New programme to help caregivers manage autistic children
SINGAPORE – For Madam Jorah Mahmud, managing her teenage son’s behaviour is a daily challenge.
Ansari, 18, has autism and frequently displays aggressive behaviour. Madam Jorah, 53, is afraid of taking him out of the house as he can unpredictably attack people around him. He once even bit her on the eye, she said.
“As a mother, I know he doesn’t understand, and that he is frustrated at not being able to express himself,” said the single mother who works as a bus warden at Rainbow Centre, a volunteer organisation, and a canteen helper at a primary school. She is a mother of two, and her elder daughter Siti Zaharah, 19, helps to take care of Ansari.
Ansari often throws things at home, sometimes injuring himself in the process. He has even smashed a glass window.
Another parent, Mr Moses Poon, 50, faces similar difficulties with his 16-year-old son Joe. Due to Joe’s hyperactivity, Mr Poon has to keep a close watch on him.
“It requires a lot of energy and stamina,” Mr Poon said. The single father quit his job six years ago to become a full-time caregiver to Joe. He also sold their flat and moved to a smaller unit.
The two families are among seven who are beneficiaries of Rainbow Centre’s new initiative, the Family Empowerment Programme (FEP), which aims to help parents better manage their autistic children’s challenging behaviour.
Rainbow Centre helps individuals with developmental disabilities through services such as education and training programmes.
The FEP team is made up of three specialists – a speech language therapist, an occupational therapist and a psychologist. They visit families to understand their lifestyle outside of school and to coach parents on how to interpret and respond to their children’s behaviour in real-time situations.
The programme consists of 10 sessions over six to eight weeks, and the duration of each session depends on the needs of the family.
It targets autistic children and youth aged 19 months to 18 years old.
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