Sixteen pre-schools in Punggol and Sengkang, run by PAP Community Foundation (PCF), will be involved in a pilot programme to screen children for developmental issues from as young as two months old.
The programme, called Mission I’mPossible 2, will be trialled over four years.
It builds on an earlier pilot that screens children aged five to six. That pilot, now known as the Development Support and Learning Support Programme (DS-LS), has since been adopted by the Government and is available at more than 600 pre-schools, covering about 40 per cent of students aged five to six.
There are plans for DS-LS to be expanded to cover 60 per cent of pre-schoolers by 2025, and for this to be increased to 80 per cent at “steady-state”, according to a press release.
The new pilot seeks to provide support for children with developmental needs at an earlier stage.
A school-based Child Development Unit will be established at PCF, comprising an interdisciplinary team of therapists, nurses, early interventionists, social workers, nutritionists and curriculum specialists who will rove around the pre-schools.
A support network run by the pre-school’s social workers will also be set up, and new processes for the systematic screening of growth and development in children will be introduced.
PCF, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) and the Lien Foundation are jointly organising the pilot, with the Lien Foundation sponsoring S$9.27 million of the S$12.1 million costs. The balance will be funded by PCF and KKH.
The programme seeks to demonstrate “how education, healthcare and social services can be integrated and delivered within the community”, said PCF, KKH and Lien Foundation in their press release.
For children with developmental needs, support can be provided as part of the programme or they can be referred to an existing government-funded programme.
“By going upstream, MIP2 aims to reduce costs,” said programme director of Lien Foundation Ng Tze Yong.
“Not just financial costs through lowering downstream demand for early intervention and disability services but more importantly, the emotional costs to families and societal costs of lost human potential incurred when intervention comes too late for children to catch up.”
Studies have shown that a high-quality pre-school programme and attention to a child’s development in early childhood are linked with “better metabolic and mental health, as well as academic and socioeconomic outcomes later in life”, said the programme director of MIP2, Associate Professor Chan Yoke Hwee.
“Early childhood is a period of vulnerability and also opportunity … It is therefore imperative that children with developmental needs are identified early and be provided early intervention and support,” said Assoc Prof Chan, who chairs the Division of Medicine at KKH.
“To enable this, KKH will leverage our expertise to support the delivery of integrated education, health and social services through the preschools under Mission I’mPossible 2.”
An evaluation study will be conducted at the end of the four-year pilot.