340 families to get new insurance and care programme ensuring long-term therapy for children with special needs

Ms Kalai Sylvie Sadayappan with her eight-year-old son, Abhaysakthivel Muthukumaran, at Extra•Ordinary Place @ Joo Chiat on Dec 11, 2019. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - As the parent of a child with special needs, Ms Kalai Sylvie Sadayappan's biggest worry is that if something were to happen to her, her son would not be well taken care of.

"This is a concern all parents of children with special needs have," she said.

"Especially when he's growing, more issues might come up, and he will need therapy or he might regress," added the 41-year-old housewife, whose eight-year-old son has autism spectrum disorder.

Hence, she is glad to be among 340 families with children with special needs who will receive a free year under a special programme that will help financially in the event the child is left to fend for himself.

The programme includes a payout of $150,000, which includes a lump sum of money as well as coverage for up to 15 years of regular therapy and care services for the child in the event that the insured parent dies or is permanently disabled.

The Extraordinary Care Program, offered by caregiving service aggregator CaregiverAsia and insurance firm Great Eastern Life, in collaboration with special needs therapy provider Extraordinary People, was launched on Wednesday (Dec 11).

The programme also provides two hours of free care services a year and a 50 per cent discount for therapy services at Extraordinary People for the child, which can be tapped immediately.

About 50 companies and individuals have already pledged to sponsor this programme for families with children with special needs. Each sponsor can select their recipients based on their own criteria, or leave the decision to Extraordinary People.

The programme costs $199 yearly and is applicable to families with children up to age 12 who have special needs.

There are more than 30,000 students with special needs in Singapore, said CaregiverAsia chief executive Yeo Wan Ling.

"There is however, a market gap in products that ensure that financial safety nets are available for children to continue with their therapy when their families go into financial duress," she added.

There are insurance plans for children with autism or Down Syndrome provide a payout if the parent dies or is permanently disabled, and cover accident or infectious disease expenses for the child.

This initiative differs, in that it focuses on the provision of therapy, and caters to a variety of special needs including autism, global developmental delay and dyslexia.

Ms Sylvie, who is divorced, said that the programme is good as continued therapy is very important for her son Abhaysakthivel Muthukumaran.

He currently goes for weekly one-hour speech therapy sessions at Extraordinary People. Prior to receiving this new programme, Ms Sylvie bought life insurance for herself, and puts money into a fund managed by the Special Needs Trust Company that her son can withdraw if his parents die or are incapacitated.

"Of course the best-case scenario is that we are around. But with this (new programme) I can be assured that my child will continue to receive therapy as he grows older," she added.

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