More pre-schools here have been offering children an inclusive education in response to growing demand, since the first inclusive pre-school, Kindle Garden, was set up here in 2016.
They are also stepping up teacher training and recruitment in a bid to meet demand from parents and open more centres.
Inclusive pre-schools cater to children with and without special needs in the same classroom and offer intervention within the centre or tailored activities.
Since 2016, pre-school operators that have been gaining attention for inclusive practices include Bright Path Inclusive Preschool, Sail Playhouse, Ilham Child Care and White Lodge pre-school, among others.
Experts said the trend is owing to more parents – including those of typically developing children – becoming aware of the benefits of inclusive education.
More parents have also become more aware of children’s developmental needs as well as the need for early intervention.
Sail Playhouse, founded by Ms Chua Pei Lin in 2018, has had to turn away children with special needs because it could not take in more children and still maintain its preferred teacher to child ratio.
Currently, about 10 to 15 out of 70 children in the school have special needs. This number has increased since the pre-school opened. Of those with special needs, most have autism, while others have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Down syndrome or speech delay.
Ms Chua said: “There is strong demand. Every week, we do have parents calling in, looking for a full-day pre-school setting for their child with added needs. But we are a bit more stringent about capping the number because it will affect the teachers’ ability to care for each child.”
There are plans to open more centres, though these are still in the planning stage, said Ms Chua.
“When Kindle Garden started the idea of having intervention within the centre, people became more okay with the idea of an inclusive school and the publicity helped.
“It was unknown ground before that – private operators like myself would be hesitant to go in because we didn’t know the demand and reaction from the public. But after Kindle Garden started, more schools decided to try,” she said.
At Ilham Child Care, which began in 2012, its recent increasing focus on inclusive education has led to an increase in demand. Enrolment numbers have been steady, and there is a waiting list of about 15 children, said a spokesman.
There are now about 150 children across two centres, with plans to expand to more regions in Singapore, she added.