Science Centre tailors setting for particular wants guests, Parenting & Training Information & Prime Tales
SINGAPORE – The Singapore Science Center dimmed lights and lowered the volume when a group of students with special educational needs recently visited.
The 38 students at Grace Orchard School could, for example, borrow earmuffs if the exhibitions were too stimulating for them.
This was part of the science center’s effort to better welcome people with special needs such as autism and mild intellectual disabilities.
In cooperation with the social service APSN (formerly the association for people with special needs), the center has brought out sensory orientation aids for its exhibitions – especially those that indicate how loud or bright they are – in order to help the caretakers to identify the appropriate ones for Children with special needs.
It has provided “Sensory Bags” that contain items like earmuffs and textured toys that can be used as stress balls.
The Science Center can also arrange sessions for students from special schools upon request. The in-house academic educators and moderators have been trained to understand learners with special needs and to curate more inclusive programs and exhibitions.
“Science is for everyone,” says Lim Tit Meng, director of the Science Center, who hopes to create more inclusive learning environments through “constant infrastructural and programmatic changes that are suitable for learners with special needs”.
Ms. Lily Yip, director of curriculum, research and innovation development at APSN, says children with special needs may feel anxious when they don’t know what to expect, such as when they first visit the science center.
“When that fear overtakes them, they can experience emotional meltdowns if they cannot regulate their emotions on their own,” she says.
The earmuffs and toy can help children with special needs better manage their emotions and stay calm and focused, she adds.
Anson Beh, a ten-year-old student who has autism, says he likes the toys because they keep his hands busy and keep him focused.
Kenny Chua, 34, a teacher at Grace Orchard School, says the Science Center’s initiatives help him better plan outings as he usually has to consider factors like crowded, noisy, or dark in a place.
But he added that it would be good to have more visual cues and instructions to help children with special needs understand the assignments in each exhibit, as they tend to be strong visual learners, he says.
The science center will continue to work with APSN and special schools to improve its space for the community with special needs, says Associate Professor Lim.
By the third quarter of next year, the center wants to create quiet rooms in which visitors can withdraw if they feel overwhelmed.
There are also plans to launch programs and exhibitions by the end of the year based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning, a framework that caters to the needs of all learners.
Ms. Yip says, “We look forward to more organizations serving to support communities with special needs, and hope that initiatives like this one can inspire Singaporeans to lead and advocate an inclusive society.”