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An after-school care programme tailored to students with autism is thriving just two months after opening.



Candy Lee and Alex Lim have turned what was an initial shock to the family dynamic with the autism diagnosis of their son Yohanes into action by providing a haven for other families with children facing similar challenges.



They launched Starlight, a centre offering an after-school care programme for students with autism enrolled in mainstream primary schools or at Pathlight. And they have been overwhelmed by how popular it has become since opening in November 2023.



For Candy and Alex, Starlight is a catalyst and culmination of all the experiences, challenges, and obstacles they faced and overcame in fighting to ensure Yohanes got the support and care he needed on his academic journey.



The centre is a collaboration between Candy, Alex and Johnny Fok, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and clinical director of Intervention Services for Autism and Developmental Delay. When Yohanes went through a golden period of preschool support, Candy found a trusted therapist in Mr Fok and a special preschool that genuinely understood her son's needs.



"Our family was thrust into a whirlwind of therapies, educational programs, and life decisions," reflected Candy. "After we learned about Yohanes' needs at age three, we started a quest to find trustworthy therapists.



While there are special needs after-school care centres in Singapore, they don't equip students with the academic skills necessary to prepare for PSLE eventually. Mainstream "after-school care" centres, on the other hand, lack the expertise and low student-to-staff ratio crucial for supporting autistic children.



Starlight bridges this chasm offering specialized, curriculum-aligned care for students with autism, ensuring they thrive both academically and socially. Mr Fok has 19 years of clinical experience in supporting learners to overcome the challenges they face in their academic journey. He uses evidence-based behavioural analytic practices in his work and values a warm, fun, and trusting therapeutic relationship with his clients.



Candy added: "We understand the delicate balance parents face in juggling academic demands and fostering their children's social and communication skills. In Starlight, we stand with parents of autistic children in their role of nurturing their children's educational and social development."



Starlightï-care programme is a holistic approach that empowers children with special needs to flourish in various aspects of their development, including social-emotional skills crucial for children with autism with mainstream academic support. It equips learners with techniques to understand social rules and establish safety and personal boundaries.



It also offers:



- friendship skills to enhance learners' capabilities to form age-appropriate friendships, maintain conversations, and understand social cues.

- academic skills development and learning support facilitate practical homework completion, test preparation, and essential academic strategies,

- emotion recognition and self-management skills to foster learners' abilities to recognize and manage their emotions healthily.



Candy commented: "Over the years, we've grown to trust Johnny, and I have seen how immensely he has helped Yohanes. When Yohanes was admitted to Pathlight, we asked ourselves what more we could do for Yohanes and children like him.



"Alex and I have run Crystal Learning, a small-group language school for adults, since 2012, and it's really meaningful that we can now combine our experience of running a school and Johnny's therapeutic expertise to make life for children with autism and their parents a little easier."


 
 
 

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