AONE-STOP centre dedicated to the educational and training needs of autistic children, youth and adults was officially opened by President S R Nathan yesterday.
The St Andrew's Autism Centre (SAAC), which started operating in 2005, is now located at its new premises in Elliot Road.
Construction took 17 months, and the centre cost $23.7 million to build. Government funding amounted to $17 million, and the centre has since raised about 90 per cent of the remaining costs.
Explaining the six-year wait for its permanent premises, SAAC chief executive John Ang said: "It was such a big project and it needed several layers of approval."
The 2.2ha facility brings together SAAC's special school, which was previously located at the St Andrew's Community Hospital in Simei, and the Day Activity Centre (DAC), which was located at a void-deck unit in Bedok South.
The sprawling centre, which holds 15 blocks, boasts a slew of facilities.
These include mock-up flats for family-living skills training, a sheltered outdoor hydro-therapy pool, and art, music-therapy and dance rooms. There is even a clinic on the premises.
A pet enclosure, playground, as well as landscaping plans to beautify the grounds, such as the planting of fruit trees, are also in the works.
With these facilities, SAAC aims to provide a one-stop hub catering to autism care for people aged seven to 55 years old.
The centre has a maximum capacity of 400. It currently has 95 students at its school and 29 youth and adults at its DAC.
Looking beyond those with the developmental disorder, the centre is also extending a hand to caregivers, providing support and counselling services.
In his speech at the opening ceremony, President Nathan stressed the need to care for people with special needs and to reach out to those who are less fortunate.
"Even as Singapore progresses, we have to be always mindful to leave no one behind," he said.
The move to the new centre was welcomed by parents of autistic children, like Mr G. Rajasegar.
The 45-year-old senior operations manager said that he has seen tremendous improvement in his autistic teenage son, Vimal, since he started attending school at the Elliot Road centre.
The 14-year-old boy used to throw tantrums and would even refuse to go to school at times.
Now, Mr Rajasegar sees in his son an eagerness and happiness which he has never seen before. He attributes this change to the teachers and the new centre's "beautiful environment".
"These changes in him tell us that there is finally hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel," he said, adding that his only wish is for Vimal to be independent.
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