New clinic for people with intellectual disabilities

President Halimah Yacob at the opening of the Developmental Disabilities Medical Clinic at Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub yesterday. She called it a "safe environment" for the intellectually disabled to get treatment. The clinic offers specialised
President Halimah Yacob at the opening of the Developmental Disabilities Medical Clinic at Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub yesterday. She called it a "safe environment" for the intellectually disabled to get treatment. The clinic offers specialised medical attention and has helped 100 people with intellectual disabilities since its soft launch last July. PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

It is not only 61-year-old retiree Harold Tan who struggles when he takes his intellectually disabled daughter Dawn to a polyclinic.

Doctors are also ill-equipped to communicate with the 22-year-old and find it difficult to understand what is causing her discomfort.

Because people with intellectual disabilities are less able to express themselves, their health problems can end up being treated poorly or even go undiagnosed.

The Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) Developmental Disabilities Medical Clinic was opened officially yesterday.

The first clinic of its kind here, it offers specialised medical attention and has helped 100 people with intellectual disabilities since its soft launch last July.

"This clinic has been a godsend," said Mr Tan, a full-time carer for his daughter who has a severe case of global development delay and has no independent living skills.

"The doctor has the personality, the patience and experience to work with Dawn," he added.

The clinic promotes preventive healthcare using standard health screenings and examinations.

It does not prescribe medication.

Instead, patients will get referrals to polyclinics on an appointment basis.

The clinic's services are free for the 2,400 intellectually disabled clients under Minds.

There are plans to open it to intellectually disabled members of the public in the future.

OCBC Bank donated $50,000 towards setting up the clinic.

One of the clinic's three founders is Dr Bhavani Sriram, vice-president of the Asia-Pacific Down Syndrome Federation.

She has worked with children with intellectual disabilities as a paediatrician at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, where she found a lack of healthcare services for them after they become adults.

She is now the only volunteer doctor at the clinic, but Minds hopes to find more.

The clinic is at Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub.

At its opening on World Down Syndrome Day yesterday was President Halimah Yacob, who called it a "safe environment" for the intellectually disabled to get treatment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2018, with the headline 'New clinic for people with intellectual disabilities'. Print Edition | Subscribe