New sensory gym for adults with intellectual disabilities

The 35 sqm gym includes a ball pool, ladders and climbing walls. It serves as part of the adult therapy programme to improve the quality of life of clients, and is open to the 400 clients at Minds' nine centres for adults.
The 35 sqm gym includes a ball pool, ladders and climbing walls. It serves as part of the adult therapy programme to improve the quality of life of clients, and is open to the 400 clients at Minds' nine centres for adults.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Adults with intellectual disabilities can now undergo therapy at a new sensory gym that will help them adapt to their surroundings.

The gym, set up by the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds),  is one of the few for adults in Singapore.

Located at Mindsville@Napiri multi-service centre in Lorong Napiri, the 35 sq m facility includes a ball pool, ladders and swings.

It serves as part of the adult therapy programme to improve the quality of life of clients, and is open to the 400 clients at Minds' nine centres for adults.

Persons with intellectual disabilities tend to face difficulties processing sensory information. For instance, they might not like being touched, or are easily distracted by movements and noises in crowded environments. This causes them to respond in an atypical manner.

The gym helps to regulate the sensory input from the surroundings by calming them down and organising their senses, Minds' head occupational therapist Ashokkumar Ramachandran said at the launch on Thursday (May 3).

"They need stimulation, so we provide it in a structured way, instead of restricting their movement," he added.

For instance, many adults with intellectual disabilities feel a need to rock in their chair, which is a response to find their sense of balance. Using the swing in the gym over a period of time would help them achieve this sense of balance, and hence reduce their rocking movement.

Minds hopes that by helping the clients adapt better to their surroundings, this could alleviate their struggles with daily routines such as showering and eating.

Like most other special education schools, each of Minds' four schools has a sensory gym but none caters to adults.

Minds said if the clients show progress after using the sensory gym, there would be plans to set up similar facilities at its eight other day activity centres, such as in Jurong and Yishun.

Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua said at the launch: "For a long time in Singapore, we have been serving the younger ones. A lot of resources have gone to early intervention and the schools, and Minds has been one of the pioneers in supporting adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

"Today's event is a testimony and fruition of what is important to the adults, and to show that it is time to extend even more resources to the space of adults."

The gym was developed with the support of the United Arab Emirates embassy. This is the first special needs community effort that the embassy has contributed towards, and they have pledged continued support for Minds in future initiatives.