Parents learn to care for autistic children at home

Parents learn to care for autistic children at home


Parents of autistic children are receiving support to better care for them at home, as part of a three-year pilot project.

Organised by the Department of Child Development at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), the programme aims to help 360 families provide a safe home environment to support the development of their autistic children aged two to four.

So far, 19 families have taken part in the programme, called Support Autism through Family Empowerment (Safe), which started last year. The $1.66 million project is funded by an endowment named after late philanthropist Ee Peng Liang and managed by Temasek Cares, the philanthropic arm of Temasek Holdings.

Temasek Cares also has an endowment named after late senior minister of state Balaji Sadasivan.

Under Safe, parents are taught to manage the child's home routines such as feeding, bathing, and going to bed. For instance, they learn about planning mealtimes, such as setting a table beforehand, so that patterns and routines are formed.

"Children with autism generally thrive better with predictable routines and order," said Mr Tang Hui Nee, head of community services at KKH.

Parents learn these skills over two months from a team which includes paediatricians, psychologists, speech and language therapists and social workers. In addition to conducting training workshops, the team makes three home visits in three weeks to each family to work with the parents.

While KKH has a similar programme to help parents of children with developmental needs, Mr Tang said it does not offer home-based support, which is important in helping parents of children with autism.

Temasek Cares chairman Richard Magnus said this issue was highlighted when his charity had a discussion with KKH, the National Council of Social Service and help groups which provide support for those with autism.

Mr Tang said parents can "clarify questions relating to the characteristics of autism" during the home visits. "Any environment where children spend a big chunk of their waking lives will always be crucial for appropriate support systems to be put in place."

One mother in her 40s, who works in the construction industry and wanted to be known only as Mrs Goh, took part in Safe earlier this year. "The programme is very helpful," she said. "My son can now sit down and focus on a task for about 30 minutes.

"This is a lifelong journey for us as parents with autistic kids, and we need such support in caring for our children."

This article was first published on July 05, 2014.
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