Sensory gym caters to adults with special needs

Mr Yap Koon Seng trying out the tyre swing under the watchful eye of therapist Sivasankari Neelothpalam. Far left, Muhammad Nor Hanis Azman climbing the rope ladder with the help of therapist assistant Anthonysamy Mary Kavi Nevadha.
Mr Yap Koon Seng trying out the tyre swing under the watchful eye of therapist Sivasankari Neelothpalam. Far left, Muhammad Nor Hanis Azman climbing the rope ladder with the help of therapist assistant Anthonysamy Mary Kavi Nevadha.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Adults with intellectual disabilities can undergo therapy at a new sensory gym that will help them adapt to their surroundings and function better in their daily lives.

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, the 35 sq m facility includes a ball pool, ladders and swings.

It 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.

HELP FOR ADULTS

Minds has been one of the pioneers in supporting adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities... it is time to extend even more resources to the space of adults.

CENTRAL SINGAPORE DISTRICT MAYOR DENISE PHUA

The gym helps to regulate the sensory input from the surroundings by calming them down, Minds' head occupational therapist Ashokkumar Ramachandran said at the launch yesterday.

"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.

Minds said that if the clients show progress, 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."

She added: "Minds has been one of the pioneers in supporting adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities... 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 (UAE) embassy, which has pledged support to Minds in future initiatives.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2018, with the headline 'Sensory gym caters to adults with special needs'. Print Edition | Subscribe