Dr Judith Gould
“I am a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Director of the National Autistic Society’s Lorna Wing Centre for Autism which was the first Centre in the UK to provide a complete diagnostic and assessment service for children, adolescents and adults with social and communication disorders.
I first met Catherine in 1996 when she was seconded from Singapore to work with the National Autistic Society in the UK. At that time her role as Development Officer was to help set up the Reach-Me Project; a charity established to support children with ASD in Singapore (now the Autism Resource Centre, Singapore). She spent one year in the UK learning how the NAS supported people with autism throughout their lives. Catherine returned to Singapore and was Project Manager for the Reach-Me Project. During that time I was invited to carry out Diagnostic Training for a multi-disciplinary team of professionals in Singapore. Catherine was a key person in our team. She was our representative in Singapore and helped develop quality standards for accreditation of the training. Those standards are still in use in our training in the UK.
During my time as the lead NAS Consultant in Singapore, I also had the pleasure of meeting Mary Yong, who was then Manager of the Speech Therapy Department at Singapore General Hospital and Professional Consultant to the Reach-Me Project. From the time I first met Mary I was particularly impressed by her knowledge and the wisdom she brought to each and every case in deciding the special needs for the families of the children with an autism spectrum disorder. Moreover Mary did provide the insight and experience of the local culture as she had lived and worked for many years in Singapore.
I have kept in contact with Catherine and Mary since they set up Bridges in 2000 offering specific support for children with autism spectrum disorders and their families regarding the development of the social aspects of communication. They are both totally committed professionals in their area of expertise. The programme they have carried out have been innovative, well thought through and has had excellent and extremely positive outcomes. In my visits I have met up with their parent groups where children have benefited from their intervention. They are all so positive about the supportive style and involvement of both Catherine and Mary.”
“I have known Catherine and her work for many years in Singapore and the UK. Catherine is an exceptional practitioner who really gets the need to understand the world from the viewpoint of the child. This underpins her approach and is one of the reasons she is so successful.”
“Development of autism services in Singapore were facilitated by the Prime Minister’s wife Ho Ching. Madame Ho Ching enabled Catherine Pownall to spend time in the UK at the NAS gathering information for the development of model services in Singapore and the services in place today were largely driven by Catherine and the ARC committee.
Subsequently Catherine, as a speech and language therapist, together with Mary Yong, recognised the need for a more specialist service to be developed outside of the ARC services, for individuals and families. Bridges, the service developed by Catherine and Mary gained a wide reputation, both in Singapore and beyond, for working for, and achieving, positive outcomes for children and adolescents with autism. The approach they developed, building on children’s confidence and self-esteem has enabled the young people who have passed through their service to achieve a quality of life not envisaged at the time of their diagnosis. The groups have provided mutual support and the recognition of others needs and the confidence to take a large part in mainstream life. It is exciting to think that this service will be available to so many more.”
Ms Helen Chandler-Yeo
“I’m proud to have known Catherine and Mary as SLT colleagues over the last 25 years, in their separate working roles and on to the setting up of Bridges in Communication together. We started working together on the inaugural committee of the Singapore Speech, Language and Hearing Association. Each of their careers here has been marked by integrity, innovation and inspiration.
Mary is known for her clear-thinking when clarifying and communicating key issues, whether to top management, colleagues, teachers, parents or SLT students. Her initiative established a strong SLT department from scratch in one of the largest acute care hospitals in Singapore, with a reputation for high standards that continues today.
Catherine’s enthusiasm for her work and her clients engages immediately. After working in private practice and honing her clinical skills with children on the autism spectrum, her focus and specialist experience was critical in setting up the widely applauded Autism Resource Centre, the first resource and training centre for children, their caregivers and professionals in Singapore and the region.
As a paediatric SLT, I have worked with both Mary and Catherine in managing many clients over the years, via cross-referrals and stimulating case discussions. In referring clients to Bridges in Communication, I was consistently confident of Catherine’s and Mary’s integrity in designing focussed and accessible group-learning sessions. Their motivation has always been to provide the most effective services for a child, never compromising for convenience or profit.
More recently Mary and Catherine have been popular guest lecturers on the graduate-entry MSc (Speech and Language Pathology) at the National University of Singapore. They have inspired 3 cohorts of students with their lively presentations of the reasons behind the challenges of social thinking and social communication in children and young people with ASD, as well as sharing their experience of strategies that work in everyday situations in the real world outside of the clinic.
Singapore has lost a fine SLT team and a gold-standard programme for children with social communication challenges; I am therefore delighted that Mary and Catherine will be able to share their specialist experience and learning resources with an even wider community via the platform of the internet.”
Mrs Leong Geok Hoon
“Almost 15 years ago two speech therapists rallied their colleagues in professional circles and parents of the children they were serving together and started the movement to change the landscape in Singapore to one that is more autism-friendly. By God’s grace, that initiative took root and eventually evolved from “Reach-Me Project” into a charity and eventually a school for students with autism.
Thank you Catherine for initiating a link with the National Autistic Society UK and kick starting the changes in Singapore.
It only takes a spark to get the fire going. Thank you Catherine and Mary for being the spark which, with the support of many who believe in the cause, has indeed provided the fire that warms many hearts of people affected by autism. All the best!”
The Official Opening of the Reach-Me Project Centre, May 1998.