New masterplan for people with autism to be developed by 2016

SINGAPORE - A new masterplan for people with autism will be developed by the middle of 2016, by an alliance of four autism service providers.

The new group, called Autism Network Singapore, which was formed to address gaps in the autism services sector, announced this on Tuesday.

The four founding organisations are Autism Association, Autism Resource Centre (ARC), Rainbow Centre and St Andrew's Autism Centre. Membership is open to other welfare groups and government agencies.

Currently, there is a five-year (2012-2016) masterplan for people with disabilities in general, but the masterplan for people with autism will be the first such large-scale one. There was an informal one done 12 years ago, said ARC president Denise Phua.

She said: "The new plan will cover early intervention, lifelong education, employment, residential care and independent living skills, in addition to raising awareness, supporting inclusion and celebrating the abilities of persons with autism."

The network will consult the community in the next 12 to 18 months, she said.

Rainbow Centre president Yew Teng Leong said the formation of the alliance was timely.

He said: "As Singapore aspires to be more inclusive, there is a greater need for key service providers to collaborate and ensure better life outcomes for the special needs community. The network is our way of adopting a more strategic approach to pro-actively identify and address sector-wide issues and gaps, increase public's awareness of autism and mobilise the village for the autism cause."

Dr Sylvia Choo, a senior consultant at KK Women's and Children's Hospital who works closely with children with autism, welcomed the formation of the network.

She said: "I believe that it will provide a good platform for inter-agency collaboration to direct and guide parents and caregivers, providing them with hope and help."