SINGAPORE - Doctors and pre-school teachers in the neighbourhoods will soon be trained to spot and screen children who are not hitting their developmental milestones so that they get help earlier.
Over the next few years, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will work with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to form a network of touchpoints across the health and pre-school sectors.
Said MSF Minister Tan Chuan-Jin in Parliament on Wednesday (March 8): "Timely and appropriate support in the early years of can maximise their potential.
"We are keen on earlier detection and clearer classification of developmental needs, to facilitate timely and appropriate intervention."
The people targeted for this training are doctors at the hospitals, polyclinics and family medicine practitioners so that they will be able to screen the children for developmental conditions such as speech and language delays and autism spectrum disorders as well as pre-school teachers who can help detect children with such needs early.
Once these personnel pick up signs of developmental delay, the children can be referred for further support more quickly.
Another 200 pre-school teachers, called Learning Support Educators, will also be trained over the next five years to support classroom teachers in helping children with developmental needs to mix well with other children.
For now, the bulk of children found to have developmental problems here are diagnosed by the Child Development Programme (CDP) at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital, The Straits Times understands.
Together with National University Hospital, it diagnosed 4,000 new patients in 2015.
This was a 60 per cent increase from the about 2,500 new cases diagnosed in 2010, according to MOH.
Children assessed and given early intervention therapy range from babies to those under seven years of age. MOH attributed the rise to a greater awareness of developmental problems and an improved system of screening in pre-schools and in the community.
The top four most common conditions are speech and language delays, autism spectrum disorders, behavioural problems and global developmental delay. They made up about 90 per cent of new cases diagnosed in 2015, said MOH.