New centre opens in Bukit Merah Central to provide care and training for people with intellectual disabilities in the west

Ms Kwan Shi En with her parents at Touch Community Services' new day activity centre in Bukit Merah Central.
Ms Kwan Shi En with her parents at Touch Community Services' new day activity centre in Bukit Merah Central.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - After graduating in 2011 from Lighthouse School, a special education establishment, Ms Kwan Shi En, 26, had no job and little to engage her.

Born with two rare conditions – Treacher Collins syndrome and Nager syndrome, disorders that cause deformities of the ears, chin and eyes – she needed special care.

The Touch Centre for Independent Living’s first day activity centre in Ubi Avenue 1 had difficulty catering for her hearing condition, and it is also too far from her home in Tanglin Halt. 

But a new day activity centre in Bukit Merah Central was officially launched on Tuesday (July 3). The centre, 15 minutes from her home by bus, caters to those above 18 with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities and hearing impairment. 

It is the second day activity centre by Touch Community Services, a voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) which has been helping people with special needs, primarily adults with intellectual disabilities and the deaf community, since 1990.


Ms Kwan Shi En learning sign language in the day activity centre. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Her father, Mr Kwan Boon, 70, said in Mandarin: "For many years, it was difficult finding a place to care for her."

The Bukit Merah centre, which started operating on April 1, was set up to meet the demand for a day activity centre for people with special needs in the western part of Singapore. 

It taps on the expertise of Touch Silent Club, which has served the deaf community for the past 25 years. 


The centre caters to those above 18 with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities and hearing impairment. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Mr James Tan, chief executive of the VWO, said: "At Touch, we believe in empowering persons with disabilities to be independent and live in the community."

The Bukit Merah centre is able to serve a maximum of 42 adults, and currently has 20 clients, three of whom are deaf with intellectual disabilities.

Clients use touchscreen devices to learn how to live independently as well as develop social skills by interacting with teachers and other clients in class.


Clients use touchscreen devices to learn how to live independently as well as develop social skills by interacting with teachers and other clients in class. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Touch said clients who are higher functioning and suited for employment will be equipped with work-related skills and assigned a job.

Those with a talent in the visual arts will have their skills honed and their works showcased in a programme known as Touch SpecialCrafts, to help them find relevant employment.

Minister of State for Social and Family Development, Mr Sam Tan, was guest of honour at the launch.

"The Government welcomes and encourages such efforts to integrate persons with disabilities into the community through serving and helping others in need," said Mr Tan of initiatives like the one by Touch.

Since attending two hour lessons from Monday to Thursday for about three months, Ms Kwan has made friends and now regularly interacts with her parents.

Mr Kwan said: “I am very glad that Shi En is now learning new skills and making new friends.”