Navigating change together
For students with special needs and their parents, leaving the familiarity of school can be intimidating. This was the experience for Vikki Jonied, 47, whose daughter, Iffa, 23, has Global Developmental Delay.
After Iffa’s graduation from a Special Education (SPED) school in 2018, Vikki, a freelance trainer and single mother of 3, fretted over finding a centre for Iffa, who requires higher levels of support and experiences frequent meltdowns. After multiple unsuccessful attempts at enrolling Iffa into a day-activity centre, Vikki decided to apply for a place at MINDS Eunos Training & Development Centre (ETDC).
During the admission interview, Iffa experienced several meltdowns and staff recommended MINDS’ Home-based Care Services (HBCS). Around the end of 2019, Iffa was enrolled in programme.
“Home-work” – developing skills and preparing for the next step
Twice a week, a multidisciplinary team from MINDS’ HBCS visit Iffa at her home. With Vikki and the family’s domestic helper, Yani, HBCS professionals, including therapists and social workers, work with Iffa to develop healthy habits and activities of daily living.
Working closely with Vikki and Yani, therapists design activities to improve Iffa’s fine motor skills, like squeezing toothpaste, brushing her teeth, and wiping the table. The team also worked together to address behaviours Iffa displayed when she had meltdowns, such as sitting on the floor in public. They focused on strategies to calm her down, taking her for walks in the neighbourhood. They also taught her to handle items more carefully.
A key milestone in the transition plan customised for Iffa was for her to move forward to ETDC. To prepare Iffa for this shift to a new environment, the HBCS team created a storyboard consisting of a few pages with simple illustrations and phrases describing her journey to ETDC. Every day, Vikki reads phrases from this storyboard to Iffa, giving her time and space to mentally prepare for her move to ETDC. Today, Iffa has progressed to attending ETDC twice a week. Vikki noted how Iffa has grown and learned to express her emotions more constructively. “It’s an amazing transformation,” says Vikki.
New environments and lessons
Iffa’s attendance in ETDC has also taught Vikki and her family to better manage their responses to Iffa’s behaviours. A close-knit family, Vikki shares that her sons dote on Iffa very much and often give in to her.
Noting how ETDC Training Officers’ (TOs) “friendly but firm” and systematic approach with Iffa has helped to instil discipline and self-motivation in Iffa, Vikki shares that their approach has rubbed off on her. She recounts getting distracted and flustered while trying to manage Iffa’s meltdowns and tantrums, and the TOs’ gentle reminders to draw boundaries to keep her own emotions in check.
Vikki reflects, “These kids are highly intelligent even though they may not speak. You have to be very firm and treat (them) like an adult, not as a child. You can’t see them as ‘poor things’, or they will never learn.” She adds, “For example, if Iffa is hitting herself on her face, I will just look at her once, and then turn away. Over time, Iffa will learn that it’s not right.” Vikki also emphasised the need to be firm with Iffa as a family. “We cannot keep babying her so much till she’s like a princess.”
Seemingly small acts reveal Iffa’s leaps of growth. Taking off her socks and placing them inside her shoes, and returning her plates to the sink are a “big deal,” says Vikki. Iffa has also learnt to be respectful when her family has their prayers, such as waiting quietly at the door instead of walking across the room to retrieve items.
Giving back to the community
On top of her responsibilities as a mother and breadwinner, Vikki, a self-professed “fitness fanatic”, has also channelled her efforts to support other caregivers. During Singapore’s Circuit Breaker period in 2020, Vikki produced a series of YouTube videos showcasing activities persons with special needs and their families can engage in at home. The series was widely publicised by the Special Olympics team. MINDS’ social workers also collaborated with Vikki to put together an online series of self-care techniques and fitness exercises such as chair tabata – a high-intensity and low-impact seated workout that persons with special needs and their caregivers can enjoy at home.
The importance of community
Looking further to Iffa’s and her family’s future needs, Vikki also completed her deputyship application, which allows her to make legal decisions on Iffa’s behalf. Having considered spending a significant amount of resources to process her deputyship application, Vikki expressed her thanks to the MINDS team for guiding her through the process and avoiding high costs.
Through her experiences of finding suitable programmes and services for Iffa, and the support she’s received as a caregiver, Vikki firmly believes in the importance of community. She expresses,
As MINDS celebrates its 60th anniversary, we recognise the importance of supporting caregivers as individuals and in their caregiving responsibilities. To learn more about the support and programmes available to caregivers, click here.
A family’s needs may change as Persons with Intellectual Disability (PWIDs) and their caregivers age. Learn more about preparing for the future, including deputyship applications, here.
We believe each individual with special needs thrives in an environment they feel comfortable in. MINDS’ Home-based Care Services’ multidisciplinary team of Allied Health and care professionals provides professional care and support for PWIDs and their caregivers in the comfort of home. Explore HBCS here.
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