Apr 02, 2020 12:00

Towards a life of dignity for people with autism

The St. Andrew’s Adult Home in Sengkang is Singapore’s first residential facility designed to help people with autism live safely and with dignity.

Surbana Jurong architects have completed the St. Andrew’s Adult Home (SAAH), Singapore’s first residential facility designed to help people with autism (PWA) live with dignity. We also provided mechanical & electrical engineering services while KTP Consultants, a Surbana Jurong member company, is the civil & structural engineer. SAAH obtained TOP late in 2019.

Designed for 150 residents, SAAH is the first purpose-built facility of its kind, with a therapeutic environment specifically designed to cater to PWAs’ sensory needs. The 10-storey facility also features a day activity centre for PWAs, and houses a team of nurses, nursing aides, and healthcare assistants who care for the residents 24/7. Together with allied health staff such as psychologists, therapists and social workers, and frontline care staff, they help residents live dignified and meaningful lives. Facilities include a gym, seven sky gardens and a jogging track.

The design of SAAH is autism-friendly to ensure residents stay safe. For instance, it incorporates the use of neutral colour tones, extra-laminated glass, window grills and padded walls in calm rooms. The design team had to visit existing facilities for PWAs and work closely with the operators of the facilities to understand the behaviours and psychology of PWAs. The centre was first mooted in 2014 by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), and is a joint initiative between the MSF and St. Andrew’s Autism Centre.

Autism is a lifelong neurological disorder which adversely impacts a person’s ability to interact and communicate. PWAs often show a restricted and stereotypical range of behaviours in reaction to changes in the environment. Before SAAH was built, PWAs used to be housed in homes for other special needs or the Institute of Mental Health. One in 150 children in Singapore has autism, a higher rate than the World Health Organisation’s global figure of one in 160 children, according to Health Exchange Sg.