This social project is a collaboration between prominent bloggers and The Singapore Daily. Through this series, we hope to raise awareness for the public to come forward and support special needs children and their caregivers.
My name is Kwoh. My story is about second chances.
I thought if I worked hard, life would be good for my family.
But such is life, with its ups and downs.
My son, who is now a young adult, seemed normal at birth. However he was diagnosed with mild autism at the age of 4, which is also the age he started talking.
My wife and I took this in our stride, letting him try out a mainstream primary school before he enrolled him in Pathlight school for his secondary school education.
He had a good memory and preferred to read a dictionary, memorising big words as a hobby.
We wanted him to learn more life skills to be independent, because we won’t be around all the time to care for him. He needs to work and take care of himself when we leave this world.
But we can’t always protect him 24-7. Twice he was bullied very badly when he was outside on his own after school (both my wife and I had to work).
Photo (by author): mural at Enabling Village
The first time he suffered a cut near his eye. The second time he was hurt by an aggressive peer, and we decided to make a police report, which cumulated in a court enquiry and counseling meted out for the offender.
We wanted to make a stand that nobody should bully anyone else to the extent that there is permanent damage done.
It’s very stressful for a parent to raise a child to conform to society’s norms when society doesn’t even follow its own standards.
So we also learnt to teach him how to be more alert of his surroundings, go to a place with more people if he feels threatened, and how to look after his own safety.
Photo (by author): Signposts at Enabling Village
We as adults also struggle with externalities which are out of our control.
I lost my job a few years ago. I was retrenched from my division at an electronics company which decided to shift some operations overseas.
No one likes being retrenched suddenly, but it could have been worse if not for the following circumstances.
For one, my son had already grown up and was preparing to enter the workforce after getting a NITEC from ITE, which lifted the burden of education fees off my shoulders.
Secondly, my union had negotiated a decent retrenchment package which tided me through two years of unemployment.
After one year of searching for a job and repeatedly getting rejected due to being older than what the recruiters seemed prefer, I stopped my job search.
But I didn’t give up.
I gave myself a second chance at learning new knowledge by taking up an IT course with government subsidies.
Things are better now.
I have a new job via the union (who facilitated my hiring process) at a company which doesn’t mind my age.
And my son got a job via E2C (Employability and Employment Centre which helps equip adults with autism to have employability skills and place them in suitable jobs with support).
Photo (by author): an F&B restaurant in Enabling Village which hires people with special needs under supervision and training
He doesn’t have the attention span to work a full time job, but he is able to work half days at the Enabling Village and earn his own keep.
He can take the bus home by himself so I don’t have to worry. In fact, he likes to memorise maps and routes so he knows what to do if he is lost.
For parents who are just starting on their journey in parenthood with a child who has autism, here are some tips I learnt the hard way:
1. Be very patient
2. Know the root cause of why your child doesn’t want to do a certain thing and remove that obstacle
3. State the rewards in advance to help him/her follow your instructions
4. You must deliver what you promised
5. Let your child be more exposed to other people so he knows how to respond to them
6. Teach him how to be independent as much possible (I taught his son how to use a map and travel by himself)
No matter what the circumstances are, it is important everyone has a chance to earn a living based on his or her strengths, so they do not have to depend on welfare for the rest of their lives.
Photo (by author): Art Faculty which sells artworks by creators with special talents
The typical 9-5 job and scope may not suit everyone, why not tweak our working culture a little to be more flexible, and accepting of strengths rather than focus on weaknesses?