An Overview of a Community-Based Treatment in Singapore for Children and Adolescents with Social Interaction and Communication Difficulties.
REACH (Response, Early intervention and Assessment in Community mental Health) is a community-based service in Singapore that provides mental health assessments and intervention of school-going children and adolescents (7-18 years old).
In Singapore, there is an estimated prevalence of 50, 000 individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), of which, 11, 500 are under the age of 19 years. With awareness, there has been a parallel increase in the number of individuals diagnosed with ASD, or identified to have social challenges since 2000 (Autism Resource Centre, 2017). These children can opt for education in a mainstream school where emphasis is placed more on academic learning. However, the children often require more intensive practice in social interaction and communication.
This poster aims to introduce REACH’s intervention program for children and adolescents with ASD or social challenges, and explores its improvement outcomes based on pre and post parents’ ratings.
REACH’s social skills lesson plans adopts Michelle Garcia’s Social Thinking’s strength-based treatment approach, focusing on building upon the key concepts of Central Coherence Theory (Happe and Frith, 2006), Theory of Mind (Flavell, 2004), and Executive Functioning (Hill, 2004).
Referrals to REACH are directed from health care professionals or school counsellors. Students underwent a compulsory screening session prior to commencement of social skills sessions. Parents completed a questionnaire during the screening process to identify key areas of social needs, namely, Self-Awareness and Self-Esteem, Non-Verbal Communication, Conversational Skills, Friendship Skills, and Assertiveness. For each skill, the students were rated on a scale of 1 to 3, where 1 was ‘No Concern’, 2 was ‘Emerging Skill’, and 3 was ‘Needs Work’.
Based on the screening, students proceeded with either individual or group social skills sessions. Individual sessions were conducted in the respective schools of the participants, and an average of 8 hourly sessions was required to complete the individual sessions. Group sessions were scheduled at 1.5 hour for primary school-aged children, and 2 hours for secondary school students, for 5 weekly sessions. Upon completion of the therapy sessions, parents rated the students again to explore improvement outcome.
Since 2016, 3 primary school students and 11 secondary school students completed individual social skills session. 18 primary school students and 20 secondary students completed group social skills sessions. Preliminary findings showed overall improvements in the areas of Self-Awareness and Self-Esteem, Non-Verbal Communication, and Conversational Skills. (Actual results and analysis will be presented in the poster)
REACH is the first community-based mental health team in Singapore that offers a tailored social skills therapy program for students with social challenges. Exploration of parents’ ratings showed overall improvement in key areas of social skills. Future research could include teachers’ ratings and students’ self-ratings for more holistic evaluation of the program.