SINGAPORE - Struggling to communicate with her young son who has autism, housewife Shariza Sahari, 42, was thankful to find help at the Awwa Early Intervention Centre at Fernvale.
She learnt tips and strategies during the sharing sessions between experts and caregivers that allowed her to interact better with her six-year-old son Aqeel.
She goes with the boy to the centre three times a week before his pre-school sessions at Punggol West.
President Halimah Yacob visited the centre at Fernvale on Tuesday (Aug 20), where she interacted with the children and their caregivers, and also attended a Kopi Chat session.
Kopi Chat is a regular peer coaching and support session where parents, caregivers and experts share strategies and tips on managing children with developmental needs.
The three Awwa Early Intervention Centres at Fernvale, Kim Keat and Hougang cater to children up to six years old who have moderate to severe disabilities.
Kopi Chat first started at Fernvale in October 2017, with about six to eight caregivers attending each session.
The sessions were expanded to the other two centres from February last year.
More than 760 participants have since benefited from Kopi Chat.
Madam Shariza, who has another son aged 10 and who is married to a logistics executive with Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, has been attending Kopi Chat since the sessions began at Fernvale.
She said Kopi Chat has helped her to communicate better with Aqeel.
Two years ago, when Aqeel was four, he was unable to verbalise words and could only make sounds.
As she could not understand him, it caused a lot of frustration between them and she thought he had a speech delay issue.
But he was diagnosed that year with autism spectrum disorder, as he also had problems with his fine motor skills and social communication.
During a Kopi Chat session with a speech therapist, Madam Shariza learnt how she could print out pictures of everyday objects as a tool to get Aqeel to communicate with her.
Now, Madam Shariza said proudly, "he is able to form a whole sentence verbally".