How I Travel with Kids Stress-free (or with Minimal Stress)

The year end festive season will be upon us in no time, much as we anticipate and look forward to holiday travel or road trips, the thought of crowds, cranky or sensory sensitive children and over-booked flights is enough to make our stress levels go up. Fear not, as we share some useful tips and ‘secret’ tools to make your holidays better!
Top-view photography of persons holding mug and pen using MacBook and world map

Photo credits Rawpixel

 

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare

 

Give yourself ample time to prepare – start off with compiling everyone’s travel documents, ensure passport validity and visas (if required) are in place. Next, confirm flight/train bookings and accommodation. If you have special requests, notify the airline or hotel early. Have a list of emergency contact numbers of the country that you’re visiting handy; leave your next-of-kin a copy of your itinerary and a number where they can reach you in the event of an emergency.
Do remember to activate your credit card(s) for overseas use (some countries require pin codes) and ensure that you have adequate cash. Sign up for data-roaming (or find out what are the local data plans available. For example in Korea, you can order the data card ahead of time and collect at the airport) prior to departure and most of all, remember to purchase travel insurance. Once the hard details have been taken care of, you can relax a little and move on to prepping for a comfortable and hopefully tantrum-free trip!
Extra Tip: Take a picture of your passports and have it stored somewhere safely, encrypt it if possible. That way in the event you get pickpocketed or lose your bags, you can prove your identity. Saves a little of hassle.

 

2. Food

 

Pack plenty of snacks and drinks for everyone; let each member have some of their favourite comfort picks on the food list while including healthy bites. As the saying goes, water is best! Tip: Pop an effervescent multi-vitamin into your children’s water bottles (but not just before the flight, we don’t want exploding water bottles causing a fountain on the airplane). This ensures they get their daily dose of vitamins as well as staying hydrated.
Extra Tip: Stay off soda as it is dehydrating and chock-full of sugar.

 

3. Calming Gear Kit

 

For children who may be sensitive to noise, Califone’s Hush Buddy Hearing Protector Ear Protector cuts down the noise by 25% db and it does help that they come in 3 cute designs (The plain red ones might work better for older kids). Add on your calming gear kit with Senseez’s vibrating pillows or fidget toys such as Blobby Robby. If your child has a habit of chewing or biting something when they are anxious, have a Chew Stixx handy which are made of FDA approved BP and Phthalate free material and coloring.
Extra Tip: Natural calming balm made from lavender soothes and induces rest when rubbed on pulse points. An inflatable leg pillow can help you get rest.

 

4. Keeping them engaged

 

Inflight entertainment is enjoyable for all, but often, the headphones that are on the plane are a one-size fits all catering to adults. Pack Califone’s animal-themed headphones (airplanes these days provide the adaptor) which are specially made for smaller heads or children from the ages of 2 to 9.
Pre-load some of their favourite games into a tablet, get them to write postcards to be sent home (it could be to their friends, family members or even to themselves! Children get a thrill from receiving mail that has travelled round the world to reach them).
Play impromptu games of ‘I Spy’, improvised Pictionary with paper and pen, or simple travel-size board games.
Extra Tip: For older children, have them write a travel journal. The adventures notated will  leave them with much treasured memories and the hours will fly by in no time!

 

5. The 3-ply rule 

One to wear, one in the wash and one as an extra – go by the rule and your luggage won’t be over-flowing with too many pieces of unnecessary clothings.
Extra Tip: Always pack an extra set of clothes for everyone (to carry on), you never know when a cup of coffee or juice may spill or mistakenly sitting on some unidentifiable substance. Tip: Pack them in a wetbag to keep your hand-luggage clean and dry.

 

6. Pace yourselves

While we want to see as much of a foreign country as we can, a holiday is meant to be relaxing, not packed with 101 places to visit or things to do. Have a leisurely start with a good breakfast and enjoy every moment without rushing to the next destination.
Remember- children feed off our energy, be it positive or negative. By staying calm and relaxed, we as parents manage tears and tantrums better too.
Extra Tip: Put the kids to bed early so you can either take turns as parents to go to the gym or go to a spa. Or simply relax in the hotel and enjoy it. Afterall, a holiday is meant to be relaxing.

 

Don’t worry about a perfect vacation, perfect is what we make out of each moment or situation. Happy holidays and safe travels everyone!

Book Review: Ordinary Stories in an Extraordinary World

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

The power of a story goes beyond words on paper. When we share the narratives that make up who we are, we validate and celebrate the diversity of experiences and backgrounds that different people bring to the table. Today, we’re going to share a wonderful example, a book that highlights the joys and challenges of living with and loving a sibling with autism – ‘Ordinary Stories in an Extraordinary World’, by Aqilah Teo.

Photo Credit: Ethos Books

Love First And Foremost

The story of Aqilah and her brother, Jan (not his real name), sparkles with genuine, tried-and-tested love. The author does not shy away from describing the less glamorous aspects of living with her brother, but the book is threaded through with the awareness that this is simply who Jan is, that he has his flaws and his good qualities just like any other person, and that he is a beloved member of the family.

When describing a phase that Jan went through, when he was extremely sensitive to the positioning of things around him, wanting everything to conform to a particular order, the author shares that “This secret design in his head is one that is difficult, perhaps even impossible, to understand. All our family really does is play along pretending that we do.” (© Ethos Books) And maybe that is the essence of love – trying to understand, even when we can’t.

The Puzzle Box

This gives rise to an interesting paradox, one that many parents and caregivers might share, and one that the book brings out well. On the one hand, we wish to advocate for our loved ones, emphasising that they are not so different from others, and that we should celebrate those differences. At the same time, we cannot deny that things are harder for our loved ones with special needs. As the author puts it, “It would be difficult for me to argue for Jan to be treated like a completely regular person, yet at the same time ask for him to be excused from National Service or search for a special school or sheltered training centre with room to enrol him. This question is a puzzle box I have not yet solved.” (© Ethos Books)

Perhaps the answer is not to deny difference – or the heartache and frustration that often comes with it – but to accept and learn to embrace it, as many families are doing day by day with quiet fortitude.

Photo Credit: Libreshot

The Ins And Outs Of Struggle

Reading this book might be an eye-opener for many in Singapore who don’t quite understand the invisible obstacles that block the paths of special needs individuals and their families. From dealing with public meltdowns to having to explain autism to National Service officers, the author points out the lack of understanding and empathy that the family has encountered time and time again.

The honest sharing of the everyday experiences of a family with a special needs child highlights the ways in which our society fails these individuals. She shares instances of being stared at and called out in public toilets when she accompanies her brother. Of store staff refusing to open a few minutes earlier to placate an upset autistic boy. Of strangers glaring at her brother for doing nothing more than being interested in their food.

We have a long, long way to go. But at the same time, the book consciously chooses to reject cynicism and fatalism, and to face the fight with positivity instead. The experiences of rejection and discrimination might well seem to be a nightmare, but as the family kept finding hope, “The nightmare warped and changed. It became a dream instead.” (© Ethos Books)

A Second-hand Perspective

As the author herself acknowledges, Ordinary Stories is a second-hand account of autism. She writes from her perspective as sister to an autistic individual, and inevitably is unable to understand what Jan’s world is really like from his perspective.

Towards the end of the book, the author shares insights gained from interviews with several professionals in the field of autism – a principal of a special education school, a doctor, an autistic adult, and a MP. Many of these perspectives are extremely helpful in the way they frame the issue. For example, the principal shared her pride in the achievements of her students, some of whom had even participated in the torch relay for the Youth Olympic Games!  

Yet it is the interview with the autistic adult, Eric – given the pseudonym ‘the King’ in the narrative – that strikes deepest. Often, there is a gap in our understanding of autism. It almost seems that we have heard the perspectives of every possible stakeholder – educator, parent, sibling, clinician, activist – except that of the autistic person himself. Thus, the candid sharing from ‘the King’ – on his experiences trying to fit into an alien-seeming workplace with incomprehensible politics, on how his experience of the world can be compared to running different computer programmes – is a crucial contribution to a wider, fuller, richer understanding of the world of autism.

Photo Credit: Unspoken Documentary

For a similar exploration of a first-hand account of autism, take a look at the Unspoken Documentary, a film co-directed by 14-year-old Emma Zurcher-Long, whose mission, in her own words, is to help the world see how potent, powerful and dynamic the life of an autistic teenager actually is.

Honesty, Struggle, Hope

In all, Aqilah Teo gives us a wry, thoughtful account of the everyday experience of a family, infused with patient love for a sibling who often isn’t accepted by the world around them. The framing of the book as a series of steps in a game of chess transports us into the fascinating, methodical, sometimes bewildering world of a condition nobody quite understands yet. And as we close the book, we are left with an enduring sense of hope, springing from a renewed belief in the unplumbed depths of love – “an unknown and incalculable quantity”.  (© Ethos Books)

If you like what you’ve heard about Ordinary Stories in an Extraordinary World, you can register your interest in a pre-order on our website here.

 

Reflections of a father – Part 2

Continuation from Part 1 –

Time is of the essence here, we believe that the age of 0 to 6 years1 is critical in the development of speech for a child. Heidi was fitted with behind the ear hearing aids and we started Auditory Verbal Therapy(AVT)2 with the audiologist from the hospital. We also contacted the local support group for hearing loss and got in touch with hearing loss therapists to understand more about the ways and methods to teach Heidi. We learned simple AVT methods and started practising them with Heidi at a home. Interacting and playing with Heidi using the AVT methods took our worries away at times but we were still not fully convinced about her diagnosis. We thought it was best to get another expert opinion and hearing test done.

We went back to Singapore for a second evaluation and the results were the same. The doctor told us that the best solution is to continue AVT every week and go for Cochlear Implant3 surgery as soon as possible.
We started preparation for the Cochlear Implant operation. The operation will take about 6 hours long for both ears. We also met up with the vendors of the Cochlear Implant to better understand the pros and cons for each device4. How reliable are the devices, water resistance capabilities, noise filtering, music appreciation, impact resistance, etc. the questions seemed endless….

Workings of Cochlear Implant

 

We were evaluating between Cochlear, Advanced Bionics and Med-el Cochlear Implants. In the end, we chose the Cochlear brand, primarily because this is recommended by our surgeon and he has had many years of experience operating with this brand. The operation is not without its risks, the skills and mental state of the surgeon will play a significant role here, forcing him to use something that he is not familiar with will just introduce unnecessary risk to the operation.

Heidi went for her operation when she was about 9 months old. I remembered meeting the surgeon in the morning (he was thankfully fit, healthy and in good spirit) and accompanying Heidi to the operating theatre and being administered general anaesthesia. The operation lasted for a full 6 hours and was a success. We will need to wait another month before fitting on the external processors and switching on the devices.

The device switch on session went smoothly, perhaps it was because that she had been hearing a bit of sounds from the hearing aids before, she wasn’t particularly shocked when she hears the sounds. I was given a big black suitcase of equipment and accessories for the Cochlear implants, a bit overwhelming for a first time user of Cochlear Implants.

We went back home and began our journey of teaching, learning, and living with Cochlear implants…

Looking back, I feel that these are the things that we did right,

  • Seeking a second expert opinion and performing a second hearing test
  • Coming to terms with the situation and being open about it
  • Staying positive and taking things one step at a time
  • Letting the child try hearing aids and going for AVT sessions as soon as possible
  • Finding support from people with similar situation
  • Understanding the risks of the operation and respecting the surgeon’s decision on the choice of the Cochlear Implant,

It has been 4 years since we began our journey and Heidi has grown up to be a happy and outgoing child who is able to converse in 3 different languages. We are happy and grateful for everything that has happen but mindful of the challenges that still lies ahead.  There are still so much to learn and understand about hearing losses and the use of Cochlear Implant.  We look forward to continuing this journey with our child and supporting her to develop to her fullest potential.

 

References.

1Automated Otoacoustic Emission test:  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/newborn-hearing-test/

2What is AVT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auditory-verbal_therapy

3What is Cochlear Implant: Cochlear Implanthttps://kidshealth.org/en/parents/cochlear.html

4Cochlear implant comparison: https://www.cochlearimplantcomparison.com/comparisonchart

Reflection of a father – Part 1

This article reflects my experience during and after learning that my first child is born deaf. The opinions express here are subjective and based off my experience but I hope that some of the information I have shared here will be useful for other parents or caregivers going through similar situations.

Heidi was born in early 2014. Seeing and holding her for the first time is a feeling I will never forget. Time seemed to stand still, I was consumed by the feeling of excitement, joy, anticipation, numbness all rolled into one. One can never quite describe that feeling, it is a special feeling of holding something very precious and very dear. The possibilities and potential for her are endless.

Heidi underwent the routine checks and was given the green light to go home, we were ecstatic . Oh, by the way, we were told, there is just one minor thing, her initial hearing test results were not conclusive and she needs to go through a second round of hearing test. We were told that there was nothing to worry about as there was probably some ear wax in her ears quite commonly seen. We didn’t think too much of it…

A couple of weeks later, we went to the local hospital and did an Automated Otoacoustic Emission test1, the results were still not conclusive. We were told to schedule for an appointment for a more comprehensive test. Heidi seemed to be responding to sounds at home, so we thought it must have been some errors with the tests, though deep inside we were starting to get a little worried.

It would be another month later when Heidi was tested using the Auditory Brainstem Response2 test. I remembered my wife coming out of the evaluation room, with tears pouring down her face, telling me that Heidi has profound hearing loss, and that she is deaf. I was in a state of loss and disbelief; my first instinct was to discuss with the audiologist and set up a second hearing test to verify the results. We went for a couple more hearing tests over the next few weeks and the results were the same. Heidi has profound hearing loss on both ears.

Disbelief and loss will be the best words for how we felt, there has been nobody with deafness from both sides of our families, we also do not know of any friends with this issue. What could have been the issue and the cause for this? We were told that the issue is most likely with her inner ear, her cochlear3, which is not able to transmit sounds to her hearing nerve. There is a 1 in 1000 chance1 that this will happen to a child. We were faced with multiple unanswered questions, what are the solutions? Can she ever hear and develop speech? Can she adapt and thrive in the mainstream society? Can she have a fulfilling and quality life?

To be continued…

CochlearReferences.

1Automated Otoacoustic Emission test:  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/newborn-hearing-test/

2Auditory Brainstem Response test: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auditory_brainstem_response

3What is a Cochlear: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochlea

Financial Assistance Schemes Part 2: Caregivers & Seniors

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

Previously on Irisada… 

In Part 1 of our two-parter on financial assistance schemes, we covered schemes targeting children, youth and adults with special needs. Today, Part 2 covers schemes aimed at caregivers and seniors. Caregiving is a difficult task – emotionally and physically demanding – and here at Irisada, we have the deepest respect for all caregivers who keep on keeping on, doing their best to give their loved ones everything they need.  

Photo Credit: Pixabay

For Caregivers of Seniors, Vulnerable Adults or Children 

  1. Caregivers Training Grant (CTG)

What is it?

A $200 annual subsidy for the costs of approved training courses undertaken by caregivers, aimed at helping caregivers gain competence and confidence in caring for loved ones. Approved courses can be found here: https://www.silverpages.sg/caregiving/training

Who is eligible?

Persons in charge of caring for the care recipient, who must be at least 65 years of age, or have a disability certified by a doctor

How to apply?

First, register for an approved course on the AIC calendar. You must then inform the training provider that you wish to apply for the CTG at least 2 weeks before the course starts, in order to obtain the application form!

2. Foreign Domestic Worker Grant

What is it?

A $120 monthly subsidy for the costs of hiring a foreign domestic worker for the purposes of caring for a loved one with a disability. The grant is valid for up to two foreign domestic workers, caring for two different family members. 

Who is eligible?

The care recipient must be the spouse, parent/in law, grandparent/in law, child/in law, grandchild/in law, or sibling/in law of the employer. Further, the monthly per capita household income must be below $2,600, and the foreign domestic worker must attend AIC training for caregiving.

How to apply?

First, send the foreign domestic worker for AIC caregivers’ training. A means testing form must then be submitted to the Ministry of Health. Once means testing is completed, the grant application can be submitted to AIC. 

3. Foreign Domestic Worker Levy Concession

What is it?

The scheme allows employers to pay a lower monthly levy for employment of a foreign domestic worker – $60, instead of $265. Both the grant and the levy concession can be applied simultaneously, however, as with the grant, the levy is only valid for up to two foreign domestic workers, caring for two different family members. 

Who is eligible?

Employers who employ foreign domestic workers to assist with caring for:

  1. A young child (0-16 years)
  2. An aged person (over 65 years)
  3. A person with disabilities

How to apply?

Obtain the appropriate forms from https://www.silverpages.sg/financial-assistance/Foreign%20Domestic%20Worker%20(FDW)%20Levy%20Concession. Mail these, along with supporting documents, to AIC. You will also need to conduct an assessment with a doctor.

4. Special Needs Savings Scheme

What is it?

A savings scheme that allows parents to set aside CPF savings for the long-term care of children with special needs. The nominated child will receive payouts upon the parent’s demise.

Who is eligible?

Singapore citizens or Permanent Residents who are legal guardians of a child with special needs. The parent/guardian must have sufficient balance in their CPF account to meet minimum monthly payout of $250 for a year (ie. minimum balance = $3000), otherwise savings will be disbursed as a lump sum to the nominee. 

The nominee must either require help with at least 1 activity of daily living (bathing, dressing, feeding, toileting, mobility, transferring), or have attended a SPED school.

How to apply?

Send application form and supporting documents to the Special Needs Trust Co.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

For Seniors

  1. Eldershield

What is it?

A long-term care insurance scheme aimed at supporting individuals in the event of severe disability in old age. In the event of a severe disability, monthly cash payouts will be provided – $400/month for up to 6 years.

Who is eligible?

All citizens are automatically covered from age 40, as long as they continue to pay premiums, alongside MediShield.

2. Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF)

What is it?

Subsidies to support seniors ageing in place, by assisting financially with the purchase of assistive devices or the provision of home care.

Who is eligible?

Seniors who live at home and require assistive or mobility devices to move around, e.g. walking stick, wheelchair. Their monthly per capita household income must be below $1,800.

The subsidy is also applicable to other required objects, such as hospital bed, hearing aid, spectacles, or to home care items such as catheters, adult diapers, wound dressings.

How to apply?

Approach your therapist or social worker at hospital, to start the process. Alternatively, you can independently submit the application form to AIC.

3. Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme (Pioneer DAS)

What is it?

A grant of $100 per month, which can be used for any expenses.

Who is eligible?

Individuals who were born before 1950, became Singapore citizens before 1987, and who require assistance with at least 3 out of 6 activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, feeding, toileting, mobility, transferring)

How to apply?

Obtain application forms from https://www.silverpages.sg/pioneerDAS. Next, go for a Functional Assessment at a clinic, and send the forms to AIC.

4. Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE)

What is it?

EASE provides subsidies for home modifications that help to prevent falls, for example, it can be used to install grab bars, anti-slip floors and ramps.

The amount of subsidy depends on the size of HDB flat – see https://www.silverpages.sg/financial-assistance/elderly-and-seniors/Enhancement%20for%20Active%20Seniors%20(EASE) for more details!

Who is eligible?

Singaporean flat owners, with at least one household member over 65 years of age, OR with at least one household member from 60-64 years of age, who requires help with 1 or more activity of daily living (bathing, dressing, feeding, toileting, mobility, transferring)

How to apply?

You can apply online at http://services2.hdb.gov.sg/webapp/BN37AWEASE/BN37PMain.jsp. Alternatively, email hdb@mailbox.hdb.gov.sg

5. Public Assistance Scheme

What is it?

A long-term grant for those permanently unable to work. It can also be used for children’s school fees, and basic living expenses. The scheme also includes free treatment in all polyclinics and government hospitals.

Who is eligible?

Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents who are permanently unable to work due to old age, disability or family circumstances

How to apply?

Visit a Social Service Office for information and help with applying!


It is an encouraging sign that the government is offering the help and support caregivers and seniors need to deal with their challenges. With these schemes in place, we hope that more and more people will be able to draw on these resources! Of course, there are still gaps in the social provisions. If you have a need that hasn’t been covered here, write in to us to let us know what you think should be the next development!

If you missed it, here’s Part 1: Financial Assistance Schemes for Children, Youth and Adults with Special Needs.

Financial Assistance Schemes Part 1: Special Needs

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

Previously on Irisada…

We ran an article covering various financial assistance schemes for persons with disabilities in Singapore. Having a disability or caring for a loved one with a disability can be challenging in many ways, and financial strain is one of the difficulties we often run into.

When we covered financial assistance schemes for our last article, we were encouraged to find that Singapore had been channeling more funding into helping the disabled. Today, we bring you an updated list of financial assistance schemes! We’ll be covering schemes targeted at children and youth with special needs, mainly focusing on help with education, as well as adults with special needs. In the next installment, we’ll be covering schemes helping seniors and caregivers.

Photo Credit: Scott Maxwell (http://www.lumaxart.com/)

For Children and Youth with Special Needs

  1. Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC)

What is it?

EIPIC is the government-funded early intervention programme for infants and young children with special needs, providing education and therapy. Fees are means tested, with the lowest tier of payments at <$10 monthly fees.

Refer to https://www.sgenable.sg/uploads/EIPIC%20Fee%20SC.pdf for specific fees. Fees will vary by centre, intensity of programme, and income level.

Who is eligible?

Young children (0-6 years) with developmental disabilities

How to apply?

To apply, you will need a referral via the Child Development Unit (CDU) at SGH, NUH or KKH, or by a private paediatrician. Means testing is carried out by individual service providers – see VWO websites for more information!

2. Integrated Child Care Programme (ICCP)

What is it?

Under the ICCP, selected childcare programmes integrate children with special needs with their mainstream peers. There is a standard $300 subsidy for working mothers, $150 for non-working mothers, with additional subsidies depending on means testing.

3. Enhanced Pilot for Private Intervention Providers (PPIP)

What is it?

The scheme provides subsidies for parents who choose to enrol their children in selected private intervention centres. Subsidies range from around $300 to $1,000, depending on centre, programme and income level.

Refer to https://www.sgenable.sg/uploads/Enhanced%20PPIP%20Fee%20Matrix%20SC.pdf for the full list of eligible centres!

Who is eligible?

Young children (0-6 years) referred to EIPIC, currently attending private early intervention centres approved by MSF

How to apply?

Obtain the application form from SG Enable once your child has been enrolled in private intervention. The form should be sent to MSF. Subsidies are given via reimbursement, 1-2 months after payment of fees to the centre, not upfront payment.

4. SPD Bursary

What is it?

A bursary for school fees, for students with disabilities. The value of the SPD Bursary ranges from $300/year to $6,000/year for primary school to university level respectively.

Who is eligible?

Students with physical or sensory disabilities from low-income households, studying in mainstream schools

How to apply?

Download application form from SPD website (http://www.spd.org.sg/spd-education-programme.html), refer to SPD website for further details.

5. SPD Youth Aspiration Award

What is it?

A $5,000 grant for youths with disabilities, aimed at helping youths realise their dreams and potential in the visual or performing arts, sports or community service.

Who is eligible?

Youths with physical or sensory disabilities, from Sec 1 to university

How to apply?

Download application form from SPD website (http://www.spd.org.sg/spd-education-programme.html). The yearly application window is open until November each year.

6. APB Foundation Scholarship

What is it?

The APB scholarship is a tertiary scholarship for undergraduate education worth $12,000/year. It is bond-free and is sponsored by the Asia Pacific Breweries. The scholarship recognises excellent academic achievement by students with disabilities.

Who is eligible?

Students with physical, hearing, visual or speech impairment, as well as developmental disabilities, who are planning to pursue or are currently pursuing undergraduate education at a local institution

How to apply?

Download application form from SPD website (http://www.spd.org.sg/scholarships.html)

7. Assistive Technology Fund (ATF) (also applicable to adults)

What is it?

The ATF provides a subsidy of up to 90% of the cost of assistive technology devices, with a lifetime cap of $40,000. The subsidy amount depends on household income, and can be used to buy assistive technology devices such as wheelchairs and hearing aids or to improve or repair them.

Who is eligible?

Individuals who are certified to have a permanent disability, with a household income per person of $1,800 and below

How to apply?

Approach a therapist or social worker from a hospital or VWO, who will help you to complete and submit the application form.

For Adults with Special Needs

  1. Public Transport Concession Scheme for Persons with Disabilities (also applicable to children and youth)

What is it?

A concession scheme entailing 25% or more off adult fares for bus and train services, with free travel for distances beyond 7.2km

Who is eligible?

Individuals who are certified to have a permanent disability, attending a SPED school run by a VWO, or using disability services offered by a VWO

How to apply?

Members of VWOs and those who have attended SPED schools can apply on the TransitLink website. Those who do not fit the above can still apply, by contacting SG Enable!

2. Taxi Subsidy Scheme

What is it?

A means-tested subsidy for taxi travel to school, work, or training, supported by SG Enable.

The subsidy ranges from 30% to 80% subsidy of total taxi fare for Singapore citizens (15% to 55% for permanent residents).

Who is eligible?

Individuals with disabilities who are medically certified to be unable to take public transport, and thus, require taxis to travel to school, work or training. Their per capita household income must be below $2,600, and they must not own a car.

How to apply?

The application has 2 stages:

        1. Submit NRIC and certification of disability, as well as supporting documents, to SG Enable
        2. Undergo medical assessment to determine whether taxi travel is the only option
3. VWO Transport Subsidies (also applicable to children and youth)

What is it?

A subsidy for VWO-provided transport services to school and care services

Who is eligible?

Individuals attending VWO-provided services including: EIPIC, SPED school, DAC, sheltered workshops, and using VWO-provided transport to travel to these services. Their per capita household income must be below $2,600.

How to apply?

Apply through the SPED school, VWO or service provider. Students with disabilities attending mainstream schools may also apply through SG Enable.

4. Disabled Persons Scheme (DPS)

What is it?

The DPS is a means-tested scheme for persons with disabilities who require a vehicle to make a living. It provides exemptions from payment of Certificate of Entitlement (COE) and Additional Registration Fee (ARF) when purchasing a vehicle.

Who is eligible?

Individuals certified as permanently disabled, but competent to drive. They must require a vehicle to earn a living, possess a Class 3 Driving License, and have a monthly household income not exceeding $6,500 for a 4-member household.

How to apply?

Submit the application form and supporting documents to SG Enable. A medical assessment is required and must be taken at AMK-THK Hospital Rehabilitation Centre.


We hope that this overview of financial assistance schemes for children, youth and adults with special needs has been helpful for you. If you have a specific situation for which you need financial help, and are unsure where to turn, feel free to drop us a message and we will do our best to help you!

Keep an eye out for Part 2 – financial assistance schemes for seniors and caregivers!

New On The Block: Hovi Care and Hua Hee

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

In our previous New On The Block feature, we shared two promising new initiatives aimed at serving the deaf and hard of hearing community. Today, we’re going to feature two new ideas and solutions in the eldercare sector! The first, Hovi Care, is a senior activity centre offering unique and personalised care for their clients. Hovi Care’s concept originated in Finland, and they have just begun operations in Singapore this year. The second, Hua Hee, is a card game specially designed to engage seniors, fight dementia, and draw families together.

Hovi Care: Flexibility and Care

Photo Credit: Hovi Care

We spoke to Andrew, the Managing Director at Hovi Care, about their innovative approach to eldercare. The centre doesn’t call itself a nursing home – rather, it promotes the holistic wellbeing of the client, aiming to meet social, emotional and physical needs. They model their centre on a social club setting, aiming to create the environment of a ‘living room’ where seniors can come to relax, meet friends, and have fun.

Rather whimsically, Andrew compared Hovi Care’s model of care to that of a hair salon. Clients can drop in anytime by making an appointment, and most of them come in once or twice a week. The centre offers a myriad of activities – karaoke, mahjong, walks and even equine therapy in the beautiful setting of Horsecity! This maximises the independence and choice of the client. In this way, Hovi Care offers as much flexibility as one might want, and as much care as one might need.

Engaging and Empowering Clients

Zooming in, one of the clients’ favourite activities are the Wellness Walks. Being located in Horsecity, Hovi Care is surrounded by greenery, with open spaces to walk around and explore. On certain days, clients even get to watch the horses exercising in the field beside the centre! Andrew shared that these walks, like all the activities, are geared towards engaging their clients both mentally and physically. The care workers always try to ask as many questions as possible – what do you see, what do you hear, what do you like? Whenever the opportunity arises, seniors are invited to share their own stories and memories from their younger days. Reminiscing reminds them of happy times in the past, and encourages bonding between the storyteller and the listener.

Photo Credit: Wheellator

What’s more, special mobility equipment is used to help seniors retain mobility as long as possible. For instance, the wheellator, a Finnish invention combining a wheelchair and a rollator, allows clients to walk and exercise their leg muscles for as long as possible, while offering the option to convert into a wheelchair if a rest is needed.

Battling Loneliness

Ultimately, Hovi Care hopes to alleviate loneliness by offering a way to get out of the house, enjoy activities and entertainment, and spend time with others. They hope that the eldercare sector will see increasing innovation in engaging and empowering seniors, helping them to live full and happy lives. Andrew emphasised that we need to open up more options for seniors to age well: institutionalisation should not be the only choice. This is exactly why Hovi Care seeks to go beyond offering nursing and medical care, by providing intellectual and social stimulation to address the full spectrum of an individual’s needs.

If you are interested in Hovi Care’s services, please see http://www.hovicare.com/ for more information.

Play Hua Hee: Engaging Seniors

Christal from Hua Hee created the card game in the hopes of connecting with her own grandparents. This is a challenge many local youth may have in common: not knowing how to approach and engage their elderly loved ones, whether this is due to language barriers, or lack of shared experiences. Playing games can be a form of early intervention against dementia, by creating social interaction and engaging cognitive functions. What’s more, games provide a simple platform for grandparents and grandchildren to have fun together, removing the awkwardness of starting a conversation.

Happiness Through Play

‘Hua Hee’ means ‘Happy’ in Hokkien, and that is exactly the aim of the game! It started off as a simple matching game, similar to the popular game ‘Snap!’. The cards show familiar local heritage items, such as satay, ketupat and gasing. This allows seniors to relate to the game in a way that cannot be achieved with conventional games. Further, the matching process provides an easy, fun way to exercise mental muscles, staving off dementia and improving memory.

The games have now been developed into many spinoffs, and can now be used in memory matching, snap, charades, pictionary, sketching and colouring, and puzzles, with even more to come!

Photo Credit: Play Hua Hee

It Takes A Village…

Sharing from her personal experience, Christal explained that one of her inspirations in creating the game was in hoping to stave off the approach of dementia for her grandmother. By playing games and spending time with her, she believes that their family managed to manage and delay the onset of dementia.

Thus, it is crucial that the whole family rallies around and plays a role in supporting seniors as they age. We should be on the lookout for early warning signs of dementia, such as confusion about the date and time, or forgetfulness over recently learned information. After all, they say it takes a village to raise a child. Perhaps the same goes for caring for our elderly loved ones!

To find out more about Hua Hee, read up about their approach, or buy their card games, go to https://playhuahee.com/.


 We hope finding out about these two new eldercare solutions was useful for you! If you have suggestions for our next New On The Block feature, please feel free to write in.

Introducing Walking Sticks to Your Elderly Loved Ones

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

As we grow older, it becomes harder to maintain the balance and strength of our younger days, and walking sticks are one option that can help preserve the ability to walk independently. But as many of us know, not every elderly person is happy with this idea!

As if persuading our loved ones to consider using a walking stick wasn’t enough of a challenge, there’s still the matter of actually choosing a walking stick. This may sound simple, but with the growth of the eldercare sector, more and more walking sticks are appearing in the market.

Today, we’d like to share 3 pointers on each of these topics, thanks to the insights of two caregivers to elderly family members, as well as an interview with Tan Lee Tuan, the creator of the agegracefully range of walking sticks.

Photo Credit: Pixnio

Introducing The Idea

  • “Let’s take it slowly…”

There’s no need to rush straight to the idea of using a walking stick. For some people, carrying an umbrella that can double as a support is a good in-between step, without forcing them to use a walking stick before they are ready. Focus on the person, not the problem, and take your time.

  • “It’s just additional safety.”

One of our interviewees shared that while her father was initially resistant to the idea of using a walking stick, he came round to the idea after some discussion. She emphasised that the walking stick would give him additional stability if he should happen to stumble when he was alone. Often, our loved ones may be willing to change their minds, as long as we are patient and persistent.

  • “Let’s choose it together!”

After all, they’re the one who’s going to use the walking stick, not you! It’s only natural that our loved ones would want to retain a sense of control, and involving them in the process of choosing a walking stick is a good way to honour that. Ask them about their preferences, what they feel is most important, and let them try out different models!

How To Choose a Good Walking Stick

This leads us, of course, to our next section – what to look out for in a walking stick. Unlike days past when there was only one type of walking stick, today there is a much wider range of options available, from smart walking sticks with fall alarms and MP3 players, to walking sticks that double up as stools or umbrellas.

  • Grip and stability

It may not sound exciting, but the most basic function of a walking stick – to help with balance – requires good design that doesn’t compromise on grip or stability. For instance, some foldable walking sticks, while convenient, may be less sturdy. If portability is an issue, ensure that the foldable walking stick is reinforced at the interval section, where it bends.

It is also important to consider the environment. The ground surface will determine what type of grip is best suited. If the walking stick is mainly to be used on rough concrete and dirt paths, a common tip is sufficient, but if the walking stick is to be used indoors on smooth floors, a special anti-slip tip would be better.

  • Additional features

Nowadays, many walking sticks come with cool features! For a simple and useful addition, a walking stick that can convert into a stool would be great for users who require regular rest breaks when walking. There are also walking sticks integrated with umbrellas, which might be helpful for users who are new to using walking sticks and are concerned about their image.

Photo Credit: Tan Lee Tuan, agegracefullyshop

There are even smart walking sticks with music playing functions! The benefits of music therapy include improving cognitive function and mood – see this article for more details. Walking sticks with radio and MP3 functions not only allow users to play their favourite songs and listen to their favourite radio stations, they can also load audiobooks and news broadcasts to keep users entertained!

Photo Credit: Tan Lee Tuan, agegracefullyshop

  • Aesthetics and style

Walking sticks can be yet another channel of expressing unique styles! In recent years, there has been an increase in ‘designer’ walking sticks with fancy designs and colourful tubing, adding vibrancy to the gadget. If your loved one enjoys colourful styles, let them choose a design that suits them. For example, this elegant Vanda Miss Joaquim design by The Cane Collective might suit someone who likes flowery patterns. Alternatively, this fun polka dot design helps to bring out that individual spark!

Photo Credit: The Cane Collective

Aging With Grace

In the larger scheme of things, it’s important for us all to realise that there shouldn’t be any stigma attached to carrying a walking stick. After all, we all grow old someday, and if a walking stick helps us to keep the ability to walk around and go out, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Music Therapy is on the Rise in Singapore

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

You may have heard about a new kind of therapy for your elderly and younger loved ones with conditions ranging from dementia to autism spectrum disorders. Here’s a recap for those of you who are interested in finding out more about music therapy.

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy isn’t exactly new. Western doctors have been experimenting with music as a tool for healing since the 50s and 60s. Proponents of music therapy argue that music has had a role in well-being and health for all known civilisations. What’s new, is that more and more institutions and organisations are using music therapy in Singapore.

You’ll find different types of music therapy. Some, like the Nordoff-Robbins approach, are more specifically geared towards children with atypical neuro-development. They focus on using music as a means to communicate with children who might be non-verbal. Other methods are better adapted to elderly patients, to activate forgotten memories or create shared experiences. You might also find music therapy used in hospitals to reduce stress and anxiety, especially with kids undergoing surgery.

Last but not least, some forms of music therapy are passive, with patients listening to music, and others are active, with patients playing. Many are a mix of both.

What are the Main Advantages of Music Therapy for Elderly Loved Ones?

The positive impacts of music therapy are most obvious when considering elderly people with dementia. Because the condition causes loss of memory, any approach that stimulates multiple senses is likely to trigger recollections. So playing music that dates back to when they were young can really help bring back memories and engage. Moreover, it seems more and more apparent that when people are exposed to music, blood flow in the brain increases. This is thought to help improve (or slow down a decline in) cognitive abilities.

You may also remember an article we wrote a few months ago about spending time with loved ones once dementia has settled in. The key takeaway was to find failure-free activities. They help pass time without generating stress or anxiety. Music (and art in general) fall under this scope. You can’t listen “badly”. And if you sing out of tune, in a fun activity, no one’s going to mind.

Listening to music brings joy and activates the brain (photo credit: Shutterstock)

Another interesting aspect of music therapy for elderly people is that it might encourage them to move. Now, Grandad might not boogie all night after listening to all the hit songs from his twenties, but even tapping his fingers or clapping his hands can have significant positive repercussions for his overall health. Generally speaking, you might want to invest in handy objects that allow your loved ones to listen to music easily, like radios, apps, or even a neat walking stick with an integrated MP3 player!

And because elderly people in Singapore (and around the world) are increasingly lonely and bored (many show signs of depression), music’s power to bring people together is absolutely vital to helping our loved ones thrive. Collective music sessions are great opportunities to bond with new people.

What are the Main Advantages of Music Therapy for Kids?

Mounting evidence shows that music therapy helps a vast array of neuro-atypical kids. We looked at an experiment conducted by Harold Russell, a clinical psychologist and adjunct research professor in the Department of Gerontology and Health Promotion at the University of Texas.  It showed that music therapy could help kids with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

His experiment focused on a group of 40 boys with ADD. He would administer 20-minute music sessions on a regular basis for several months. At the end of this period, the boys were outperforming a control group. It seems their concentration skills had improved and they were displaying fewer behavioural problems.

Learning to play is also part of many approaches (Photo credit: Pixabay)

In other types of neuro-atypical kids, music can serve as a bridge. Some children with non-verbal autistic tendencies are able to bond via music. Music isn’t perceived as aggressive or threatening to kids who struggle to interact with the outside world. Some even start using more words thanks to music therapy. But of course, this depends on each case and the types of therapy used.

Just as importantly, kids with non-typical neurodevelopment have the same right to discover their artistic talents. Sometimes we forget, that they too, can be musicians. Interestingly, a whole part of music therapy is mostly about encouraging kids to learn to play themselves. We particularly like Magdalene Wong’s approach. She was recently featured by Hua Hee’s blog (you may remember the card game). She has set up a choir of kids with different needs and they often sing for elderly Singaporeans in specialised homes. Now that’s one way to kill two birds with one stone!

Where can I find Music Therapy in Singapore?

Curious? Want to find out more, for yourself or a loved one? You can reach out to the Association for Music Therapy of SingaporeThere are currently just under 30 registered practitioners, but according to recent trends, it seems that more and more professional therapists will be available.

If you still want to read up more on the current trend, you can check out this article in the Straits Times.

Sensory Friendly Cafes in Singapore: A Review

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

Eating out is a fun activity for the family, and as a child many of us remember looking forward to these special occasions. But for a child with sensory needs, eating out can be a stressful experience – new places, new food, and an overwhelming environment. It’s hard enough for parents to keep up with daily life – how do we find the energy to look for good places to visit as a family?

Singapore’s restaurant scene has much to offer parents of neurotypical children, with many restaurants touting themselves as kid-friendly, but unfortunately it may be more difficult to find sensory friendly cafes. In some other countries, more accessible and inclusive cafes are opening up – for example, this cafe in the UK serves its food in special, separated portions, and provides understanding service with no judgment on children’s unusual behaviour. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find places to eat out with a neuroatypical child in Singapore, though – in this article, we take a look at some good candidates.

  • Old School Delights

Old School Delights is a nostalgic look back at 1980s Singapore – complete with period decor, well-loved games and heritage recipes. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Esplanade, it boasts a calm, quaint environment.

Each table has five stones and erasers, and there is a hopscotch game on the floor, providing ample entertainment while waiting. Service was prompt and friendly. Special requests can be made on the whiteboard used to take orders – a fun twist on ordering that will appeal to kids! The menu consists largely of local favourites such as Mee Siam and Laksa, and includes kid-friendly options such as Macaroni and Fish & Chips.

The lighting, which consists of individual bulbs for each table, may prove too glaring for some children, but the taking a short break outside, in the soothing tones of Esplanade Mall, may be an enjoyable solution.

While you’re there, Esplanade Mall also features a children’s art space, Pip’s Playbox, where children can enjoy craft work, reading, and even an outdoor play area. Esplanade Theatres have also begun holding special sensory-friendly sessions for some of their children’s plays. We would suggest avoiding Esplanade on weekends, however. Prime theatre timings, especially Friday and Saturday nights, lead to swelling crowds and noise levels!

OSD@The Esplanade Mall

8 Raffles Ave

#02-25 Esplanade Mall

Singapore 038902

Tel: 6909 3507/ 9108 8746

  • NOM (No Other Meaning)

NOM, situated at Macpherson Community Club, is a bright and friendly restaurant offering food, drink and dessert. Designed by a local firm, the interior mirrors the communal space of a void deck, complete with a miniature version of the iconic dragon playground!

Kids will love the children’s corner, which boasts the dragon slide as well as some board games and toys. As NOM is popular for weekend brunches, weekdays might better for a family visit, with a quieter environment and less stress.

Food-wise, NOM is famous for rainbow cakes, which are pleasing to the eye and good for a special occasion. It might be a good idea to call ahead if your child has specific dietary needs, as the menu does not specify gluten- or dairy-free options. They also have a special kids menu set ($9.90) that includes a main, drink and dessert!

NOM

400 Paya Lebar Way

Macpherson Community Club Level 1

Singapore 379131

Tel: 6747 3839

  • The Living Room Cafe

The Living Room Cafe is an initiative by Zion Bishan Bible-Presbytarian Church, situated in a ground-floor unit in the church building. The cafe aims to create a welcoming atmosphere, accompanied by wholesome food and warm ambience.

The mellow, soothing colours of the cafe complement the gentle background music, creating an oasis of calm. The use of natural lighting reduces harsh sensory input, creating a beautiful setting. The small, homely nature of the cafe means that service is friendly and personal, and special requests are gladly accommodated.

While there is no children’s area, the cafe features a book area where reading material is free for customers to browse. Service was efficient, minimising waiting time. There is also a patio right outside the cafe, where children may wish to play.

The Living Room Cafe

4 Bishan Street 13

Singapore 579792

Tel:  6715 7899

A Quick Summary – 3 Sensory Friendly Cafes

Criteria OSD NOM TLC
Noise level (low, soothing) 🙂 🙂
Location (accessible, quiet) 🙂 🙂  🙂
Food (kid-friendly, sensory-friendly) 🙂 🙂
Service (friendly, accommodating) 🙂 🙂  🙂
Entertainment (availability of toys, etc.)  🙂  🙂
Ambience (comfortable lighting, soothing colours)  🙂  🙂

Enjoy Your Day Out!

After our quest for sensory friendly cafes, we’ve found that eating out with your child can be an enjoyable experience! For parents looking to take their kids out, here are some quick tips:

  • Go at off peak hours! Having an early dinner, or a late lunch, can make all the difference. With lower people traffic, staff have more capacity to accommodate special requests.
  • Call ahead! Many restaurants are happy to accommodate requests if they have enough time to prepare.
  • Prepare your child! Some restaurants may have menus and pictures online. These are great visual resources to explain what will happen, and ensure that your child feels comfortable when going out.
  • Come equipped – if the restaurant lacks ready entertainment, bringing along some toys and fidgets might help. Check out these sensory bracelets, or these pencils with fidget toppers. If the noise level is too high, noise-cancelling earphones might do the trick – try these earphones by Califone. Or if your child has trouble sitting still, these vibrating cushions by Senseez are one option, and they even have some with extra textures and touchables!  

The writers are unaffiliated to any of the abovementioned outlets. All reviews are based on personal opinion, and reflect personal experience.