Can My Child with Special Needs Attend a Mainstream School in Singapore?

by | 30 Apr 2024 | Blog, Early Intervention, Neurodiversity

Understanding special needs

In the educational context, “special needs” refers to a variety of learning challenges that require special accommodations to help students achieve their full academic potential. These challenges can be broadly categorised into learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and physical disabilities, each affecting the student in unique ways.

Learning disabilities

Learning disabilities involve difficulties in acquiring and using listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. Common examples include:

Dyslexia: Difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling abilities.

Dyscalculia: Challenges in understanding numbers and performing maths calculations.

Dysgraphia: Difficulty with handwriting, spelling, and organising ideas on paper.

Developmental disorders

Developmental disorders are conditions that involve delayed or impaired development in areas such as personal, social, academic, or physical skills. These include:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Affects communication and interaction with others, characterised by difficulties in social interaction and communication, and repetitive behaviours.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Characterised by patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are more frequent and severe than typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development.

Physical disabilities

Physical disabilities involve the impairment of physical functions that can affect educational progress. Examples include:

  1. Visual impairments: Ranging from partial to complete vision loss, necessitating adaptations such as Braille or audio materials.
  2. Hearing impairments: Ranging from mild to profound hearing loss, possibly requiring aids like sign language or hearing devices.
  3. Mobility impairments: Affecting movement, possibly requiring the use of a wheelchair or other mobility aids.

Mainstream school vs. special needs school: What’s the difference?

Mainstream School Special Needs School
CostLower cost or subsidised Higher cost due to specialised educational frameworks and resources

The curriculum in mainstream schools is designed to comply with state or national standards and is uniform across students, with adjustments made through IEPs where necessary. These schools develop individualised curricula that address specific educational and developmental needs, often incorporating skills necessary for daily living and personalised academic goals.
Support Support structures in mainstream schools are often limited to what is mandated by law or what can be supported by the school’s budget, focusing primarily on inclusivity in a general education setting.These schools are equipped to provide comprehensive support tailored to the complex needs of their students, ensuring that all aspects of a child's development are addressed.
Assessment typeStandardised testing is the norm, and while accommodations are made for students with special needs, the basis and structure of these tests are largely fixed. Assessment strategies in special needs schools are more dynamic and personalised, often qualitative and ongoing, to track individual progress and adapt learning plans accordingly.

Learn about some specific schools in Singapore that cater to special needs.

Factors to consider when putting your child in a mainstream school in Singapore

While integrating children with special needs into mainstream schools offers numerous benefits, it also presents specific challenges. You need to check schools for whether they can cater to the needs of your child before getting them in.

Teacher training

Not all teachers in mainstream schools are adequately trained to handle the diverse needs of students with disabilities. Check if all teaching staff have been properly trained to deal with and provide special education strategies for your child.

Peer integration

Students with special needs might experience social isolation or bullying. Check whether there are anti-bullying systems in place that can create a more accepting and supportive environment.

Curriculum adaptation

Adapting the curriculum for students with special needs can be complex. Check whether they utilise a flexible curriculum that can be tailored to individual learning needs and abilities.

Communication barriers

Effective communication with and inclusion of students with sensory disabilities (like hearing or visual impairments) can be difficult. The best way would be to take advantage of speech therapy by the finest team in Singapore. Make use of communication aids and technologies such as hearing systems, visual aids, and tactile learning materials to facilitate better inclusion.

Assessment and evaluation

Standard assessment methods may not accurately reflect the abilities of students with special needs. Check for alternative assessment methods that allow students to demonstrate their understanding and skills in formats that suit their learning styles. You can also learn more about child psychology assessment services here and talk to our counsellors to learn more!.

Internal support systems

Many mainstream schools have special education needs coordinators trained to support children with special needs. These specialists work within the school to provide tailored assistance and interventions.

Counselling services

Schools often offer counselling to help students with special needs cope with emotional, social, or behavioural challenges. 


Are there specific schools in Singapore better equipped for inclusion?

Yes, some specific schools have advanced resources, trained staff, and specialised programs for inclusion.

What are typical challenges faced by children with special needs in mainstream schools?

Challenges include limited individualised attention, access to resources, social integration, and academic adaptations.

Where can parents find additional support and resources?

They can access government agencies, non-profits, and online platforms for guidelines, community support, and information on inclusive education.Our blog is an amazing way to learn more. 

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