Every year on 2 April, we celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. This occasion is dedicated to promoting the understanding of autism and celebrate the achievements of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
ASD is a neuro-developmental disorder and people with ASD may face challenges in areas such as social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non-verbal communication.
However, the autism spectrum is wide and differs from person to person in severity and combinations of symptoms. While there is no known “cure” for autism, individuals with ASD who receive timely and adequate support and intervention can develop skills that are necessary to live fulfilling and productive lives.
Support for ASD individuals at SPD
There are ways to improve the quality of life, and the independence for persons living with ASD. The support varies, depending on the individual’s skills and abilities. At SPD, we provide intervention and support through the following programmes:
For children aged six and below:
Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC)
The EIPIC provides child- and family-centric services to children with autism and developmental needs aged six and below. The programme aims to maximise the developmental growth of each child by equipping them with improved motor, communication, social, self-help and cognitive skills.
Development Support / Learning Support (DS/LS)
The DS/LS provides onsite learning support and therapy intervention with the aim of improving the child’s readiness for formal education and helping the child develop socialisation and classroom participation skills. Professional support is also given to pre-school operators, teachers, and parents to better equip them with skills to meet the needs of the children under their care.
7-year-old Alesha has mild ASD. Previously at her pre-school, she had difficulty expressing her emotions and appeared inattentive in class. It was challenging to engage Alesha who would answer in one or two words, and repeated questions instead of answering them.
A SPD learning support educator and a speech therapist started working with Alesha at her pre-school in April 2019 and there were improvements a year later. She can now express herself better. She plays well with her peers and shows empathy by comforting others when they are sad. Alesha answers in sentences now and repeats only questions that she does not understand, which might be her way of understanding and processing it. She has shown great potential with her excellent reading skills and her beautiful drawings.
For children and youths aged 17 and below:
Continuing Therapy Programme (CTP)
The CTP supports children and youths aged 17 years and below, who attend mainstream schools and require speech therapy and occupational therapy to improve in their functional and academic performances. The CTP can also complement the therapy services that the child receives in special schools.
Intervention such as occupational therapy uses purposeful and engaging activities to help children with ASD develop fine motor skills, improve eye-hand coordination and master basic life skills. The aim of the therapy is to let the children achieve their greatest level of independence, thus improving their quality of life. Another form of therapy is speech and language therapy that supports the children in the development of their communication, speech, language, feeding, and social interaction skills.
For adults aged 18 and above:
Day Activity Centre (DAC)
Since 2018, SPD’s DAC has expanded its service to support adults with ASD aged 18 and above. A typical day involves support for clients in their activities of daily living, as well as training in community living skills, pre-vocational skills, and participation in social and recreational activities.
Intervention such as occupational therapy includes a holistic approach in targeting areas in which the individual has lack of skills in (e.g. social skills, activities of daily living, vocational, community living). The aim of the therapy is to improve the individual’s ability to participate in activities of daily living and improve his/her level of independence both at home and in the community.
The SPD Sheltered Workshop provides employment and vocational training for people with different abilities and ASD. The programme has a structured work routine supported by professionals, thus providing a safe training environment for individuals with ASD such as 21-year-old Aaron.
Aaron has moderate ASD and moderate intellectual disability. Although gentle at heart, he has a tendency to speak loudly and has difficulty regulating his emotions. When Aaron was first transferred to an enclave worksite, he struggled to understand the changes to his work routine. Our occupational therapists practiced appropriate social interaction with Aaron through role play and communication cards. They taught him to raise his hand and request for a cooling down time when he felt upset. Aaron was also given a schedule to help him anticipate changes in his routine. Over time, not only did Aaron’s social skills improve, he also learnt to work independently. He has matured into a young adult and is well-liked by his supervisors and co-workers.
If you feel that your child has developmental delays or difficulties in the areas of communication and social interaction, please consult a professional for a diagnosis. To enquire about our programmes and services for adults or children with ASD, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would like to thank Ms Sia Jin Zhu, a former client from our Specialised Case Management Programme, and our SPD professionals for contributing to this article.