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Fostering a sense of belonging through sports

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 special day in sportsStudents of Pathlight School were treated to "A Special Day of Sports", held in conjunction with National day. Photo: SportSG

Waving flags and singing National Day songs may be the order of the day for most schools’ SG51 celebrations, but not for Pathlight School, which focuses on students with autism spectrum disorder.

On Saturday, 80 of the school’s pupils were treated to an unusual sports day programme, dubbed “A Special Day of Sports”, held in conjunction with the country’s birthday.

Apart from getting active together and commemorating National Day through fitness, the morning’s festivities also saw the students having fun alongside their parents and siblings, and bore a strong focus on the family, as well as a sense of belonging.

Fittingly, the event was a ground-up initiative conceived by four of the students’ parents. With full support from Pathlight School, the parents – Esther Tan, Lawrence Ng, Lim Sook Wei, and Valerie Chew – applied successfully for the Active Enabler grant and worked with the Autism Resource Centre to see the event to fruition.

special day in sports A Special Day of Sports comprised eight different activities aimed at targeting specific aspects of a child’s physical development. Photo: SportSG

The Active Enabler grant, part of the GetActive! Singapore programme, offers funding to innovative and inspirational fitness initiatives.

Revealing how the idea for the sports day came about, Tan said: “We saw the news report from GetActive! about the grant. We had a chat about it among ourselves and thought that it would be a fun idea to organise something that would involve the whole family and get them active. Not all sports are available for certain kids due to the sensory issues. So we decided to do an event to celebrate Singapore’s birthday and make it an autism-friendly one!”

Dropping in on the fun was President of the Autism Resource Centre, Pathlight School supervisor, and Member of Parliament Denise Phua, who engaged in some of the activities with the students.

“This is a significant event because when parents see themselves as partners to schools and jointly support the holistic development of their children, this is when the magic will happen, and the potential of students will have the highest likelihood of being maximised,” she expressed.

A Special Day of Sports comprised eight different activities aimed at targeting specific aspects of a child’s physical development, as well as a Grand Finale Game that involved the students and their families going on a scavenger hunt for pieces to complete a giant jigsaw puzzle, which eventually forms a map of Singapore.

“All credit really goes to our parents, who really wanted to organise ground-up initiatives, and pull families together, including siblings. This would allow them bonding time, and the siblings will be able to see our students in another light,” shared Pathlight’s Principal Linda Kho, adding that while parents often worked closely with the school, this was the first time that an initiative has been completely ground-up.

special day in sports (From left) Lim Sook Wei, Valerie Chew, Lawrence Ng, and Esther Tan, parents who are fully supportive of the initiative. Photo: SportSG

Armed with an understanding that only parents of children with special needs are privy to, the quartet were able to put together an event that was meaningful, enjoyable, and comfortable for the students.

“As a parent, you understand what their needs are, what they enjoy, and what to look out for when you organise an event like that. As organisers, we are inexperienced, but knowing the needs of our own kids helps a lot,” expressed Chew.

Of course, like the puzzle that they had put together for the grand finale, the participants walked away with the knowledge that everyone had their own unique place and role to play in society.

“National Day is a time where everyone reflects more about our country and home, what it means to us, and what we would like to see more about the future of our home and our future generations. Having an event like this, where it’s about bonding and inclusion, gives me a warm feeling,” enthused Kho.

“This is what ‘home’ means: A place where like-minded people with shared values get together and attempt to make this society a gentler and more inclusive one.”


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