award has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005 and took two years off her studies while her condition stabilised. Nurshazhilla completed her ‘O’ Levels in 2008 and now looks forward to the challenges ahead in a tertiary institution despite her family’s financial difficulties. “I am very glad to be a recipient of the bursary. This money will be of great help as I go for higher education. The SPD Service Card is also a bonus as I can use it for therapy sessions at SPD@Tampines. This definitely helps to lessen the financial burden on my mother especially in this economic downturn.”

Believing in the importance of mainstream education for disabled children, SPD helps support schools through its Education Programme and Ms Chia Yong Yong, President of SPD and Chairperson of the SPD Education Programme Committee, affirms this belief. “Despite the challenging economic climate, SPD remains committed to investing in the education needs of our students. Through our bursary awards and the new SPD Service Card, we want to send a message to our recipients and their families that their needs are not forgotten. SPD will continue to be a partner to students with disabilities in supporting their development into balanced individuals.”

The SPD Education Programme began in 1985 giving out bursaries to help level the playing field for disabled students and students with disabled parents, who are studying in mainstream schools. Today, it has gone beyond just providing financial assistance to offering a holistic and structured service that sees enrichment programmes being offered during the holidays and social workers and therapists work with educators in various schools on how to handle disabled students and include them in all activities along with the rest of the class.

This year, the SPD Education Programme will give out over $124,000 in bursaries to 157 physically disabled students and students with physically disabled parents in an official event held at the HortPark. The bursary was made possible with the support of NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd, Singapore Exchange’s The Bull Charge event and Caltex. Guest-of-Honour Associate Professor Koo Tsai Kee, Minister of State for Defence and Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC, will present the awards to the students.

Two NTU undergraduates Pearl Lee Shiqi and Ye Yaosheng will also receive the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation-SPD Scholarship Awards at the ceremony. It is the second year that they are receiving the award. The scholarship awards students with physical disabilities for their outstanding academic achievements to encourage them to aspire to higher levels of educational attainment.