Making decisions at different life stages
Life stages are developmental phases which people pass through in the course of their lives, each with its own biological, psychological, and social characteristics, e.g. infancy, childhood, adulthood.
Each life stage brings with it new roles and social settings, and is often accompanied by new demands on both the person with disability and the caregiver. Having adequate knowledge of life stage needs can benefit a person with disabilities and his/her caregiver significantly.
Life Stage Needs and Key Services in the Disability Sector
Infancy/ early childhood
When a child is suspected to have special needs
Every child is different and develops at a different pace. Some require more support than others in various areas of development. While the anxiety can be overwhelming, it is important for parents of children diagnosed with, or suspected of having, special needs to be equipped with the right information and advice to make informed decisions for the child.
When a child is newly diagnosed with special needs
Caregiving is life-changing and is never easy. To be an effective caregiver, it pays to be aware of and understand the various supports available to help you and your child. Working alongside doctors, therapists, social workers and teachers can be beneficial to help the child make successful transitions across life stages.
In Singapore, with the Compulsory Education Act, children with disabilities need to start either mainstream primary school or Special Education (SPED) school at age 7.
Formal schooling – mainstream primary school and SPED school
For most children, with or without special needs, the entry to formal schooling can prove to be a period of much anxiety and nerves.
Learn more about transiting into formal education here:
Preparing for life after school
The transition out of school can be challenging for both caregivers and children with disabilities. SPED schools provide support through a structured Transition Planning process that begins when the child is 13 years old, to help him/ her identify and attain post-school goals.
SPED schools provide vocational preparation to help students with disabilities be employable when they leave the school system. Other students may be better suited for care services like Day Activity Centres and sheltered workshops.
For children with disabilities who lack mental capacity, parents may need to prepare to apply to be their court-appointed deputies as the children approach the legal age of 21. This gives deputies the power to make important decisions on certain matters on behalf of their children, including personal welfare and health, ownership of property, and finance matters. The Assisted Deputyship scheme will help them do this, or they can approach the Office of the Public Guardian directly. More information can be found here.
Graduates of mainstream secondary schools can progress to institutes of higher learning, which have offices dedicated to support students with special needs. Graduates of SPED schools can also consider the School-to-Work Transition Programme and other vocational training initiatives.
National Service (NS)
Under the Enlistment Act, all male Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) are required to serve NS once they turn 18.
However, they could be partially or fully exempted from this requirement if they are deemed unfit for services, based on the results of medical check-ups. This is usually due to the person having permanent physical disabilities or severe mental conditions. Exemption will depend on the results of the medical check-up and the decision of the Armed Forces Council.
More information can be found here.
At the individual level, employment can boost a person’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. It helps to give him the dignity of earning his own keep, and a sense of fulfilment that comes from using his skills and talents meaningfully. But for persons with disabilities, the runway leading up to employment can be a long one, and both they and their caregivers may need to make a conscious decision to pursue employment as a life goal and work towards it.
Adult care services
Adults who lack adequate skills for employment may benefit from sheltered workshops, in which they engage in simple vocational tasks under close supervision. Those with limited care support at home could consider day care or residential care in group homes, adult disability hostels and adult disability homes. Alternatively, they could consider hiring foreign domestic workers to provide care at home.
Long-term care planning
Caregivers are naturally anxious about who will look after their child when they are no longer around. There is no simple solution to this, but starting early to address this issue can give caregivers more runway to make plans and take action.
Developing your child’s abilities and strengths
Parents want to protect their children and keep them safe from harm – and all the more so if the child has a disability. The downside is that parents could overprotect their child or have too low expectations of them, which hampers their development and ability to live independently. Helping your child build self-confidence and develop to his/ her full potential require the setting of healthy expectations and goals, and encouraging the child to learn and explore safely, and do things for him/ herself to the extent possible.
Schools and service providers may run leisure [link to D. Support > Leisure & Recreation] or sports activities that interest your child. Or you can check out the Events link here [link to Events].
Financial security and estate planning
Supporting the child to be employable is one way to help ensure that he/ she has an income stream. You may also want to do financial planning. Writing a will is an integral part of estate planning. It can help caregivers distribute their assets according to their wishes, and help ensure their children continue to be cared for after their passing. Without a will, the State will distribute one’s property to various relatives according to the Intestate Succession Act.
Trust funds can also provide a steady income stream for persons with disabilities when their caregiver passes on. With a minimum sum of $5,000, caregivers can set up a trust fund through the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC), the only non-profit company with trust services for persons with disabilities. More information can be found here.
Qualifying for eldercare
As persons with disabilities reach their senior years, they may qualify for assistance from various eldercare schemes and services. The Singapore Silver Pages integrates social care, healthcare, mental health and caregiving resources under one roof for seniors, caregivers and care decision makers.
At the same time, some disability support programmes, e.g. sheltered workshops, may have an upper age limit. Staff will help the person with disabilities to transition to an appropriate service in the eldercare sector where possible.