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Life Stages & Transitions

Key points

  • From infancy to adulthood, each life stage has its own challenges. Learn how to face those challenges and prepare your child to be independent with available resources and support at every life stage.
  • As you look to support your child, do consider the support you need to care for yourself as well.


Making decisions at different life stages

Life stages are developmental phases that occur at different times of their lives, each with its own biological, psychological, and social characteristics, such as infancy, childhood, adulthood.

Each life stage brings with it new needs, challenges, roles and social settings, and is often accompanied by new demands on both the person with disability and the caregiver. Having adequate knowledge of the demands of each life stage can benefit persons with disabilities and their caregivers significantly.

 

Life stage needs and key services in the disability sector

Persons with disabilities may have different needs according to the roles, settings and circumstances that change over the course of their lives, from infancy (ages 0-6) to childhood / teenage years (ages 7-18) to adulthood (above 18 years). The diagram above summarises the various support services available at key life stages.  These include education planning, employment support and care options across all life stages.   Early intervention and child care begins after diagnosis. During early intervention, caregivers can start planning for the child's educational pathway. Majority of children will transit to Primary schools at 7 years old. They will begin their education in mainstream or Special Education (SPED) schools. Their education may continue until they reach the age of 16 and beyond depending on the education pathways they are on. As children grow into teenagers and young adults, they can enrol for work skills training and transition to work programmes to prepare themselves for employment.  Long term care planning and application of deputyship for financial and housing security and alternative care arrangements can begin at teen-hood before students with special needs leave school.  These arrangements will continue into their adulthood until there is a change in the primary caregiver.  Residential care will also be provided for those who need it from childhood until the age of 18. After the age of 18, persons with disabilities will transit into adulthood where adult services are made available to them. For those who are able, they can choose to further their education or find employment through Job Placement Job Support employment services available. Residential care for children will be replaced at this stage by residential care for adults. As persons with disabilities reach 60 years old, they will need to consider eldercare services. Persons with disabilities may have different needs according to the roles, settings and circumstances that change over the course of their lives, from infancy (ages 0-6) to childhood / teenage years (ages 7-18) to adulthood (above 18 years). The diagram above summarises the various support services available at key life stages.  These include education planning, employment support and care options across all life stages.   Early intervention and child care begins after diagnosis. During early intervention, caregivers can start planning for the child's educational pathway. Majority of children will transit to Primary schools at 7 years old. They will begin their education in mainstream or Special Education (SPED) schools. Their education may continue until they reach the age of 16 and beyond depending on the education pathways they are on. As children grow into teenagers and young adults, they can enrol for work skills training and transition to work programmes to prepare themselves for employment.  Long term care planning and application of deputyship for financial and housing security and alternative care arrangements can begin at teen-hood before students with special needs leave school.  These arrangements will continue into their adulthood until there is a change in the primary caregiver.  Residential care will also be provided for those who need it from childhood until the age of 18. After the age of 18, persons with disabilities will transit into adulthood where adult services are made available to them. For those who are able, they can choose to further their education or find employment through Job Placement Job Support employment services available. Residential care for children will be replaced at this stage by residential care for adults. As persons with disabilities reach 60 years old, they will need to consider eldercare services.

Infants and young children

Actions to take

  • Start intervention early. Speak to your doctor if you have concerns about your child’s developmental progress.
  • Explore early intervention services here.


When a child may have special needs

Every child 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 to make informed decisions for the child.



When a child is newly diagnosed with special needs

Caregiving is life-changing and never easy. To be an effective caregiver, it pays to be aware of and understand the various supports available to 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.

 

Children and teens

Actions to take

  • Explore and consider different factors before choosing either a mainstream primary school or Special Education (SPED) school for your child.
  • Start planning and preparing your child for post-school transition from 13 years old.


In Singapore, with the Compulsory Education Act, children have to start attending school from the age of seven. This applies to children with special needs as well. They have a choice of attending either mainstream primary school or Special Education (SPED).


Formal schooling – mainstream primary school and SPED school

For most children, the entry to formal schooling can prove to be a period of much anxiety.

Learn more about transiting into formal education here:


Post-school transition planning

The transition out of school can be challenging for both caregivers and children with special needs. SPED schools provide support through a structured transition planning process that begins at the age of 13, to help children 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 or Sheltered Workshops.


Developing your child’s abilities and strengths

It is the parents innate nature to protect their children and keep them safe from harm – and all the more so if they have disabilities. This may lead to parents overprotecting them or having low expectations of them, which limits their development and ability to live independently. Helping your children build self-confidence and develop their full potential require the setting of healthy expectations and goals, and encouraging them to learn and explore safely, and do things for themselves as much as possible.

There may be leisure and sports activities run by schools and service providers that may interest your child. You can check out the Events page on this website.

 

 Adults

Actions to take

  • Explore various post-school options for your child that can best help them to transition to having a fulfilling and meaningful adult life, with employment or adult care services.
  • Apply to be your child’s court-appointed Deputy to assist with their decision-making before they reach the legal age of 21.

Further education

Mainstream secondary school graduates 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 assessed to be unfit for services, have physical disabilities or severe medical 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.


Employment

Employment can boost a person’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. It helps to give them the dignity of earning their own keep, and a sense of fulfilment that comes from using their skills and talents meaningfully. For persons with disabilities, the pathway 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 programmes, which engage them 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, families could consider hiring foreign domestic workers to care for them at home.


Legal guardianship

For children with special needs 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 them 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.


Long term care planning

Actions to take

  • Consider setting up a trust fund or writing a will to ensure your loved one will be cared for in the future.


Caregivers are naturally anxious about who will look after their chilren when they are no longer around. There is no simple solution to this, but starting early to address this issue can give caregivers more time to make plans and take action.


Identity

Caregivers can consider applying for the Developmental Disability Registry (DDR) Identity (ID) card to help members of the public identify and extend appropriate assistance to their child with special needs, giving caregivers a better peace of mind.


Financial security and estate planning

Caring for a loved one with special needs brings various challenges – physical, emotional and financial, both to the children with special needs and the family members. Typically, financial planning may not be essential as parents care for their children until they are old enough to earn a livelihood for themselves.

However, when it comes to children with special needs, provision of care from parents never really stops, even when they become older and are no longer employed. Hence, careful and adequate financial planning is required for families who have children with special needs.

A Trust Fund is one of the many estate planning tools that parents can consider. It ensures that there is a steady income stream for their care recipients when they can no longer be cared for. With a minimum sum of $5,000, a trust fund can be set up 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.

Caregiver may also consider writing a will, which is an integral part of estate planning. It allows caregivers to distribute their assets according to their wishes, and ensure that their children continue to be supported after their passing. Without a will, the State will distribute one’s property to various relatives according to the Intestate Succession Act. For more information and services on wills and estate management, log on to My Legacy portal.


Preparing for your own needs

When measures are in place for your child, do take time to consider your own personal needs and wishes. My Legacy is a one-stop digital portal that directs you to services and guides you on everything related to future care planning – from  palliative care and estate settlement matters to funeral matters. By documenting your wishes and plans, you can receive the care you want and help your loved ones handle difficult decisions when the time comes.


Seniors

Qualifying for eldercare

As persons with disabilities reach their senior years, they may qualify for assistance from various eldercare schemes and services. The Agency for Integrated Care 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.

  • LifeSG App – A one-stop portal for seniors, aged 60 and above, to access personalised government services and information.


Preparing for the end of caregiving

Death can be a difficult subject to broach with anyone, as it is often perceived as a taboo topic. Even though the topic can be uncomfortable, it is important to accept and consider the reality of death, and have a conversation with your loved ones. It is good for them to express, and for caregivers to hear and understand, their fears and concerns regarding death as well as their wishes and plans for what is important to them.

Thinking about the time when you can no longer care for your care recipients can be difficult as a caregiver. The feelings about anticipated grief and loss as well as the uncertainties of what to do next can be overwhelming.   

To overcome this, spend time with family and friends, who are your pillars of support during this difficult time. Meeting other caregivers who have been through the same journey may also provide encouragement and comfort for you. If you find yourself struggling to cope or unable to adjust, do seek help.

When measures are in place for your child, do take time to consider your own personal needs and wishes. More information can be found here.

Resources and Support