Testimonial from You Juin’s mother, Wei In
You Juin was born prematurely at 34 weeks. During his first 18 months of periodic review with his paediatrician, it was observed that his development was slower than other babies at each milestone such as walking, drinking from a cup etc. He was also very scared of loud noises and would squint to look at things in a line such as toy cars. The most worrying issue for us was that he wasn’t meeting his speech milestones at the same rate as his peers.
We brought him for an early childhood assessment at a government hospital around 3 years old and the initial assessment was that developmentally, he was “delayed” and he needed to start on an early intervention programme. During that time, there weren’t many private centres that provided such programmes. We got connected with a Special Needs pre-school near our place where You Juin spent some hours in the centre on weekday afternoons. As I was aiming for You Juin to later receive his education in the mainstream school, I enrolled him in a normal childcare centre on weekdays morning with an established syllabus (Montessori). The small student-to-teacher ratio was a plus point for me. We also looked extensively for a speech therapist and finally found Prudence at a private therapy centre.
Prudence diagnosed him with severe speech and language delay and put him on a program that worked on correcting his articulation errors. It was a struggle as You Juin was often not very cooperative and protested to avoid the activities. His motor skills were also observed to be lacking and we had to separately put him on an Occupation Therapy program. In the initial years, a lot of work was required to get You Juin’s basics right. He had low confidence in himself, making him shy away from others due to his speech deficiency in communicating. Thus, he hardly had any friends back then in his preschool days.
You Juin slowly gained confidence as he reached his primary school years. I remember that we had to go through an assessment at the government hospital to determine if he was suitable for mainstream education. We were overjoyed when he was assessed to be eligible for primary one. Throughout his primary school years, You Juin continued to struggle academically with both languages. We were comforted, however, that he was able to cope well with his Math and Science, as we had understood that most language-impaired students usually struggle with all academic subjects. We attribute it to the therapies and the extra lessons we were providing for You Juin.
Being in a Singapore school would mean many decisions along the way – such as, whether he should be giving up the Chinese language when it comes to the crunch of national exams. We made the difficult decision of dropping Chinese as a second language. We were heartened that he achieved a very decent score at PSLE that allowed him to enter into the Express stream.
In secondary school, we got over the initial frustration of having tutors quit on us. We found suitable tutors after this initial hurdle. You Juin was also lucky to have very supportive teachers who were ready to render the help that he needed at school. From 14 years of age, he showed independence in planning his homework and revision schedule. He was also able to excel in his math and science subjects with A grades. At the upper secondary level, his school teachers closely monitored his progress and put him in additional classes to coach him on his weak subjects as he reaches the ‘O’ level. At this point, You Juin mainly relied on home tuition for English. Besides his academics, he also joined Scouts where he was appointed as an Assistant Petrol leader when he was a senior student. He was showing independence, going to camps on his own, and was able to mingle well with his peers.
Post-secondary, he went on to pursue a 3-year Diploma in Information Security where he was admitted via the Early Admission Program. In his first two years, he excelled in his studies without the need for further intervention. He showed lots of self-motivation – such as setting up time with his lecturers to clarify his work. Amidst his free time, he also took up skating and attended regular activities with his school mates. During school break, he also took the initiative to learn more courses related to his studies in preparation for upcoming semesters, adding certifications to his credentials. With his good grades and the right attitude, he was offered a one-year internship at an organization that delivers digital services.
He is showing great resilience. We have observed that at work when there are issues, he shows persistence in solving a problem at work and found satisfaction in having done that. He was also sought by other interns to give advices to resolve their issues encountered. At home, he has become our chief of IT support!
Recently he was accepted into a local university to pursue a degree in Information Technology where he will start in 2 years’ time after serving his National Service.
Looking back, I am glad as parents we have done all we could for You Juin. From a severely language-impaired child to an independent young man. This is something we could not imagine when he was first diagnosed, we are incredibly relieved and gratified with his achievement.
How Cheen & Wei In
What an absolute pleasure to be hearing back from You Juin’s parents! I absolutely remember You Juin as an adorable three-year-old who resisted my effort to help him from the beginning. He gradually settled down and we worked on both goals for his speech (to gain clarity) and language (for increasing vocabulary and sentence structures). You Juin made gradual improvement every week – hats off to very involved parents who never missed a session of therapy without a good reason. I saw You Juin at 3 years old and we went through weekly therapy till he was 12 years of age.
By the time You Juin was in primary school, he had developed a nice ability to interact with his peers. He was also a very diligent student and he continued to make sustained gains throughout his primary school.
Our local primary school system can unfortunately be an onerous environment for students with different learning needs. The competitive setting, coupled with the national exam that one must sit at Primary 6 with consequences of different streaming provided added pressure at a systemic level that leaves little breathing space.
I am heartened therefore to hear of You Juin’s secondary teachers who are so supportive of him. We have precious human resources in our little country and we should count on great teachers who are supportive of students with different learning needs.
Wei In’s testimony on her journey should lend useful insight into the possibility of a great outcome no matter how one has started out.
These are some of my takeaways:
Developmental language disorder or specific language disorders is a very treatable condition if the student receives the right level of intervention. The disorder can sometimes slip through the cracks if the child doesn’t have any other obvious accompanying symptoms.
Development language disorder does not resolve on its own, nor can one outgrow this condition. Intervention is needed for the student to cope and thrive in all subjects – such as math and science.
In the midst of providing intervention, You Juin’s parents have played a pivotal role in determining, despite the lack of information and options for therapy, the type and level of support he needed. This helped optimize his outcome.
You Juin’s parents and his secondary school have also done an amazing job to create a conducive environment that is encouraging and has successfully nurtured his resilience.
Since resilience is key to the success of the outcome, we only say that we say that You Juin is en route to greater success in time to come.