According to the Sg Enable website, placement into early intervention programmes may take as long as 12 months, depending on the wait list of the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) centre.
Hence in November last year, Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) – DSA piloted an Infant and Toddler Programme (ITP) to offer infants and toddlers with Down syndrome the support they need even before they are enrolled with an EIPIC centre.
Special Seeds finds out more from DSA Head of Children’s Education Services, David Yong.
1. Why do children with Down syndrome require early intervention?
Children with Down syndrome who receives intervention early are likely to achieve better developmental outcomes that would impact their long term outcomes / life trajectories.
With enrolment age into early intervention programmes averaged at 10.5 months, children with Down syndrome and their parents may not be receiving adequate help needed within the first year of life.
Hence, the Infant and Toddler Programme (ITP) offers infants and toddlers with Down syndrome the early learning experiences supported through and by their parents even before they are placed in the VWO-run Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC).
For some children, the programme prepares them and their parents for eventual enrolment in early childhood education centres when the children attains the age of 3.
2. How is the DSA ITP different from VWO-run EIPICs?
This programme adopts a different approach of delivery in early intervention. It is holistic, play-based, child and family-centric that reflects routine-based early intervention practices and draws on evidence-based practices. The programme considers social and cultural appropriateness. The programme also has embedded learning outcomes of the Early Childhood Curriculum.
3. Who are the specialists in the ITP team?
The programme is supported by:
* ongoing mentoring by Maureen Corby, the educational consultant overseeing the development of the ITP. She has been in the education field for the last 22 years, training early intervention teachers through Auckland College of Education and University of Auckland in New Zealand.
* very experienced early intervention educator, Susan Thomas, from New Zealand
* teacher assistants who are DSA members and attend the Adult Enhancement Programme (AEP) by DSA
4. What is the frequency and duration of the sessions?
The child and accompanying parent attend a weekly group session of two hours duration. Each group session typically has no more than three children/families. A home-based session of an hour is conducted fortnightly.
5. Who is eligible for the program?
Children with Down syndrome, under the age of 36 months may apply for the programme. Enrolment would depend on available vacancies. They would be placed on the wait list if there is no existing vacancy. They can be referred by consulting doctors and child guidance clinic, parents of other children with Down syndrome or through parents’ self-referral. The child with Down syndrome and the parents must be DSA members to be eligible.
6. Are children with other special needs eligible for the program?
They are eligible if they are members of DSA. However, priority will be given to children with Down syndrome.
7. Why is parental involvement emphasised for this program?
Parents share a unique relationship with their children and this continues to develop over a lifetime.
It is understood that it is through parents’ warm, loving responses to their infants and toddlers during daily routines that important reciprocal parent-child interactions are established.
These important interactions are based on a family’s cultural patterns and beliefs that cannot be underestimated in the way they influence a child’s development. Social emotional competence grows from these early parent-child interactions and from this, a child’s cognitive abilities emerge. Hence, with family as the focus, the experienced teachers will work collaboratively to guide and support the parents to help their child.
8. Are there any plans to share such learning and best practices with other VWOs?
ITP is a pilot programme. There is much to learn and adapt of the practices that can enables children with Down syndrome and their families. In time, we hope to share our experience of running the programme.
For more information regarding about the Infant and Toddler Programme, please contact DSA at 6500 9321.