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First inclusive toy library for children opens at Pasir Ris

SINGAPORE — Mdm Intan Armelia sometimes feels sad when she sees her oldest son, who has autism, on his own during playtime, unable to fit in.

Two of the children, 6-year-old Quazza Ilhandyl (right), and his 4-year-old brother, Qashan Lqzrafil (left), playing with toys provided at the launch of the North East Community Library on June 19, 2016. Photo: Damien Teo/TODAY

Two of the children, 6-year-old Quazza Ilhandyl (right), and his 4-year-old brother, Qashan Lqzrafil (left), playing with toys provided at the launch of the North East Community Library on June 19, 2016. Photo: Damien Teo/TODAY

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SINGAPORE — Mdm Intan Armelia sometimes feels sad when she sees her oldest son, who has autism, on his own during playtime, unable to fit in.

But on Sunday (June 19), the mother of four was pleasantly surprised to see Quazza, who is six years old, tentatively venturing into the crowd at the encouragement of his teachers, at Singapore’s first inclusive toy library at Pasir Ris Elias Community Club on Sunday.

And from next month, the toy library will also host special sessions for children of all abilities to come together to enjoy singing and story-telling sessions once a week.

Toys designed for children with special needs will also be introduced, such as items modified with larger switches or buttons so that children whose motor skills are less developed can play with them as well.

Set up by the North East Community Development Council and Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore (CPAS), the integrated toy library serves as an informal space where children such as Quazza can play with his mainstream-school peers.

For example, teachers from CPAS’ Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children, and mainstream pre-schools will conduct structured play programmes such as role-playing.

Mdm Intan, 34, said her son typically clings to her in play settings. But on Sunday, it was “pleasing to see my son having fun”, she said.

The library, which is open to the public daily for free, is stocked wth donated toys, which children can play with on the premises.

It was officially opened on Sunday by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also Member of Parliament for the constituency.

The aim, he said, is to create a “very inclusive place where families feel comfortable to bring their kids, (and) kids across the community can come (and) enjoy themselves”.

A study by the Lien Foundation released last month found that while seven in 10 respondents supported the idea of inclusive education, only half were comfortable with their child seated next to a classmate with special needs.

On Sunday, CPAS senior interventionist Erica Lim said casual settings such as a toy library will allow children to learn from one another during playtime.

“(Children with special needs) need to be exposed to mainstream society, as children will learn from one another,” she noted. A child with special needs can pick up social cues from other peers, while other children can learn to be more aware of children with different needs, she added.

Pasir Ris resident Denise Tay, 37, agreed. When her children play with others with special needs, there would be opportunities to address any misconceptions that may arise. “I also see the importance of letting my children know that other children also need care and concern,” she added.

This is the fourth toy library in North East District, and there are plans to ramp them up to 20 by the end of this year. Asked how many would also cater to special-needs children, North East District mayor Teo Ser Luck said they will look at the residents’ needs during the planning process.

The hope is to set up 100 toy libraries in the district — equivalent to the number of library kiosks in the district now. He applauded the donations of toys so far, calling it a “very self-sufficient kind of network”.

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