More help in the works for adults with autism

New group will devise plan with more targeted services, support

ADULTS with autism could have more support in future, with service providers coming together to think of how best to help them.

Four autism service providers announced yesterday that they have formed an alliance to draft and carry out a new masterplan to develop services over three to five years for about 30,000 people with autism.

The Autism Network Singapore - formed by the Autism Association, Autism Resource Centre (ARC), Rainbow Centre and St Andrew's Autism Centre - will share the plan, to be ready by the middle of next year, with the authorities and other welfare groups.

A committee appointed by the Government had drafted a five-year (2012-2016) masterplan for people with disabilities, but the new plan will offer a more targeted approach for autism services, said ARC president Denise Phua.

A plan submitted by ARC and Rainbow Centre to the Ministry of Education in 2003 had led to the formation of Pathlight School, now run by ARC.

Ms Phua said: "The new plan will cover early intervention, lifelong education, employment, residential care and independent living skills, in addition to raising awareness... of persons with autism."

Of adults with autism, she said: "They need more intensive support and the care options are fairly limited."

Spaces are limited at the two day activity centres, so some adults stay at home though they need much help. A third one will open later this year.

The solution could be having more such centres or a continuum of services that offer varying degrees of support to meet different needs, Ms Phua said.

She added: "We hear about anecdotal needs and try to close the gaps, but that's not ideal. It's important to look at things on a more macro level."

Rainbow Centre president Yew Teng Leong said: "The network is our way of adopting a more strategic approach to pro-actively identify and address sector-wide issues."

Dr Sylvia Choo, a senior consultant at KK Women's and Children's Hospital who helps children with autism, said: "The network will provide a good platform for inter-agency collaboration to direct and guide parents and caregivers, giving them hope and help."

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