Singapore Budget 2015: Govt to review early intervention services for children with special needs

SINGAPORE - Greater awareness and earlier diagnosis of children with special needs these days mean that more parents are looking for early intervention services, even for children with milder issues, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

So it will review current such services in Singapore and possibly add more options to the landscape.

Currently, young children with special needs here have two programmes for learning and therapy services: The Early Intervention Programme for Infant and Children (Eipic) for those at risk of developing moderate to severe disabilities, and the Development Support Programme (DSP) for preschool children with mild developmental delays which has helped 2,000 children in over 300 mainstream preschools.

Last year, 2,200 children benefitted from Eipic - almost double the 1,200 children five years ago. The ministry said it aims to provide 3,200 Eipic places by 2018.

But not all children require the level of intervention provided by Eipic, said the MSF.

The review of the early intervention landscape will look at developing services for varying levels of intervention so more special needs children can benefit.

It will also come up with common evaluation tools to help review the child's progress and adjust intervention, a smoother flow for the child and family from diagnosis to enrolment and transitions to next stages, and additional training and support to families and pre-school teachers for continuous intervention.

Noting a shortage of early intervention professionals, the ministry said it will improve its hiring and retention of therapists, Eipic teachers and learning support educators who provide intervention for children with mild developmental needs.

It will seek feedback from voluntary welfare organisations, early intervention experts, parents and caregivers. More details are expected later in the year.

kxinghui@sph.com.sg