Our Stories: Lifelong Learning for adults with intellectual disability

Lifelong learning for adults with intellectual disability


Learning a new skill and keeping up with the advancement of technology may be a challenge for many of us, especially as we settle into routines and responsibilities that leave us with little bandwidth to prioritise personal learning. Discovering new things, developing new skills and staying up to date with the latest trends also seems to be a privilege lost after graduation as our focus shifts from learning to making a living.

Just as many of us experience a change in our bandwidths and opportunities for learning and growth after graduation, Persons with Intellectual Disability (PWIDs) often face this struggle as they progress into adult services as well. As intellectual disability (ID) affects a person’s cognitive functioning, PWIDs may be further limited in developing areas like daily living skills, functional academics, technology, and communication. For instance, how accessible and comfortable is it for PWIDs to become adept with technology in this technology-driven age; how do they learn to be responsible for household chores like buying groceries and cooking simple dishes, especially as their caregivers age?

With these concerns and considerations in mind, MINDS Institute developed the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) for our clients. LLP Lead Trainer Ian Low, 38, and his team identify the learning needs of PWIDs and form a specialized curriculum for PWIDs to continue learning and growing. The programme includes advancing PWIDs independent living skills, self-determination and self-advocacy skills, interpersonal skills, community living skills, vocational skills and being able to attain job placements and retain their jobs.

man and boy looking at a computer
Continued learning as a priority. Lifelong Learning Programme sessions are tabled into work schedules in the centres

“All skills require practice, and even more so for individuals with intellectual disability,” Ian affirms.

Ian has spent a significant part of his career working with PWIDs. He was previously an educator teaching students with special needs for 8 years, and understands the needs and abilities of PWIDs. As an LLP trainer today, he works with small groups of clients aged between 20 to 35 years daily. 

a man trying to draw the numbers of a clock
a man learning how to arrange the months of the year
Practising time-telling and internalising the order of months in a year helps PWIDs with time-management

Every day is different.

Using board games like Monopoly, Ian could be teaching clients how to take turns and basic money management. In another lesson, he could be taking the clients out to learn to navigate Singapore’s public transport system, how to top-up their EZ-Link cards, or to read MRT maps. With the rapid uptake of technology due to the pandemic, Ian and his team also train clients to use iPads and platforms like YouTube and Zoom.

Along with basic financial literacy, travel independence and utilising technology, Ian and LLP trainers also reinforce communication skills, such as speaking politely (like saying ‘please’ or ‘may I’), understanding personal space, and learning about one’s rights and responsibilities as a citizen.

Kaushal Kunalan, 23, is one of Ian’s clients attending Woodlands Employment Development Centre, where he is also a trainee with MINDS Food. 

Kaushal enjoys the lessons that hone skills like counting money and reading the time. During one session, Ian conducted an activity where Kaushal and fellow clients accessed the web-store of a local grocery chain, selected a few of their favourite items, used a calculator to add up the cost and “paid” for their groceries. To complement their learning of money management, the group role-played shopping sessions in the classroom.  

a man learning to buy and sell using fake money
Practise makes permanent – clients repeat exercises to sharpen their money management skills and budgeting

“Every moment spent with Kaushal is enjoyable. He’s very keen to learn new things and try new things,” says Ian. He also mentions how clients are always excited and happy as they enter their LLP lessons, and is encouraged by their desire to learn something new.

Currently being piloted in several MINDS Employment Development Centres and Training & Development Centres, Ian passionately describes the LLP as “groundbreaking”, expressing the unique needs of his clients he works with and the need for creative problem-solving and teamwork.

man and boy standing together
Ian and Kaushal at Woodlands Employment Development Centre

Ian is also hopeful about how the programme will grow to serve more clients.

“As the Lifelong Learning Programme moves forward to touch base with EDC and TDC clients, I hope we are able to help to improve the clients quality of life, and also for clients to expand in different areas of assisted or even open employment. I also hope that the clients will take away some parts of the programme and apply what they have learnt and also enjoy themselves in the programme.”

man in a brown shirt in front of a meeting room
Ian Low
Lead Trainer, Lifelong Learning Programme

As MINDS celebrates its 60th anniversary, we invite individuals and organisations to partner us in advancing the learning and development of PWIDs after they graduate to adapt to an ever-changing world. Learn about developments and findings in the disability sector here.

Passionate about making a difference in the lives of PWIDs? Explore meaningful career opportunities with MINDS here. 

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NOTICE OF THE 59TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF MINDS: NOTICE is hereby given that the 59th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) will be held by way of electronic means as follows: Date: Saturday , 18 September 2020 Time: 9:30am (Registration starts at 8:30am) Venue: Online via ZOOM MINDS members will be receiving an email on the notice of AGM and are strongly encouraged to register your attendance to facilitate the verification process on the day of the AGM. For enquiries regardingthe AGM, members may email to agm@minds.org.sg or call 849607358