Assoc Prof Kenneth Poon speaking at the Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder Symposium on Nov 14.Assoc Prof Kenneth Poon speaking at the Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder Symposium on Nov 14.

More than 300 parents, professionals, teachers and volunteers attended a symposium titled Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) on Nov 14 at Agape Village in Toa Payoh.

The event, organised by the Church of the Holy Spirit, sought to empower participants with information and support in their journey with their children with ASD.

ASD is a lifelong condition which affects at least one in 100 individuals in the way they interact with others both socially and communicatively. Individuals with ASD also show a repetitive pattern of behaviours, activities, and interests.

ASD affects individuals differently. Some may have no speech and require high levels of care while others may attain high levels of academic achievement.

During the symposium, Assoc Prof Kenneth Poon from the National Institute of Education provided a concise overview of ASD, emphasising that the spectrum nature of the disorder means that every individual with ASD is unique.

Dr Sylvia Choo, a paediatrician from KK Women’s and Children Hospital, then discussed the social developmental of children, and how young children with ASD may be delayed in meeting these milestones.

Ms Genevieve Chua, an educational psychologist, shared tips on providing educational interventions, which involves support and/or assistance, to children with ASD. She highlighted that in deciding the various ways of supporting the child with ASD, one has to understand the social, emotional, behaviour, learning, motor, processing, medical or sensory needs of the child.

Dr Christopher Cheok, from the Institute of Mental Health drew on his past experience as a psychiatrist with the Singapore Armed Forces. He spoke about how an individual with ASD may prepare for National Service.

Mr Kevin Leong, a parent of three young adults with high-functioning ASD, shared strategies for how a parent may manage relationships within the family while coping with the demands of raising a child with ASD.

A panel discussion followed which included topics such as how the diagnosis of ASD may be shared with the child, the application of the Mental Capacity Act, and the preparation process of teenagers with ASD for National Service.

Prior to the event, Fr Andrew Wong, parish priest of the Church of the Holy Spirit, had commented that the “symposium is but one way of being in solidarity with God’s children” and “more so as we enter the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy” which begins on Dec 8.

He added that “it is with joy and gratitude that the parish has been able to start a special needs catechism class – Rainbow of Love – this year and it caters to children aged between six and 18 years.”

Participants found the symposium useful.

Ms Dulcie Ching, a mother in her mid-40s, commented that the symposium was “comprehensive and informative, covering topics from early signs and intervention, to other practical issues like setting up a trust, National Service and even how to manage family dynamics with an ASD child.”

Mr Vincent Teo, a teacher in his 60s, shared, “I have learned a lot about ASD. I can identify some of my school pupils who show signs of ASD and hopefully I’ll be able to support my pupils better.”

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