Crafting pathways towards growth
Behind every MINDS Craft product you find in the MINDS e-shop or workshops – whether it’s a drawing, painting, Hama-bead pin or coaster – is a skilled and well-trained artisan with intellectual disabilities. MINDS Craft, like other Social Enterprise projects, started out as therapy programmes for adults with intellectual disabilities in MINDS Employment Development Centres (EDCs). They then evolved into sustainable in-house work engagement programmes for clients, serving as platforms for clients to develop the skills needed for Open Employment while earning a daily wage. Social Enterprise projects like MINDS Craft owe a great deal of their success to dedicated Training Officers (TOs) working behind-the-scenes not only to instruct clients on the how-to’s of their tasks, but also to nurture and guide them as individuals with varying levels of ability. At SIA-MINDS Employment Development Centre (SMEDC), Ms Gin Ng and Ms Chiang Li Bing are the TOs crafting structures and tools to set their MINDS Craft clients up for success.
With backgrounds in science and business, Gin and Li Bing both made seemingly unexpected steps into the special needs sector. Their driving force – a common desire to serve Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (PWIDs) and a keen interest in arts and craft. They saw and believed in how the arts could be an enjoyable avenue for clients to explore and develop a range of soft and hard skills, with the sale of products coming back to them as wages.
As TOs in charge of MINDS Craft, they work with the wider SMEDC team and Allied Health Professionals to implement each client’s Individualised Training Plan, along with motivational and behaviour management plans. They also wear many other hats. They are creative directors, ideating and forming plans to create new designs and products; production managers, ensuring that each client has the tools and materials they need while ensuring that stations run safely and seamlessly; and mentors, guiding and counselling clients when they face challenging situations.
Educators at heart, Gin and Li Bing create innovative tools and gadgets to enable their clients to learn how to perform new tasks and execute them independently. Gin shares, “In order to train our clients for a programme like MINDS Craft (where there are a lot of moving parts), we have to continuously explore their talents to nurture them – and patience is critical for that.” PWIDs may struggle with measuring and short attention spans, which makes tasks like cutting strings to a specific length or keeping track of the number of beads a challenge. Instead of forcefully training clients to improve on the areas they struggle with, Gin and Li Bing work around their clients’ strengths.
For instance, their clients do well in repeating tasks with clear visual cues. Thus, Gin developed a string measurement tool to guide her clients when they need to cut many strings to a specific length. Li Bing also created a slider tool that helps clients keep track of the number and rows of beads placed when they create Hama-bead products. While these tools seem basic, they have helped to improve efficiency at the MINDS Craft stations and enabled clients to hone their skills at a pace that is comfortable for them. Li Bing reflects, “contrary to the popular perception of PWIDs, they are not helpless individuals who need a lot of help. As we interact with them, we realize that PWIDs aren’t that different from you and me – only through patience and practice can we discover each and every one of our strengths.”
With the support of passionate TOs like Gin and Li Bing, clients are able to grow and find their own definitions of success in MINDS Craft.
As MINDS celebrates its 60th anniversary, we would like to encourage a deeper understanding of intellectual disability and autism in the community.
MINDS Employment Development Centres (EDCs) provide a holistic environment for adults with intellectual disabilities to develop the skills required to live fulfilling, independent lives. Learn more about EDCs and the programmes they offer here.
The sale of Social Enterprise products goes towards providing wages and sustaining training and development programmes for adults with intellectual disabilities. Support PWIDs by purchasing MINDS Social Enterprise products here.
Explore fulfilling career opportunities serving PWIDS in MINDS here.