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ARC’s WeCAN Early Intervention Programme

Here’s another rather interesting programme brought to you by the Autism Resource Centre (ARC). Valerie took the opportunity to visit ARC’s recent Open House to find out more about the WeCAN Early Intervention Programme (WeCAN EIP). Continue reading to find out more!


Autism Resource Centre (ARC) held an Open House for their WeCAN Early Intervention Programme (EIP) on 17 July, Monday which aimed to provide the public with a more comprehensive knowledge of the programmes they were offering. The programme was developed to meet the needs of young children with autism and their families, and this objective seemed like a pressing need due to the high turnout of concerned parents eager to find out more about early intervention programs available for their children diagnosed with autism.

Internationally accredited by the Early Intervention Programme since 2008 (by the National Autistic Society, United Kingdom), WeCAN EIP was developed to provide early intervention for young children, aged 18 months to 6 years, diagnosed with autism. The programme’s developers strongly believe in equipping caregivers well in order to enable them to assist their children with autism achieve their full potential by being an active participant in their child’s intervention team. Therefore, parent participation is a critical component in ARC’s program where parents are highly involved in the individual educational planning of each child. This includes personal class observations and reflections, hands-on practice sessions in class, outings and parent communication nights.

The Early Intervention Programme is built on the following guiding principles:

  • Individualised – Skills that are functional and useful to each,
  • Meaningful to Child – What they look forward to when they come to school,
  • Spontaneous Use of Skills – For children to attain lesser support from adult in future,
  • Generalisation – Ability to use same skill in different settings,
  • Maintenance – To maintain current skill learnt and progressively build other skills upon it moving forward.

A walk around the school campus and taking a look at the various classrooms used for the different levels within the programme revealed various focus areas, ranging from work habits to self-regulation, functional communication to social skills, life skills to curriculum skills, with a gradual development of social relationship skills. This is to ensure effective early intervention where, after the diagnosis of the child, children are able to learn how to be with other people, learn how to learn, acquire crucial skills for pre-school, and eventually are prepared for Primary School.

Closing off the Open House with a Q&A session, it was clear from the issues raised that the most pressing concern facing parents of children with autism was the waiting list to enter Early Intervention Programs (EIPs) and Special Education (SPED) Schools. This is a matter of supply and demand where the number of students wanting to enroll, far outnumber the available teachers. Keeping in mind that in such programmes and schools, the teacher-student ratio per class tends to be much smaller than that of a mainstream school.

And this is where DPA’s work in raising awareness amongst Singaporeans comes into play. It is for reasons such as these, where students lose out on meaningful engagement and specialized curriculum, that we encourage more individuals who are looking to become teachers, develop their skills as a special needs educator.

Dyslexia Awareness Talks by DAS

This week, our Engagements Executive, Ms Valerie attended the Dyslexia Awareness Talk organised by the National Library Board, and Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS). This is her account of the session. Enjoy reading!

If you would like to find out more about dyslexia, feel free to reach out to us via email at info@dpa.org.sg .


National Library Board organised a Dyslexia Awareness Talk in conjunction with Dyslexia Association of Singapore on Friday 14 July 2017. It was a wonderful platform to raise awareness and help people gain a deeper understanding of dyslexia and the struggles that come along with having this condition.

At the session, Mr Marcus and Mr Steven of DAS shared that dyslexia is a language-based specific learning difficulty. People with dyslexia have difficulty in reading, spelling and/or writing. They may also have memory difficulties (for example, sequencing of the alphabet), and directional issues (for example, not being able to tell left from right). Dyslexia is a life-long condition that usually runs in the family. This difficulty is not due to a lack of intelligence, poor education or family background. It is an invisible learning difficulty, a hidden disability. Therefore, without better awareness and more accurate understanding of challenges persons with dyslexia face, they can easily be mistaken to be “lazy”, “stupid” or “unmotivated”.

There is no cure for dyslexia, but the  associated learning and reading challenges it presents can be overcome by skilled specialist teaching and the use of compensatory strategies. Coping with this learning difference can be a long journey, but with the right support, encouragement and understanding from those around them, persons with dyslexia can achieve just as much or more than anyone else in society.

Having dyslexia may cause difficulties in some simple everyday tasks, but it does not prevent anyone from achieving their goals. The key is not to be discouraged by the struggles, but to work on the strengths and pursue them to the fullest! Some famous people with dyslexia include the late Former Prime Minister of Singapore – Lee Kuan Yew, Movie Director – Steven Spielberg, Hollywood Actress – Keira Knightley, Hollywood Actor – Tom Cruise.

After attending this talk, we recognised even more the need to continually raise and increase awareness that disability, whether invisible or not, is only one characteristic of a person, People with disabilities do not need pity or sympathy. Instead, they benefit from greater understanding, accommodation and support in order to realise their potential and have the same opportunities as everyone else in society.  Equal opportunities and recognition of rights to education and employment are necessary to realise an inclusive Singapore.

Internship@DPA, Bukit Panjang Government High

During the first week of June, DPA held its first ever work attachment programme for secondary school students. 4 students from Bukit Panjang Government High School joined DPA for 5 days and obtained various kinds of new experiences. They came up with a Student Policy Proposal Guideline, Accessible Route Map to DPA’s office from the nearest Boon Lay MRT station and helped in the pilot phase of the Advocacy Training Programme held by DPA.

Here are their thoughts, in their own words.

On the first day, we stepped into the office with feelings of uncertainty. We did not know what to expect and what was expected of us. Ms Asha, the training consultant of DPA, was the person in-charge of the programme. To start off the whole programme, we had an interesting welcome session where we did a few activities to introduce ourselves and to get to know more about DPA. We also went through the Disability Awareness Talk Series (DATS) in order to build our foundation of knowledge of people with disabilities (PWDs) and what the organisation does.

Afterwards, we were given a few projects and every one of us had to lead one project. Ms Asha emphasised on the importance of effective communication and teamwork. Initially, we never really understood why these factors were important for project management, but as the days go by, we grew to understand how these factors would greatly affect the results/quality of the final product. When the communication amongst the team is poor, it affects everyone’s attitude and productivity, ultimately resulting in the possibility of being unable to meet the project’s’ deadlines or producing low-quality work.

Ms Asha also emphasised on the importance of aligning whatever we do to the mission of DPA; Vox Nostra – being the voice of persons with disabilities, working with them to achieve full participation and equal status in the society through independent living. By being attached to DPA, whatever we do, in a sense, is what DPA is doing and as representatives of DPA, we should not be doing things that are not focused or related to the mission of DPA. We have learnt that while doing projects of any sorts, we should always set the tone, the main message we want to convey and work towards that. This allows us to not deviate from our original goal and eventually being able to produce work that is of good quality.

We also attended an Inclusion Ambassador Training session together with three people with disabilities. This session was the first time we interacted with people with different types of disabilities and it was an enriching and eye-opening experience for us as we listened to them share with us their personal experience. We learnt how to interact with the Visually Impaired (VI), people with physical disabilities and people with autism spectrum disorder.

Something that struck us the most were some remarks from the people with disabilities. While filming a video for one of our projects, the lady with physical disability who was helping us mentioned that sometimes, even when people see her struggle with wheeling up the ramp, they never offer help or even move out of the way. Another instance was when the lady with visual impairment mentioned how she wears sunglasses to “look blind” since some people think that she was pretending to be blind. This so that she can get help more easily. These remarks got us thinking.

Why is the society nowadays so cold-hearted and selfish? Why do people simply turn a blind eye towards others in need of help? Why do people judge whether a person needs help or not by how “in need” they look? Why are people so skeptical towards giving others a helping hand?

It is not difficult to lend a helping hand. There are only two simple steps you need take to assist them effectively. First of all, approach them in a friendly manner and ask them if they need any help. If so, do ask what you need to do to help them. Do not assume the type of help they need.

We hope, that we can do something to change the general public’s attitude towards people with disabilities. We hope, that the society can move towards inclusiveness, towards less judgements and more acceptance. We hope, that one day Singapore, or even the world, can allow full integration of people with disabilities into the society and that everyone can live their lives without feeling ostracized or looked down upon.

The 5 days of attachment programme have been fruitful and enriching and definitely an experience we will all hold close to our hearts. Thank you, DPA, for giving us such a wonderful time!

Here’s a vlog done by the students on what they learnt at DPA.

Thé Sound of Silence

In today’s world where noise and chaos infiltrate our daily senses, a few staff from DPA decided to enjoy the sound of silence at Hush@Community – A social movement to bring the worlds of the hearing and the deaf together in a Silent TeaBar. Doubling up as a meditative space over a silent tea ritual conducted by the lovingly-trained TeaRistas, the movement also aimed to help busy people slow down and embrace silence over a cuppa.

In the 3rd installation of Hush@Community held on the 3rd of June 2017, “Gratitude” was the theme. Participants were led into a room where the ambiance was calm and silent. Each group was introduced to their respective TeaRistas from the Deaf community, who engaged us in a session of signing. We learnt to sign frequently-used greetings to one another, and shared a few good laughs around the table when we were challenged by the complexities of signing. We also learnt that body language and facial expressions are especially important in communicating emotions in the absence of verbal cues.

The TeaRitual began with participants being invited to take in the scents of various types of tea leaves. Before returning to our seats, we each picked out a card that had words written by past participants on it. Through an animated presentation, the TeaRistas gave instructions on what to do once the ritual starts.

Tea was served, and our time of silent reflection on various aspects of our lives began – Recall a person you are grateful for. How has this person affected you? What do you like to say to this person? Recall a challenge. What happened? What are two reasons to be grateful for, now? Think of two reasons to be grateful of yourself. What are they? The zen and the calm along with the tough questions made for a more simulated mind, but can you hush your mind in the silence?

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After a quiet moment of reflection and deep breaths, we were free to express ourselves on a blank piece of paper using the materials provided on the table – Flowers, leaves, sticks and tea ink. Similar to the card that we picked out at the beginning of the session, we also wrote a nugget of our experience on a card for the next person attending the session.

Some experienced their senses being heightened when their hearing was limited, others experienced a blur of events and got lost in what is going on. Some say peace is the friend we find in silence, others say they have never heard silence quite this loudly. Some found it calming, others found it discomforting.

But in this silence, we understood the notion of how the Deaf experience their world.

While many of us appreciated the silence and calm offered in the space with the tea ritual, it also raised the question – If silence was forever, would you be able to handle it?

Champions of Create4Good 2017!

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, a group of eager young entrepreneurs from Singapore University of Technology & Design (SUTD), and Singapore Management University (SMU) were preparing for a rather important time of their lives.

The Create4Good Challenge is a five-year social initiative by the late Mr Kwek Leng Joo. Mr Kwek was the Deputy Chairman of City Development Limited (CDL), and was a philanthropist as well as a supporter of youth and social development. The Create4Good initiative was a sweet marriage between his two passions, and encouraged undergraduates from Singapore University of Technology & Design (SUTD), and Singapore Management University (SMU) to work together to develop novel solutions for social good. 2017 saw Create4Good’s second anniversary and promised to raise the bar from the year before. The themes of this year’s challenge were Productivity, Environmental Sustainability, and Social Assistance.

As I approached Level 6 of the SMU Administration Building, the tension was palpable. The lift doors opened to reveal a throng of young entrepreneurs with intriguing concepts and prototypes. I made my way into the auditorium and prepared for the presentations. This would be one of my maiden experiences as a representative of DPA, and it was truly heartening to see so many young entrepreneurs dedicating their time and efforts in order to make Singapore that little bit more inclusive.

Having been given only 10 minutes for their presentations, each of the teams would be hard pressed to bring forth interesting aspects of their innovation and convince the judges why they deserved to win the grand prize – a whopping $50,000 – that will help to bring their ideas from a prototype to a self-sustaining initiative.

After 2 hours, which went by in a blur of incredible ideas, the room was buzzing as the judges deliberated the results. Then came the announcement of the winners.

Here, we now bring to you Team Mobearlize and EMMA! The reigning champions of the Create4Good 2017 Challenge!

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The Mobearlize team and ‘EMMA’, their prototype.

DPA is especially proud of this moment as Team Mobearlize was had attended DPA’s Disability Awareness Talk Series (DATS) and Interaction Session with our Inclusion Ambassadors on 25 November 2016. DPA provided guidance to the team on how to use the wheelchair. During this process, the Mobearlize team understood potential problems that wheelchair users might face and began fine-tuning the EMMA prototype.

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Team Mobearlize with DPA’s Inclusion Ambassadors in 2016.

Team Mobearlize and ‘EMMA’ – A retrofitted motorized wheelchair unit that is affordable & convenient for urban environments, and can attach onto any common wheelchair.

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Presenting EMMA.

The motorized unit is attached onto the front of the wheelchair to produce a 3-wheel configuration. It is controlled through a scooter-like handling and has device specifications which are comparable to current motorized solutions in terms of range and speed.

EMMA is:

  • Adaptable – Able to attach on common wheelchair designs
  • Affordable – Around half the price of other motorized options
  • Compact – No increase in floor area of the wheelchair
  • Lightweight – Total weight <8kg
  • Modular – Easy to stow for transport or storage

You can find out more information on Emma and the team on their kickstarter page here.

Or you can follow Team Mobearlize on these channels: Facebook & Instagram

Congratulations to Team Mobearlize from all of us here at Disabled People’s Association Singapore! Here’s to your continued work in empowering individuals through mobility solutions!

If you would like to be in touch with Team Mobearlize, you can email them here.

By Sumita Kunashakaran

About the author: Sumita is DPA’s new Advocacy Executive. Her background in International Relations, and interest in marginalised communities in Singapore, brought her to the Disabled People’s Association in order to understand how the organisation can further engage the disabled community in Singapore by making policies more inclusive, and individuals’ lives more empowered. She believes that a lot more can, and needs to, be done in Singapore so that we are able to be a thought-leader in the ASEAN region and beyond.

Flag Day with friends

On Friday 24th March, my friend Trisha and I went to volunteer at the DPA (Disabled People’s Association) to help deliver supplies such as tins, water, tables, chairs for the Flag Day the next day. We first got a quick introduction to everyone at the office and then had a very interesting briefing from Asha about people with disabilities. Asha is a consultant who gives talks on disability awareness in schools, colleges and companies. It was interesting to hear how to “act” around someone with a disability and the different ways you can offer help and guidance. As we were “buddying up” with R (who is visually impaired) the next day, Asha made sure we would know what to do. She played a couple of games with us to simulate what it would be like if we had lost one of our senses. For example, she gave Trisha a blindfold and handed her a box of coins. Her task was to try and guess the Singaporean coins compared to the rest.  She also had us practise how to guide someone who is visually impaired. For example, being on the opposite side from the cane and offering an elbow rather than taking theirs. Or when showing them a seat, lead them to the chair and let them feel it before sitting down. She told us how, in the past, one volunteer had grabbed the cane and pushed the visually impaired person into the chair!

After the briefing, we had lunch and then helped to pack up the last remaining boxes before taking them downstairs to be loaded onto the van. There were three stops, HWA (Handicaps Welfare Association), Bedok and New Town Primary School. When we got to HWA I was immediately surprised by what greeted us. The building was extremely small as I had expected it to be more modern and larger. However the equipment inside looked nice and new. We picked up tables and chairs to take to the locations where the flag sellers would collect the tins. We also picked up a few boards so that the flag sellers using wheelchairs could put the board on the wheelchair and put a couple of tins on top. At Bedok, we visited the VSA (Very Special Arts) office which is very small and slightly cramped. However their acts of kindness and patience is what matters most. It was interesting to see the various locations and meet new people who are also helping those who don’t get the attention they need because they are “different”.

The next day was Flag Day itself. Trisha and I were “buddying up” with the lovely R who is visually impaired but it doesn’t stop her from being independent. She had travelled on her own from home and she was also using her phone to contact her husband. I found this very interesting because to me, a phone is so simple to use. I noticed that when she wanted to call someone she would use the vibrations coming from her phone screen in order to know what to press and who the person was.

We stationed ourselves at Bishan where we managed to collect quite a bit of money. It was touching to see a few people dropping in $10s, $5s and $2s. Even the small change that they had in their pockets as it all adds up. I loved seeing the younger children asking their parents for their own money to give to R. However there was one moment that came as a shock to me. There was one mother and her two young sons who donated their own money. However I noticed the mother stopping one of the sons and took some of the change away from the tin. It surprised me as it was the choice of the son using his own money for an extremely good cause. However, I noticed one of the Giant (supermarket) employees pull out his wallet and count how much money he had. From what I could see I think he was debating whether to put money or not. Nonetheless he still gave money that will be put to good use. A small act of kindness that will go a long way.

I hope to volunteer for the next Flag Day and hopefully get other learners from my school to do the same. It was a great opportunity for experience as in the future I want to speak on behalf of those who experience discrimination. People with disabilities suffer from discrimination and their voice needs to be heard.

Catherine E (aged 16 years) 

About the Writer: Catherine has recently been diagnosed as having a Specific Language Impairment with severe expressive language disorder and an overall mild language disorder: Language disorders can make it difficult for people to understand what others are saying to them and to formulate appropriate responses. In the educational setting, students with such disorders may miss important points in lectures, misunderstand what the teacher is saying and misinterpret assignments and test questions. Also affected is their ability to retrieve ideas and vocabulary and express their thoughts in a clear manner.