Located on the ground floor of SPD’s headquarters, the Day Activity Centre (DAC) and its clients are likely the first to greet visitors to SPD. Set up in 1994, it has provided day care to many persons with multiple disabilities, and in doing so, offered family members and caregivers the peace of mind to go out to work or to receive respite from their caregiving duties. UPDATES bring you a new series “A Closer Look”, and this week, we enter DAC to find out what goes about on a typical day.
The DAC runs a balanced and structured programme to help those with physical and multiple disabilities nurture their self-help and social skills. It incorporates learning and training into the activities that it carries out at the centre.
“Over the years, SPD DAC has developed a niche for serving clients with pan-disabilities encompassing physical disability (PD) and/or multiple disabilities (MD). This has formed the current primary intake criteria for SPD DAC. Expertise in caring for PD and MD clients, our accessible setup and the availability of wheelchair accessibility transport positions us to be in good standing to serve more clients,” said Gary Chia, Assistant Director of Adult & Elderly Services.
It underwent a recent renovation to provide a bigger and more organised space that is conducive for activities and learning.
An area has been set aside for computer training. Two neat rows of six computers allow clients to learn how to access the computers and learn how to do simple typing and powerpoint slides.
The designated area for computer access and lessons.
A pantry for staff and laundry area for washing of clothes used for activities of daily living (ADL) training are also new. The sick bay has also been relocated to just outside the DAC.
The pantry and laundry area located at the new DAC.
“The new changes brought about more vibrancy to the DAC. It looks more colourful and bright now,” says Furzanne Humsin, a training officer.
Training officer Doyle Lyle Tan also shared how much brighter and more conducive it is now for lessons to be conducted. “The clients like it,” he added.
The centre is staffed with seven training officers who are the ones primarily taking care of the clients throughout the day – from organising activities and taking care of their meals, to looking after their toileting needs and conducting ADL training. An occupational therapist also works with the training officers to plan appropriate ADL training. Clients and their families also have the support of a social worker who helps them tap into various community assistance schemes, if necessary.
Clients are grouped according to their abilities and the training officers are assigned to take care of a group of six to ten clients each.
Senior training officer Valli guiding DAC clients in a game of Bingo.
Training officer Doyle Tan reading and guiding a client along with a textbook.
Valli, a senior training officer was guiding a group of seven clients in a game of Bingo. She explained that the clients were going through their lesson of the afternoon, which involves social and recreational activities, encouraging them to interact and communicate with one another through fun and games.
A few activities were happening at the same time, all involving fun and games such as board games, puzzles and ball-throwing activities.
From observing their interaction with the clients, focus and patience seem to be an important attribute the training officers all possessed. As some of the clients may tend to be erratic in their behaviors, it is important for the training officers to be focused and calm in their approach towards their charges.
“It is difficult at first, but as we get to know these clients personally and what triggers them to behave in any sort of way, it gets easier,” said Valli, a senior training officer who has been in the job for close to 6 1/2 years.
The DAC clients are ferried to and fro from their homes to the centre every day by the specialised transport that is subsidised by SPD. These are vans that have been modified with hydraulic lifts as many of the clients are in wheelchairs or have mobility challenges. The first batch of clients will arrive as early as 7am and the second batch will be there by 9am. With the transport arrangements, it provides added convenience for the caregivers.
A wheelchair-using DAC client boarding the vehicle using a hydraulic lift.
A day in the DAC consists of activities that help to enhance and improve the clients in targeted areas. The activities are purposeful, but not hectic, giving the clients free time to interact in between, which also adds to the social and communication aspects of their training at the DAC.
“It is important for the clients to have constant communication within a safe environment, and not be cooped up at home all the time,” said Doyle.
The DAC categorises their lessons and activities in these four segments – ADL, Community Living Skills, Prevocational Training, Social and Recreational – each spanning an hour and carried out twice daily, once in the morning and the other in the afternoon.
Activities in Daily Living
Clients are trained in dressing, grooming and personal hygiene. Basic living etiquette and skills that enable them to be self-reliant and independent, even when they are at home, are an important part of training at DAC.
Community Living Skills
This segment involves teaching the clients on lessons such as money, time and anger management. Clients get to interact with stall owners around Tiong Bahru when they are out about with their training officers and volunteers as part of community integration, and this gives them the opportunity to engage in simple exchanges of money and goods. Clients are also guided in the ways of empathy and practical steps to cope with their emotions.
As part of prevocational training, some of the clients are given simple jobs such as packing, typing, and other work-related activities. DAC believes that the goal for each client, depending on their ability, is to be independent and employable, and this segment of training prepare the clients for future job opportunities.
Senior training officer, Valli, guides a client in typing simple words on the computer with the help of an assistive device.
Here are some of the assistive devices that the clients use for computer access. The clients are trained to use two special keyboards – Custom/Standard Keyguards and Big Keys LX Keyguard. These special devices allow for the clients with mobility issues to easily press on the alphabets on the keyboard. The Big Keys LX Keyguard is arched up so that clients do not have to lean forward in their wheelchairs to type.
The Custom/Standard Keyguards allows for simple typing for the clients with mobility difficulties.
The assistive keyboard is arched diagonally to allow for easy typing.
Social and Recreational Skills
Through social and recreational activities involving leisure and games, the clients learn to interact and communicate with others and improve their social skills.
The clients are put on individualised training plans based on their needs and progress. Before a client is enrolled into the programme, the training officer, occupational therapist and caregiver will meet to discuss the goals for the client. Once the goals are set, the training officers and occupational therapists will work out a programme that suits the client. The training officers and caregivers would communicate periodically to re-evaluate the goals and progresses.
A group of DAC clients enjoying a game of catch-ball during the “social and recreational” segment of their lessons.