About 7 years ago, when my eldest son was in Primary 1, we were so ignorant about ADHD, Asperger, speech disorder and Autism Spectrum. We still are, frankly speaking, and new developments keep popping up from various parties that it’s very difficult to keep up with. If it were not for the complaints from the teachers and the Headmistress, we would probably have accepted his behaviour and conditions as something that will disappear as he gets older.
My son was different from the other kids in school. People had trouble understanding his speech and he couldn’t sit still in the classroom. His favourite place was the Headmistress office, because it’s the coolest place – literally, it was the only room with aircond that he knew of. He couldn’t stand the heat in the classroom – his fair skin (at that time) would get red and itchy. His skin has always been sensitive since he was born, so the aircond are always switched on at home.
I can’t remember how many times we (me, my wife or my mother-in-law) had to meet the Headmistress because of his peculiar behaviour. Not to mention the many advice that we received from some teachers on our responsibilities to educate him. Although we were hurt, and wondered where we went wrong, we do not blame them. Not many understood the challenges faced by my son. At one time, he even walked out of the school during recess, with his classmate, planning to walk to the classmate’s house. They never reached that place, and fortunately, they found their way back to school hours later.
After a year in that school, a ‘sekolah bestari’, by the way, we had him moved to a humbler school. By the Grace of Allah, it turned out to be the best place for him. We didn’t know that the school had a special class (Pendidikan Khas) for special-need kids. We just had to move him out to somewhere because the Headmistress in the former school kept urging us to get our son properly ‘medicated’. We read about Ritalin being given to ADHD kids, and we knew there were possible side effects. We couldn’t risk it on our son. So, we moved him out of the school so that the school could continue with its excellent track record.
Thanks to that school, its most helpful and understanding teachers, and its gracious Headmistress, my son has ‘outgrown’ his speech challenges. I couldn’t say ‘cured’ because although he had a few sessions with the QEH Hospital’s Speech Pathologist, I believe it was the teachers’ tender loving care and genuine passion that made the difference.
Now, he is fluent in English (his preferred language since he started to speak) and catching up with his Bahasa. While most parents crave for 5 As for their children in UPSR, we are happiest that he loves going to school. He is now sitting in the mainstream class, catching up on the syllabus and learning to understand the ‘normal’ kids and their ‘different’ socializing mannerisms. He loves to sketch and he is learning to put up a pleasant face to strangers. We are slowly introducing him to ways of making other people comfortable with him. To most adults, he may appear a bit rude as he speaks his mind too often and has yet to learn to control his facial expressions, but to us he is perfect as he is.
He will forever be labelled ‘OKU’ ( we learnt of this from the Welfare Department) and we are ok with that. We are most grateful to the teachers of Special Education (Sektor Pendidikan Khas) for their tireless efforts and we hope that more assistance and training will be given to them so that more children could be helped to overcome their challenges earlier. Lots of things can be done, there is no end to the possibilities as long as there are concerted efforts being mobilized.
- More Than Teachers and Educators