Reaching Out to Children with Special Needs

Two special workshops for educators, librarians, parents and caregivers of children with special needs were organised as part of this year's Singapore International Storytelling Festival. Conducted by world-class storytellers Sherry Norfolk and Bobby Norfolk from the United Kingdom, the sessions were held on September 3 at The Arts House.

The first workshop "Reach Out and Let Them In: Library Services for Children with Special Needs" was conducted in the morning. The session led participants to explore the materials, resources and methods that will help them reach out and provide services to children with special needs as well as their parents and caregivers. Sherry and Bobby showed various ways in which story time programming can be adapted to meet the needs of children with various abilities and disabilities, while considering the impact that attitude and prejudice can have on desired outcomes.

In the second workshop "Multiple Points of Entry: Reaching and Teaching Children with Special Needs" conducted in the afternoon, the two storytellers introduced to the participants a variety of specific techniques which utilise storytelling to address a wide range of disabilities in the classroom, helping children attend to, organize, process, and retrieve information while interacting successfully with their non-disabled peers.

Both workshops were fully sponsored by the SPH Foundation in partnership with the National Book Development Council of Singapore and were offered free of charge to participants. They drew an attendance of 150 participants from 28 centres providing services to special needs children as well as parents and individual care-givers.

About the Storytellers
Bobby and Sherry Norfolk perform extensively and successfully at schools for the blind and deaf, and in schools with high proportions of students with mixed disabilities (physical, emotional, and developmentally delays). In addition, the 100+ residencies Sherry has taught in have "inclusive" classrooms, in which children with all sorts of disabilities - ADHD, ADD, autism, Asperger's, Down's syndrome, etc., are mainstreamed in the same classroom with their non-disabled peers.

She has also worked in "self-contained" classrooms, i.e., those usually set up specially for children with more profound disabilities such as severe motor, mental or emotional impairment.


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