Updated: Oct 6
Mirabelle Tan Jia Xin, Presbyterian Preschool (Ang Mo Kio)
Over the past year or so, Mirabelle has been building a friendship with her classmates Michael*, who is visually impaired, as well as Zayn*, who has cerebral palsy. She has learnt to adapt her communication with them according to their needs and preferences.
For example, Mirabelle would identify herself to Michael by saying, “My name is Mirabelle. I will hold your hand today.” She would then ask him if he is ready before holding his hand. She has taken it upon herself to voluntarily partner Michael whenever they go outdoors. She would guide him to his cubby-hole to assist him in retrieving his shoes and wait for him to put them on before reaching out her hand for him to hold. She is currently learning to use her voice to help Michael navigate his way around the neighbourhood. Once, Mirabelle was observed telling Michael that he had put his shoes on the wrong foot. She rearranged the shoes for him so that he could put them on correctly by himself once more. Through such incidents, it is clear that Mirabelle is learning to support her friends while still allowing them to be fairly independent. Instead of doing the task for them, she merely assists them so that they can learn too.
In class, Mirabelle would help Michael to the water bottle trolley where he would get his own water bottle. They would both then sit on the floor together to drink. During organised games, Mirabelle, together with the other children in class, would cheer Michael on and this would inspire him to “jump”, “hop” or “run”.
For Zayn, Mirabelle takes the initiative to get Zayn to join her and her friends when they are playing. Communication with Zayn is still one-sided as he is still learning to communicate clearly with peers, but she makes sure to sit beside him and always gives him toys.
Occasionally, she reminds him of the class rules and ensures that he is included in free play or class activities. She also rushes to take his water bottle out of his bag for him even before taking her own out. When she sees that he is drooling, she would quickly take tissue for him and help to clean him up.
Since Mirabelle had been volunteering to partner Michael daily, other classmates have started to volunteer to partner Michael as well! As Mirabelle frequently includes Zayn in her activities, other peers have begun playing with him more too. *Children's names have been changed to maintain anonymity.