The rows of children sway rhythmically to the music as they belt out the theme song of a popular local drama series from the 80s.

Choir mistress Tan Pei Cheng calls out encouragingly: “Louder … yes, louder.”

This is a typical Saturday morning at the Caregivers Pod at Enabling Village where the Very Special Choir (VSC) conducts choir sessions, drum lessons and dance activities for their members. Formed in 2017, VSC is a caregiver-led initiative for children with special needs like Down syndrome, autism, global development delay and ADHD.

Anita Low, who is in charge of the parent-led initiative, explained the choice of activities offered: “We want to let the children explore new experiences and explore their different talents.

“Drumming is good for their cognition, coordination as well as rhythm and expression.  We were fortunate to find an instructor who was so passionate about teaching the children. The children love to perform.”

A perfect place for talents to blossom

Caregivers Pod was chosen to host VSC practices because it is an ideal size for their activities, which require physical interactions.

The Caregivers Pod is a dedicated multi-functional space for caregivers to come together for networking and meetings, peer support sessions, caregiver training and activities.

For Anita, it is also a perfect spot for drumming sessions as it is away from the flats.

Added Pei Cheng, whose 15-year-old Yong Yipin is also part of VSC: “The Caregivers Pod allows the children to have a regular venue to practise in person every Saturday.

“Yipin’s progress is much better compared to Zoom or the other online activities he joined. As he has autism, being able to interact in person or engage with others in a face-to-face manner definitely helps him in his social and interpersonal skills.

Musical engagement that helps

VSC was a godsend to Pei Cheng. Her son Yipin, who is on Pathlight School’s Vocational Track, was diagnosed with autism as a child.

“I went through different phases of his challenging behaviours like meltdown, anger management and aggression. These gave me a lot of emotional and mental stress,” said Pei Cheng.

When Yipin does not get to do the activities that he enjoys, he will demand her attention. One-on-one enrichment classes are usually very expensive because of his special needs.

When VSC came along, it provided Yipin a meaningful avenue for his interests.

“Yipin loves to sing – joining the choir gives him a chance to perform and be engaged meaningfully every week.

“He also started learning a new skill in VSC – drumming – which he really enjoys.”

VSC members, which include children with disabilities, performed on stage

The Very Special Choir gives children with disabilities an opportunity to showcase musical talents perform.

Anita’s 17-year-old daughter Anna Ow who is part of the choir, also enjoys practising and performing with the group.

“When I see them growing up, performing on stage and enjoying themselves together with their caregivers while receiving the applause of the audience, I feel so proud of them.” said Anita.

A care community

VSC has helped in building communities for those with special needs and their caregivers. Because of VSC, Yipin has a community of friends and caregivers to help watch over him.

For Pei Cheng, VSC has been a source of respite. “VSC has provided me with a community of support. Other caregivers are empathetic towards my situation and often give advice on how to handle the challenging phases of my son growing up.”

Anita agreed: “VSC is great for sharing and networking for children and caregivers. We learn and support one another.”

Are you part of a caregiver-led support group and looking for a space/venue to hold your group’s activities or meetings? Find out more about Enabling Village and the Caregivers Pod today.