A Closer Look: Building Bridges EIPIC Centres | SPD - Singapore
A Closer Look: Building Bridges EIPIC Centres
SPD is one of the 10 service providers in Singapore offering the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children, or EIPIC, which supports children with special needs. The programme is offered at SPD Ability Centre (Tiong Bahru), SPD@Jurong, SPD@Bedok and SPD@Tampines. In this edition of “A Closer Look”, we take you to our Building Bridges EIPIC Centres and introduce you to the work that we do there.
Our first Building Bridges EIPIC Centre was set up at SPD Ability Centre in October 2011 to serve children living in the central region. We brought the programme closer to children living in the western region a year later with the opening of the second Building Bridges EIPIC Centre at SPD@Jurong. In August 2016, two new centres opened at SPD@Bedok and SPD@Tampines, doubling the number of clients served to more than 500 last year.
EIPIC is a centre-based programme for children 6-years and below who have global developmental delays, physical disabilities, autism or suspected autism, or rare conditions such as Cornelia de Lange syndrome and Achondroplasia. Through therapy and educational support, we work towards helping the children develop and improve in these areas – gross motor and fine motor skills, cognitive skills, speech, language and communication skills as well as social and self-help skills.
We constantly seek to boost our facilities and capacity so as to improve the programme and serve more children. The expansion from one Building Bridges EIPIC Centre to four over a short span of seven years demonstrates our conviction and desire to provide greater early intervention support for children with special needs and to give them the early head-start they need to access equal opportunities.
An EIPIC student is taught and looked after by an EIPIC teacher, whose main role is to guide and aid them towards progress in their learning journey.
Each child who is enrolled into the programme will be assessed and observed. After the initial phase of observation, a team consisting the caregivers, therapists and EIPIC teachers will come together to develop an individual educational plan (IEP) for the child. The IEP will include goals for the child which the whole team will be working towards attaining.
Every child receives six hours of intervention every week – three-hour session twice a week or two-hour session thrice a week. Children below 18 months will receive three hours of intervention weekly.
All centres are equipped with an occupational therapy gym as well as water and sand play areas. As much as possible, we also encourage learning in the community.
Our teachers plan regular outings that allow the children to practice their fine, gross motor, and communication skills outdoors and in the community. For example, a trip to the supermarket allows the children to interact and learn basic communication skills and experience daily activities such as buying small items. Outings to gardens and parks are also fun activities that nurture their love for nature and the outdoors.
Teachers, therapists and learning support professionals in the team incorporate different activities and learning approaches to help the children develop in their respective areas. For instance, dance activities could help to improve gross and fine motor skills, while reading sessions target at developing speech, language and communication skills.
We encourage play and interactions among the children as we believe that children learn better when they are engaged and having fun.
A team of professionals are there to provide assistance and help towards the EIPIC students.
CLASS SIZE & CLASSROOMS
In an EIPIC setting, we place great emphasis on individualised attention and maximising opportunities for the child. Therefore, classes are kept small so that every child receives adequate attention and support. Some classes have three students, while others may have up to six or eight students. The size of each class is dependent on the needs of the child and the group.
Our EIPIC classrooms resemble a typical pre-school class and are well-stocked with teaching resources such as modified toys, games, musical instruments, sensory toys and books, art and craft materials, board books, big books, gross motor play equipment, and computers.
If prescribed by physiotherapists, specialised standing and seating equipment will be available to the child in the classroom. Similarly, when appropriate, assistive technology will also be prescribed to children who require it.
The classrooms at the Building Bridges EIPIC Centres are named according to themes and decorated accordingly to enliven the children’s learning environment. SPD Ability Centre adopted the garden theme and named their classrooms “Butterfly”, “Bumblebee” and “Ladybird” while SPD@Jurong took on names of marine animals/creatures. Classrooms at SPD@Tampines and SPD@Bedok are named after flowers and trees respectively.
An outdoor area is available for the EIPIC children to engage in activities that will help train their fine and gross motor skills.
ROLE OF EIPIC TEACHERS
Besides conducting lessons, EIPIC teachers also spend considerable amount of time in behind-the-scenes work such as lesson preparation before every class - planning and strategising the best methods to help their young clients progress.
Hasliah, a senior EIPIC teacher at SPD Ability Centre, commented that (read “In Conversation with an EIPIC Teacher: Hasliah Binte Hashim) working with the caregivers and therapists to come up with the best plan for the child is something that takes time and constant communication among the early intervention team members.
“As an EIPIC teacher, we also have to manage our time in and out of the classroom so that we can be effective in our roles. Apart from teaching, we collaborate with the therapists to plan lessons catered to each child’s goals and needs. We also travel outside of the centre to the children’s homes and schools so that we can understand the child’s needs in various settings and also offer support to the caregivers and mainstream pre-school teachers,” said Hasliah.
Despite the hard work, the job comes with much satisfaction from the improvement they see in their young clients.
"Being an EIPIC teacher is rewarding. It is when working with the children that one realises not to take the simplest things in life for granted. Simple things like standing, walking and voicing out needs and wants come very naturally to neuro-typical children but our children at the EIPIC centres work hard for it," said Ng Qiu Yan, an EIPIC teacher at SPD Ability Centre.
EIPIC teachers play an important role in a child's journey through the programme.
OTHER PROFESSIONALS IN THE TEAM
Apart from the teachers, there are many other professionals involved in a child’s rehabilitation journey when he/she is enrolled in EIPIC. The physiotherapists as well as occupational and speech therapists, along with the social workers and the EIPIC teachers make up a team of professionals involved in helping the child progress. Therapists join in the classes to observe and record the progresses of the children. Social workers also play an important role in ensuring the basic needs of the children and their caregivers are addressed.
“We are very happy to see our clients learning and growing, and progressing to the next stage of their life. This is what motivates the team to come together to put in their best efforts for their clients, ”said Winnie Lim, centre manager of SPD@Jurong.
Caregivers are strongly encouraged to be involved in their child’s EIPIC journey. We believe constant communication between caregivers and the team is vital for the child’s development and progress.
For new clients, caregivers are invited to sit in during the sessions so that they can pick up intervention strategies from the teachers and therapists and work with their children at home.
“We have seen caregivers becoming more involved in applying the strategies that they learnt in the classroom on the home front, and the results are often encouraging,” said Zunaidah Bte Shahul Hamid, centre manager of SPD@Tampines.
The EIPIC resource library is a well-organised group of resources and materials that serves as learning tools for the teachers and caregivers.
Most recently, the EIPIC resource library was re-organised to allow for a more seamless identification and selection of learning resources for the teachers and even the caregivers. Caregivers can borrow the resources from an online portal and take them home for supplementary reading for their children. You can read more about the resource library here. At the moment, the resource library is only available at the Building Bridges Centre at SPD Ability Centre but there are plans to expand to the other centres as well.
For more information regarding EIPIC, please head to http://www.spd.org.sg/early-intervention-programme-for-infants-and-children.html