New life-skills centre to help adults with Down syndrome

Ms Chen Wanyi, 31, a member of the Down Syndrome Association (Singapore), and the association's chairman R. Sivanandam presenting an art piece done by a DSA member to Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sam Tan at the opening of the I
Ms Chen Wanyi, 31, a member of the Down Syndrome Association (Singapore), and the association's chairman R. Sivanandam presenting an art piece done by a DSA member to Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sam Tan at the opening of the Independent Living and Training Centre yesterday.PHOTO: TODD SIMONSON

First such facility here will let them practise in a realistic home setting to build independence

The first life-skills facility for young adults with Down syndrome in Singapore opened yesterday.

The Independent Living and Training Centre run by the Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) will provide training for young adults to practise and apply skills for everyday living so they may be more independent.

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that impacts a person's physical features, intellect and development.

The idea for the new centre came in 2016 when caregivers said they wanted a programme to prepare adults with Down syndrome to look after themselves should the need arise.

The facility at Block 17A Telok Blangah Crescent houses practice rooms, a kitchen, an infant toddler room, as well as a family room where parents or caregivers can mingle and have a short respite.

It can accommodate 24 people at one time and aims to help individuals with Down syndrome to practise and apply daily living skills in a realistic home environment and, in turn, cultivate greater independence.

The skills to be imparted include independent travelling, personal hygiene, time management, home economics, personal safety, financial planning, self-advocacy, decision-making and communal living.

Mr Alvin Ho, the charity's assistant director of services, said: "Professor Trevor Parmenter (of the University of Sydney), who helped in conceptualising the centre's curriculum, said that improvements in early support at infant, school and post-school levels, together with better health support, mean (young adults with Down syndrome) may outlive their parents.

"Therefore, it is crucial that they be helped to become more capable of looking after themselves as far as it is possible."

Mr Ho added that the centre will, in the coming months, explore tie-ups with community partners, social service groups and grassroots organisations to develop lifelong learning opportunities and collaborative projects.

The centre is the latest addition to the suite of services offered by the charity for individuals over 18 with Down syndrome. These include an adult enrichment programme with drums and percussion, dance and visual art aspects.

Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for Social and Family Development, and Foreign Affairs, said at the opening ceremony that he wants to encourage individuals and the private sector to continue to work together and come up with initiatives like the centre.

"Persons with special needs will find it difficult to achieve higher levels of independence without the rest of society playing its part," said Mr Tan, MP for Radin Mas. "Therefore, it is important for all of us to work together to do what we can."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 28, 2019, with the headline 'New life-skills centre to help adults with Down syndrome'. Print Edition | Subscribe