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Walking With Wei Ping, A Special Mum

Walking With Wei Ping, A Special Mum

“I was sad for a while, but my personality is that I can ‘detach’ because sadness gets you nowhere; sadness is stagnant. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be sad. But you should also need to prioritise when to move on. When you’re resting, then you can grieve.”

– Wei Ping, mother of Yang, her 18-year-old son with autism



Walking through Wei Ping’s story as she shared over coffee, was like experiencing the dramatic highs and lows of a caregiver’s emotional journey.

When Yang was a baby, she realised he needed more attention to interact with her, and took 3 months of leave to spend time with him. She read about floor therapy and purchased a thin mattress to do 20 minutes of floor time with him a day, adding that eye contact only came at the end of 4 months. He also had seizures at 1 years old and was diagnosed with ASD at a very young age.

“He will sit in the corner for hours. He won’t go out of his comfort zone circumference to get a toy just out of his reach. He’ll flap hands and exhibit classic ASD behaviour.”

Wei Ping went to the internet to search for any information that could help him, including putting him on a GFCF diet to reduce his seizures.

“I went to the world wide web and read until my eyes popped out. I was desperate to know.

I mean, it’s just my personality. I will ask questions, what GFCF is about. Taking milk was a big issue for him so he had diarrhea and constipation all his life since he was born.”

Along the way, she picked up information about vestibular, tactile activities via occupational therapy, read about supplements, and borrowed books from parents who were able to afford and purchase books on autism and diets. She wanted to understand the principles of how to help autistic kids holistically, and how to apply what she learnt to support Yang’s daily routines.

“My son was so rigid that everything little thing will trigger him. When he had afternoon nap, he wouldn’t sleep until 3-4am. However, I was young then and had energy to sleep late. Hence, I would read a lot at night, and do mind mapping (of how to help Yang).”

Another challenge was Yang’s aggressive response to sensory challenges. Wei Ping used to get scratches where her skin was not covered when Yang had a meltdown. When Wei Ping and family moved back to Singapore from the US, the environment was generally noisier. Even the sound of birds chirping or crickets in the park could trigger panic in Yang.

“He’s very sensory. Cannot touch sand, cut fingernails, cut hair, shower. Neighbourhood hair stylists didn’t want to cut his hair. He also had his ears cut before. But now he’s better. He tolerates the process.”

He also didn’t eat very much until he was 12. Mealtime was a fight and he would only eat 2 mouthfuls of her homecooked food in school, refusing to eat anything else.

She enrolled Yang in occupational therapy (OT) but found it was expensive. To save costs, she tried to learn as much and do the OT with her son at home or at the playground such as the sandpit. To further support Yang, Wei Ping also found two therapists who came to her house thrice a week to do ABA, which she found helpful for her son’s development.

Although Yang attended Rainbow Centre and Wei Ping felt the teachers were good, she felt he was not suitable in a big school and decided to enrol him in a smaller private school after a few years. She also tried speech therapy, however she withdrew him as she felt he was not ready yet. Subsequently she restarted speech therapy when he was 13 years old.

“There’s a time for everything. Parents may feel that a particular therapy is no good because you did not meet a suitable therapist. Or maybe at that point of time, your child is not ready. Although Yang was not ready for speech therapy as a child, I could see he wanted to speak when he turned 13. He’s quite attentive now. His diction improved, and he can speak.”


Training Yang in life skills

In the past, Yang used to be so rigid that if he and Wei Ping walked to his grandma’s house and deviated slightly from the usual route (such as walking round the other side of the pillar), he would have a meltdown.

If he was sitting in the car driven by Wei Ping, he would insist that his mum park at the same parking lot every day, and she could not brake suddenly or it would trigger his anxiety. For example, once when Wei Ping had to suddenly break at a red light, Yang panicked and threw a toy at the windscreen (“Luckily it didn’t break!”).

Wei Ping worried that her son would continue to throw tantrums as a teenager, so from 4 years old she started his “training” of basic rules he needed to know, and life skills he needed to possess.

“You cannot control every single thing in your kid’s life. Just choose top 3 priority areas, pick your battles. For everything else, either redirect or look into it at a later date. The areas will change as your child grows.”

“When I was training flexibility in the route from my house to grandma’s house, I tried one new route, and when he’s 70% there (being able to accept the new route), I start on another new route. I also expanded his exposure to different ambient noises such as a baby crying, a bus going past.”

She would use off peak periods such as mid-afternoons to take Yang out just to train him to walk to the nearby shopping mall or go to the airport. She trained him to walk beside her without having to hold his hand, allowing him to go wherever he wanted, as long as he walked beside her.

She taught him how to take the MRT first, then subsequently the bus much later.

“Training tolerance of MRT: take one stop from Simei to Tampines and come back. Then slowly expand to going to Tampines Mall, walking one round and coming back. It could sometimes take years to train a route.”

She also trained him in being patient, such asking him to wait until she finished eating at the coffee shop before buying him a drink. While waiting, he would have a watch and a fidget cube to help him pass the time, and she would then deliver his promised reward.

By building trust with him, and fulfilling what she has promised him, she helped him work on expanding his tolerance and understanding.

Due to Wei Ping’s relentless efforts at exposing Yang to different activities, Yang has tried farm skills at a hydroponics farm, soccer, and also going on stand-up paddling excursions at sea.

At night, she would reflect on her day, recap what happened, and do an after-action review (such as what went well, what didn’t go so well, what she could have improved) on the incidences that happened during the day.

“I would think of what to do differently and develop Plan A and Plan B if the incidence happens again. I visualize what could happen and use trial and error. If both plan A and B don’t work, it’s back to the drawing block. The analysing is very important. Sometimes it’s not that the Plan A didn’t work, but it was the first time you tried it, and it needs more time as you cannot see immediate results.”

From her long journey, she knows how clueless and scared new caregivers are, even when surrounded by more awareness and information on special needs.

“Too much knowledge is overpowering. Parents don’t understand, or they feel overwhelmed, or they are very very busy.”

Because of what she went through, she decided to set up Shoulders, a support group for caregivers to share information relevant to other caregivers, so that they wouldn’t have to struggle to find the right information like how she struggled in the past, trying to read everything she could find and figuring out what works.

About Lim Wei Ping and Shoulders Support Group:

Lim Wei Ping is a special mum to her only son, Yang. She quit her job when he was a child to care for him full-time. In 2010, she set up Shoulders support group to share information and resources useful for special needs caregivers. She also founded YoungstarSG, a community initiative and social enterprise, to provide home-based work for teens and adults with autism, in 2018.

To be updated on CaringSG’s latest events and join your preferred caregiver support groups in our CaringSG Alliance Network (CAN), sign up as a CaringSG member and let us know your preference!

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How Do Special Needs Caregivers Survive and Thrive?

How Do Special Needs Caregivers Survive and Thrive?

Caregiver support groups play a critical role for special needs caregivers by providing us with the networks and resources we need. Every group was set up by a founder (or group of founders) who put in much time, heart and soul into creating safe spaces for fellow caregivers to converse.

When Siti Zulaiha’s son Nafiz was first diagnosed with autism in 2010, she was working as a nurse in an international school where her colleagues helped her with useful materials on autism. In addition, she also had prior experience as a Head Nurse in a residential home for the special needs. Her skills, experience and networks enabled her to access resources to help Nafiz.

Siti looked around for caregiver support groups, but could not find any specifically for Muslims, and wondered where all the Muslim voices were. After she decided to start a private Singapore Muslim Autism Support Group for Muslim caregivers whose children had autism, more Muslim caregivers got in touch with her via word of mouth to join the group. 

She realised that many Muslim caregivers hid their child’s condition from the public (and even from other family members), with no one to turn to. It was only because she had started a private group, that these caregivers emerged from their place of loneliness. 

With a safe space to share their thoughts and feelings with other caregivers, the Singapore Muslim Autism Support Group has since grown to 300 members. Siti also decided to start a public Facebook group for Muslim caregivers looking after dependents with any type of special needs which now has over a thousand members.

As the groups primarily focus on emotional support and personal sharing, caregivers often reveal not only their concerns, but also feel confident enough to share their successes.

For example, there was a thread where caregivers shared how they used affordable DIY tricks to transform their wall, room or even entire house to accommodate the learning needs of their special needs dependent, resembling a colourful therapy centre or indoor playground.

In the caregiver support groups, caregivers exchanged tips on many topics, such as what courses to take and how to handle issues like toilet training.


Siti also shared an amazing  testimonial of a mum who could not speak English as she only had a Primary Five education. Through diligently learning English together with her special needs son as he progressed through his education, this mum even decided to set up her own salon!

With Siti’s support groups as two of various special needs support groups in Singapore, caregivers have more avenues to seek emotional support and learn from one another to thrive.

About Siti Zulaiha, Singapore Muslim Special Needs Support Group, and Singapore Muslim Autism Support Group:

Siti Zulaiha is a special mum to four boys. Her third boy, Nafiz, was diagnosed with autism in 2010. Besides setting up the two caregiver support groups mentioned in this article, she actively writes to MPs to lobby for caregivers and their dependents to have better access to services, such as reducing the waiting list for EIPIC, and helping special needs children transition better after pre-school.

She currently runs two support groups:

    • Singapore Muslim Special Needs Support Group: a Facebook group for Muslims with special needs dependents
    • Singapore Muslim Autism Support Group: a private Facebook group for Muslims with autistic dependents


To be updated on CaringSG’s latest events and join your preferred caregiver support groups in our CaringSG Alliance Network (CAN), sign up as a CaringSG member and let us know your preference!

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How Can I Create My Own Caregiver Support Group?

How Can I Create My Own Caregiver Support Group?

Vivi Xie

As we caregivers journey along with our special needs dependents, some of us may wish to start our own caregiver support group catering to our specific needs. However, some of us may not have much experience starting or running a support group. To empower caregivers who wish to start your own group, CaringSG interviewed Vivi Xie, a mother to a son diagnosed with autism.

Vivi did not know much about autism until her son was diagnosed when he was in preschool. She remembered he could call her ‘Mama’ when he was one year old, but stopped speaking after that. At two and a half years old, he still couldn’t speak, and would engage in repetitive actions. After speaking to her husband, they took their son for an assessment which confirmed he had autism.

He managed to get into an EIPIC Centre a few months later and received the intervention he needed. However, Vivi still felt lost as she was unable to find the information she was looking for in the vast sea of the internet. With a few friends who were special needs caregivers, she started the ASD, ADHD and ADD Supports Group Singapore on Facebook in 2017. It has grown to over 600 members today.

These are some tips we learnt from her about starting your own caregiver support group.

1. Find like-minded people to start the group with

Vivi started her group with friends who were special needs caregivers after learning they had similar issues with not knowing where to find the right information suitable for their own situation. They decided to pool their knowledge and resources in their ASD, ADHD and ADD Supports Group Singapore, and take turns moderating the group.

A reminder posted by Vivi in her group
A reminder posted by Vivi in her group

2. Invite fellow caregivers to join

When Vivi started her group, she also took a step out to share about her group with her friends, or when the opportunity arose. As word of mouth spread that her group existed, more members joined when they heard from their networks that there was a group for caregivers to learn more about ASD, ADHD and ADD.

Vivi shared that she realised there were many ‘invisible caregivers’, caregivers who journeyed alone without any support group or sharing about their dependent’s condition with anyone other than their family. She was glad that some of these caregivers heard about her group and joined to find the support they needed.

3. Set ground rules and moderate consistently

In ASD, ADHD and ADD Supports Group Singapore, topics must be related to the three special needs conditions. Vivi encourages open sharing in a pinned post that says “I would like to encourage all members here to share some of their good ideas or problems here in the way to support our beloved ASD, ADHD or ADD family member or self, so other will also have something to learn or might share their own experiences which might help yourself too.”

Her group accepts marketing posts by businesses who cater to the three special needs conditions as she thinks that caregivers should have more information and choices to mull over, instead of not knowing what help is out there. She also encourages members to be independent by doing their own checks and ‘homework’ on the marketing posts.

4. Focus on what benefits your members

When Vivi started the support group with her friends, she just wanted to have a space for fellow caregivers to learn from and encourage each other. She shares stories, visuals, poems, webinars, resources and more to benefit members, and gently welcomes members to open up about their experiences too.

An example of a visual that was shared with members
An example of a visual that was shared with members

From a group initially comprising of special needs caregivers with school-going children, ASD, ADHD and ADD Supports Group Singapore now has members interested in topics ranging for special needs at all ages. She elaborated there was even a lawyer diagnosed with ADHD to joined to give back to the community and share his own experience managing ADHD.

5. Anyone can start a support group

You don’t need to be very outspoken or famous to start a support group. Just be yourself, find a few like-minded people, and create the solutions you wish you had as a special needs caregiver.

A quote that Vivi shared in her group
A quote that Vivi shared in her group

About ASD, ADHD and ADD Supports Group Singapore

ASD, ADHD and ADD Supports Group Singapore was set up in 2017 by Vivi Xie and several other special needs caregivers. It welcomes caregivers and people diagnosed with ASD, ADHD and ADD, of all ages. Members can learn from the experiences of fellow members, and exchange information about online resources, networks, services, talks, and more. Professionals who wish to share services relevant to these conditions are welcome to share in the group as well.

To be updated on CaringSG’s latest events and join your preferred caregiver support groups in our CaringSG Alliance Network (CAN), sign up as a CaringSG member and let us know your preference!

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Advice Special Needs Caregivers Need to Hear

Advice Special Needs Caregivers Need to Hear


It can be too easy for caregivers to lose themselves in the daily tasks of caregiving. This may cause us to experience issues such as burn out, poor health and relationships with our family members.

Instead of waiting till the last minute to deal with these issues, how can we prevent and pre-empt them? How can we prepare ourselves for better quality lives as we go about caregiving for our special needs dependents?

CaringSG caught up with Kenneth Mah, a father who quit his job to care for Chloe, his daughter, in 2010, after she was diagnosed with Pompe disease (an inherited neuromuscular disorder that causes progressive muscle weakness) at seven months old. He is her main caregiver who looks after and coordinates her daily routine, education, hospital visits, and therapies.

Caregiver Kenneth Mah and his daughter Chloe (Photo courtesy of RDSS)

In 2011, Kenneth and his wife, Patricia, founded the Rare Disorders Society (Singapore) or RDSS to create awareness about various life-threatening rare diseases. RDSS has grown from three to 130 families and provides financial, emotional and psychosocial support to these families. To acknowledge his caregiving efforts, he was awarded the Exemplary Caregiver Award 2019 by Club Rainbow.

Kenneth hopes fellow special needs caregivers will hear this advice which have supported his own journey as a caregiver over the years.


1. Work with the strengths of your family members

“Each person has their strengths. We cannot expect wife and husband to be equally involved in the same way.” – Kenneth Mah

Not everyone can do every task equally well. Kenneth advises caregivers, fathers especially, to be honest with themselves regarding the strengths and weaknesses they and family members have.

He openly shared that he is dyslexic. Hence although reading is not his forte, he is better at remembering pictures and doing hands-on tasks. As Patricia is better with words and is doing well in her career, she takes care of the family’s finances and is helping him to oversee the running of RDSS.

This is one reason why he decided that to quit his job to be a stay-at-home dad to Chloe. Besides familiarising himself with first aid and CPR, he is a MacGyver of sorts, improvising for her daily medical routine as she grew older and her needs evolved. He trialled and invented new equipment using everyday items to fulfil her medical needs when there was no reported precedent or example to refer to.

With both parents to look up to, Chloe has bloomed. She has learnt how to communicate using a communication app (Touch Chat) installed in iPad and said her first words ‘Papa’ at eight years old. Her younger brother, Cayden, has also grown to become an empathetic boy who looks out for classmates who need help at school.


2. Remember to self-care

Kenneth makes plans where possible to have some time for self-care. He arranges sessions with friends for golf, badminton and makan sessions, during periods which Chloe is looked after in school or by the helper.

He advises caregivers to:

  • Embrace the changes
  • Prioritise basic self-care – set ‘me time’, ‘family time’ and ‘we time’ with friends.
  • Be kind to yourself and set short term self-care goals
  • Engage in meaningful and healthy activities
  • Have a personal crisis plan – keep a circle of confidantes
  • Positive thinking – there are more solutions than problems


3. Look after other caregivers too

In RDSS, caregivers support each other through the ups and downs. When he was caregiving for Chloe in ICU, several caregivers stopped by the hospital to spend time with him, go for meals, listen to him and provide emotional support.

Kenneth sharing about RDSS at a briefing for Let's Take A Walk event in 2019, which RDSS was an adopted beneficiary of (Photo courtesy of RDSS)

In the same spirit, Kenneth shared that although some children in his RDSS group have passed away, he reassures their caregivers that their families are still part of RDSS. Some of these caregivers have since taken a step forward to volunteer with RDSS to care for other caregivers.

This is the spirit of servant leadership and solidarity that Kenneth hopes will multiply in Singapore, where the needs of the community come first and caregivers take care of one another.


4. Be sensitive to the feelings of other caregivers

In the past, Kenneth had encountered an incidence where a parent pulled his child out of the class that Chloe was in, because he had the mistaken impression that Chloe was dragging down his child in terms of academics due to her condition, although this was not the case.

He is empathetic that caregivers should be considerate of one another and be mindful not to look down on other kids with special needs.

As a caregiver, he also experienced conflicting emotions of relief, self-doubt and guilt of keeping Chloe alive, and the perpetual stress that she could die at any moment. These feelings were exacerbated during one traumatic near-death episode in 2018 when Chloe had a cardiac arrest and he attempted to revive her by performing CPR, while fearing she would have permanent brain damage and needed to be hooked on life support. She recovered with no apparent damage.

Kenneth hopes the public would be mindful of caregivers’ feelings as well, sharing in a TODAY article that he faced negative comments from people and keyboard warriors who said Chloe has ‘no hope’ and criticised him and his wife for trying to keep their child alive.

To help improve understanding and sensitivity towards caregivers of special needs dependents, Kenneth is helping CaringSG with CAREkaki training of grassroot leaders and volunteers to know what to do when they come across a special needs family.

As caregivers could also be siblings, RDSS supported the launch of CaringSG’s first webinar: Special Siblings – Just As Special, where invited speakers discussed the experience of growing up with a sibling with special needs and later being involved in their care, and what parents can do to care for all their children while raising a special needs child.

About Rare Disorders Society (Singapore) or RDSS

RDSS is a charity initiated by parents of children with LSD (Lysosomal Storage Disorder). Established in 2011, it aims to raise awareness on various life-threatening rare diseases. The society offers financial support through various supports such as Medical Intervention Support, Power For Life and Home-based learning and therapy support to over 100 beneficiary families with rare diseases in Singapore.

To be updated on CaringSG’s latest events and join your preferred caregiver support groups in our CaringSG Alliance Network (CAN), sign up as a CaringSG member and let us know your preference!

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We Are Stronger Together

We are Stronger Together

Frankie and Tina family

We are special parents too. Just like some of you, my husband Frankie and I have had our challenges in handling our second son who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Dyslexia when he was 6 years old. He was also subsequently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 10.

We believe that building our marriage on mutual understanding and making effort in communicating honestly has helped us cope as special parents. Despite differences in opinions and parenting styles, we make time to talk through things often. We share our own feelings and struggles regarding the situation, while we work at improving things together. Being united as a couple and helping the family synergize together to meet each other’s needs helps us overcome the challenges and demands of special parenting.

Parents are indeed the best people to help create the environment for our special children to thrive. It’s important also for parents to find ways to connect with other parents who are going through a similar journey. The natural affinity borne through the familiarity of similar family struggles and experiences creates a positive identification that helps you feel less alone in your journey.  

In special families, it often becomes necessary that one parent stays home to help manage the special needs child and the home. Many families have found that the financial sacrifices are small in comparison to having one parent more present to manage the home full time.

In our case, we are glad that we chose for me to be a stay-home mum to all our 3 children even before our second child’s special needs was diagnosed. This helped us attend to the issues and be the main caregivers from day one. Our children have also come to appreciate this and know that we prioritise them above our own careers.

Special parenting is a transformational journey for us as parents. We need to constantly learn, re-learn, strategise and be creative in problem solving. Flexibility and humility are also so important. When you think of it with a growth mindset, you can find the gems in the journey and appreciate the learning that it brings to the whole family.

About Dr Frankie Tan and Tina Tan

Frankie and Tina are parents of 3 boys. Their second son has ADHD, Dyslexia and ASD, and their youngest son is also currently struggling with severe anxiety issues. Tina is a stay-home mum while Frankie holds a Ph.D. in Sport Science & Physiology and works at the Singapore Sport Institute. Both are active volunteers with various community groups like SPARK, Schools, SAFRA, Dads for Life, and in their church. Being active volunteers have truly enriched their lives as they reach out and support other families in similar situations as them.

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Removing the Obstacles To Learning

Removing the Obstacles To Learning

Christina 1

When Christina’s younger daughter, Edena (then 6), was diagnosed with dyslexia in 2009, she was determined to look for an intervention programme that could help her catch up with her reading age within the shortest time possible. She and her husband also decided to defer Edena’s Primary 1, as they saw how low her confidence was. They wanted to do what they could to give her the necessary interventions before the demands of the mainstream curriculum overwhelmed her.

Christina found the solution in the Davis Dyslexia Correction Programme (DDCP), a holistic approach to correcting dyslexia developed by Ronald D. Davis. He is also author of the books, The Gift of Dyslexia and The Gift of Learning. Being autistic and dyslexic himself, Ron figured out how to overcome his severe dyslexia and taught himself to finally read and enjoy a book without struggling at the age of 38. Ron subsequently opened a centre in California in 1982 to help children and adults overcome their learning difficulties.

The DDCP is an individualised, one-to-one correction programme given on an intensive schedule over 30 hours by a Davis Facilitator. It adopts a strength based approach by working with what a dyslexic can do, as opposed to what they cannot. Christina witnessed Edena’s transformation, going from hardly recognizing most words taught to being able to read a short paragraph by the end of the programme. This has not only met but exceeded Christina’s expectations.

For the next one year, Christina continued working with Edena using the Davis tools and techniques. By the time Edena returned to school a year later, she had a new found confidence. Now 17, Edena is pursuing her studies in junior college. This would not have been possible if not for the timely intervention and support from family, teachers and friends.

The journey from suspecting that Edena might have some learning difficulties, to seeking out professionals for advice, to researching and selecting the intervention programme, had been a daunting but enriching experience. While Christina has the desire to help other parents in similar situations, it is her conviction that to be in a position to provide guidance and support to other parents, she needs to have gone through the experience, successfully remediated the problem and be sufficiently well versed with the subject matter.

Hence she decided to dive into special needs education, first completing a Diploma in Disability Studies and later getting trained as a Davis Facilitator. Christina subsequently set up a Dyslexia Group on Facebook, with the mission to create more awareness about dyslexia and to help parents navigate their journey.

Contrary to what most people think, Christina shares that dyslexia is not a complexity but a combination of a few factors that can be tackled step by step. She explains that the symptoms of dyslexia are actually symptoms of disorientation. Disorientation is a state of mind where mental perceptions are not in agreement (i.e. distorted) with the true facts and conditions in the environment. When a dyslexic is sufficiently confused, he will react by disorientating spontaneously, thereby leading to perceptual distortion which results in mistakes made when reading, spelling or writing. Dyslexics therefore need a way to ‘turn off’ the disorientation at will.

But what caused the confusion? Basically, when a dyslexic encounters certain symbols, and all words are symbols (as are alphabet, punctuation marks, speech sounds, math symbols and numerals), they get confused by those symbols whose meaning they cannot picture. Dyslexics tend to think primarily in pictures, as opposed to thinking in words. Because of the way they think, whenever they come across symbols whose meaning they cannot picture, confusion sets in and once that threshold for confusion is reached, they will disorientate and mentally move around to ‘see’ from different viewpoints and angles in order to figure out what that symbol is.

To illustrate, take for example a simple math question – subtract 20 from 100. The majority of children can easily tackle this question, but not so straightforward to a dyslexic. High frequency or common sight words such as ‘from’, ‘by’, ‘the’, ‘if’, etc often caused confusion for dyslexics as they cannot picture the meaning of these words. A child may be able to recognise and pronounce the word ‘from’, but if he does not know the meaning, he would not know how to begin solving the math problem.

After much drilling and repetition to no avail to help the child understand the question, the child is then told by a well-meaning parent or tutor that whenever he sees such questions, he just needs to minus the smaller number with the bigger number. In so doing, the child is taught rote learning, rather than have real understanding or true mastery of the subject.

To resolve the confusion with the word ‘from’, the child needs to master the word in all its three parts ie what the word means (a picture representing the concept/idea of the meaning), what it looks like (the spelling of the word) and how it sounds (the pronunciation of the word). Once the child masters the word ‘from’, which means ‘starting with, beginning at’, the child can now think with the words in the question. So subtract 20 from 100 means he has to start with, begin at (ie from) 100, and then take away 20. Visually, he would be able to put 100 down on paper, followed by the minus sign and 20 below 100 and then do his workings to get to the answer.

There are 219 high frequency words that typically trigger disorientation for a dyslexic. These non-picture words make up about 75% of words on a page. By mastering these trigger words, the source of confusion will be eliminated and they will not trigger disorientation. Therefore, when we remove the reason why a problem exists, the problem ceases to exist!

Examples of word mastery done by a dyslexic 6-year-old using clay (Photo courtesy of Christina Tan)
In addition to her role as a Davis Facilitator and founder of the Dyslexia Group, Christina is also one of CaringSG’s CAREconnect champions who support fellow special needs caregivers. She has this to say to caregivers of children with dyslexia: “Dyslexia is a learning difference, not lack of intelligence. To receive a dyslexia diagnosis, the person’s IQ needs to be at least in the normal range. Ron himself was initially tested to have low IQ and was labelled as ‘uneducatably mentally retarded’ at the age of 12, but was later discovered to have an extremely high IQ of 137. People do not outgrow dyslexia, so do not wait to get help for your children. The earlier you identify the issues, the sooner your child can receive help. With the right intervention, a dyslexic can overcome their challenges and excel in life. No matter which stage of the journey you are at now, if you are looking for guidance or support, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.”

To be updated on CaringSG’s latest events and join your preferred caregiver support groups in our CaringSG Alliance Network (CAN), sign up as a CaringSG member and let us know your preference!

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From One Special Dad To Another

From One Special Dad To Another

I’m a special dad. For 14 years, I’ve walked through the journey you’re experiencing now. 

The thing is that no one really tells you what to do, and old school men like me don’t really ask because we feel we have the responsibility of being the provider of the family come what may. 

You may be starting to accept your child’s diagnosis, or searching for elusive answers with Google. But nothing can help you as much as being with other special dads, knowing you’re not the only one trying to make sense of the turbulence ahead. 

As one special dad to another, this is what I think you should prepare for. 

1. Planning Finances 

Having a special needs child can mean redesigning our whole life for therapy schedules, doctor visits, tests and other related appointments. 

Besides the financial strain due to these extra costs, some special dads (or our wives) have to give up career progression or quit altogether to accompany our child to appointments. 

Suddenly we have a double whammy — higher expenses and lower household income. 

In my earlier years, I had held fast to some simple accounting principles of ensuring I invested and diversified the money I earned. I left the purchase of cars, clothing and holidays to a later date because I had an extended family that impressed upon me on what I needed to do when I grew up.        

Today we have the internet, financial consultants, and even government portals such as MoneySense to advise the best for our needs at different stages of our lives. I would encourage you to reach out and use these avenues so that we can educate ourselves enough to be able to help our families. 

2. Managing wife’s expectations

There will be days where your relationship with your wife may become strained due to the stress of caring for your special needs child. 

Not everything has to be an equal game. Everyone has strengths at different points of time. 

Look at things objectively. If your wife is in a better position to put bread on the table, could you step up and be a hands-on father to your special needs child? This is what I decided to do five years ago when my son grew bigger and needed a more present father.

Our marriage is still a “work in progress”. We deal with challenges and each other’s sensitivities the best we can. There are so many permutations to getting it to work and there is no “best” or “logical process” to make it work. Every day presents new challenges and opportunities. 

I’ve learned that no matter how angry, sad, disappointed or let down I feel, I don’t need to take it to heart, and I try my best to be empathic. Even this may not work all the time, so I then take it as life’s journey. We can still choose to see how we can make things work better and learn from the experience. 

This makes for a happier “me”, and a happier “me” can then back down, smile and not let the situation escalate further unnecessarily.

3. Do I have to solve everything?

We men have an innate habit of going into problem-solving mode. But special needs isn’t something you can cure away. 

That said, there are some things that you can solve, such as planning ahead, creating a safe space for your family to walk this journey together, and spending time on self-care for yourself.

For everything else that is out of your hands, learn how to adjust and outsource to experts. For example, Centre For Fathering runs programmes for fathers on parenting and adventure camps to promote bonding with your child.

4. Be prepared to start from ground zero

As we learn from scratch how to become a father when our first child is born, we also start from ground zero when we first realise we are special needs dads.

Centre For Fathering has a growing community of special needs dads who have walked in your shoes and know what it’s like. 

Find your tribe and take it step by step.

Anand 3

5. Making the best of what we have

When life throws us lemons, make lemonade. 

Being a special dad ironically came with blessing to me. I discovered I have so many untapped skills as a father and that our special child brings out in us. 

In my years of being a father, I feel I was accorded the privilege of being a father to a special needs child simply because my son has made me a more resilient, patient, emotionally connected father. This is something I wasn’t always (and to a large degree) felt capable of doing.

Anand 4

About Anand Lal and the Centre For Fathering’s Special Dads Group:

Anand Lal is a special dad to a fourteen-year old son with intellectual disabilities and apraxia. He quit his full-time job five years ago to spend more time with his son, such as taking him on adventure trips and indulging in swimming, his favourite activity. Anand has also upgraded his skills to become an Inclusive and Neuro Diverse Water Safety and Swimming Coach, and actively volunteers at the Centre For Fathering’s Special Dads Group.

Anand is also a CaringSG CAREconnect champion and is the Head of CAREbuddy.

All photos courtesy of Anand Lal.

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Bringing Hope at MIJ Hub

Bringing Hope at MIJ Hub

Featured photo: Mohammad Ali Dawood and Faraliza Zainal at MIJ Hub’s 3D printing station (Photo courtesy of MIJ Hub)

Located on the third and fourth storeys of a commercial building at 168 Changi Road, MIJ (My Inspiring Journey) Hub Ltd is a cumulation of sacrifice and hard work by Faraliza Zainal and her husband, Mohammad Ali Dawood.


From left: Mohammad Ali Dawood, Faraliza Zainal, and their son, Ashraf (Photo courtesy of MIJ Hub)

It began when their son, Ashraf, was diagnosed with a rare disease, tuberous sclerosis, when he was just 18 months, and suffered from epilectic attacks as he grew older till today. When he was three, he was diagnosed with autism and sensory processing disorder, which means the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses, and at one time, he wouldn’t stop eating until he vomited as he couldn’t feel that he was full.

He struggled with meltdowns and was bullied in Primary 3. One day, some classmates threw a bucket of water over him, which gave him so much trauma he had to crawl back into class by the back door. His parents then decided to transfer him to a private school, followed by Pathlight School where he took his PSLE.

Although he was able to move on to vocational training, he was more keen to do more studies that relate to faith.

In 2010, Faraliza took a leap of faith to quit her job and become a special needs educator, taking up short courses on behaviour management, alternative therapy, and movement therapy to help her son, Ashraf, continue his education. She and her husband even sold their private property to raise funds to start a school for him and other special needs kids.

While looking for a classroom, she and her husband encountered numerous rejections until Sultan Mosque agreed to let MIJ have a space, where they started MIJ Hub with 15 students. Today, MIJ Hub now serves almost 300 individuals with special needs across three centres.

With MIJ Hub and the launch of Ashraf’s Cafe in 2018 and MoAsh in 2020, Ashraf has bloomed into a young man who has not only found the balance he needed in his education, but also thrives in a job with an environment that is inclusive of his needs.

Special needs employees at Ashraf’s Cafe serve customers a variety of local and western food, cakes, pastries and drinks
How does MIJ Hub create a welcoming space for students?

Taking one example, the MIJ Hub at Changi Road has been purposefully furnished to cater to students with special needs from various backgrounds.

On the same level as the preschool and student care, MIJ Hub has carved out space for a cosy library, and an even bigger space for a gym fitted with a rock-climbing wall, trampoline and various gym equipment.

MIJ Hub’s gym is kitted with a rock wall
Padding ensures children play safely, with natural lighting coming in from the windows
An MIJ student and parent participating in a bonding workshop conducted by Faraliza at the MIJ’s gym (Photo courtesy of MIJ Hub)

On a weekly basis since 2016, Evolve MMA has volunteered to conduct fun fit programs for MIJ’s students. MIJ also runs paid art therapy and expressive classes for adult students conducted by Acting Up as part of the adult programs.

Faraliza also meets her teachers on a monthly basis to discuss each and every single student, to understand their challenges and brainstorm how to help the student as a team. 

At the top level, MIJ Hub runs adult classes, with stations for different skill sets neatly spaced out for practice and also for MIJ’s employees with special needs to complete their tasks.

Step by step recipes are provided for students to follow when making corporate gifts
An MIJ student making a corporate gift following the step-by-step recipe (Photo courtesy of MIJ Hub)
Top International Holding donated a 3D printer for MIJ Hub students to create their own 3D prints
Students learn basic housekeeping skills, along with other employability skills

MIJ Hub has branched out into complementary service offerings, such as:

INSPO by Ashraf’s Cafe: This brand provides individual and corporate customers with products and services which are created by employees with special needs who require moderate to low needs and are unable to fit in the open employment market.

Faraliza showcases a popular product from Inspo - unpitted organic dates (kurma)

Work Readiness Adult Programme (WRAP): WRAP prepares students with learning differences for job readiness and jobs that they are capable of doing.

fara (4)
Standing, from left: Mohammad Ali Dawood with Mayor Fahmi Aliman at MIJ Hub’s showcase of its Work Readiness Adult Program (WRAP). Photo courtesy of MIJ Hub.
  • Bridging Program: This program provides an appropriate bridge to meet the various needs of young learners with learning differences, to ease their transition into the primary level.

Faraliza’s hope for the future is for MIJ Hub to attain ECDA licensing, so that caregivers are able to obtain subsidies for their children’s monthly fees. Currently, MIJ Hub charges fees which are below their operating costs, and depends heavily on donations to fund the balance.

To support fellow special needs caregivers with emotional support, Faraliza has signed up with CaringSG to be trained as a volunteer CAREbuddy. She encourages fellow caregivers like her to take good care of ourselves; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, in order to take care of others.  With positive well-being, we can continue to feel a sense of purpose and lead a fulfilling and meaningful life.

About MIJ Hub

MIJ Hub is a non-profit organisation that provides school readiness, student care, intervention and enrichment programs plus employment opportunities for individuals with learning differences or special care (e.g. Autism, ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome and Developmental Delay) ranging from 4 to 30 years old. The school now serves almost 300 individuals via 6 different Special Education programs provided at 3 centres located across Singapore – Changi Road, Jurong, and Woodlands.

To be updated on CaringSG’s latest events and join your preferred caregiver support groups in our CaringSG Alliance Network (CAN), sign up as a CaringSG member and let us know your preference!

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The Auditor Who Became a Professional Kaypoh (busybody)

The Auditor Who Became a Professional Kaypoh (busybody)

“Do you know what my nickname is?” said Edward Chan, a special dad to two autistic girls.

“I’m known as ‘Kaypoh’ (busybody),” he proudly shared over coffee with CaringSG.

Quitting his job to save his daughter

Edward was once an internal auditor, flying to various countries for auditing stints that often stretched for at least a month. But this meant that he had little time to look after his two daughters (Yan Ling, 13, and Yan Yun, 10, this year) who are both studying in Pathlight.

Several years ago, when Yan Ling was in Primary Two, she really missed her dad especially during his long overseas trips. She was also struggling with academics and felt so stuck that one day, she just decided to sleep during her entire Semestral Assessment 1 (aka mid-year examinations), hoping this would draw her dad’s attention towards her.

It worked, and Edward quit his job to take on a local role which he thought would allow him to spend more time with her. However her progress was not consistent and his new job required him to burn weekends to clear projects. 

Taking advice from the psychologist and social worker that the parent who is closer to Yan Ling should spend more time with her, Edward decided to trade his full time job to become a Private Hire Driver so he had more flexibility.

During her Primary Three school holidays until today, he invested his newfound time to build up a routine and work closely with Yan Ling on improving the gaps she struggled with. She has progressed through her Foundation years and is taking PSLE this year.

Edward also finds time to volunteer with CASPER, organising talks for special needs families and participating in initiatives with other caregiver support groups, including joining CaringSG’s CAREconnect volunteer team, earning him the nickname of ‘Kaypoh’, or someone who is a busybody.

Finding that he isn’t alone

Although it seems like Edward has always been actively volunteering, it wasn’t always this way.

When Yan Ling was first diagnosed with autism, he went through a period of denial.

“Denial will be there, it’s just how long only. Don’t blame yourself, and be frank with your family. Family support is very important,” he advised caregivers who have just learnt their dependent has special needs. He and Beverly started their special needs journey without any support group at first, relying on his mother to help send Yan Ling to EIPIC intervention during her preschool years.

In 2013, a parent whom he knew asked him if he was attending a CASPER forum. Although he had heard about CASPER, he did not apply to join until this parent mentioned the forum.

“CASPER was set up in 2011 by special needs parents who were the first few batches to attend KKH’s Signpost course. They got the support of KKH’s Department of Child Development to start this support group, provide a venue, and speakers for talks for special needs parents,” Edward said.

When he and Beverly registered and attended the forum, they realised they were not alone.

Edward greatly appreciated that the CASPER talks he attended also came with a parent Care and Share session, which he said helped him a lot especially hearing from other special needs parents how they lived their lives as caregivers.

In 2013, he was invited to join the core team, who wanted to bring more topics other than school readiness to special needs parents. Besides inviting several speakers outside KKH, CASPER connected with SG Enable in 2015. This partnership helped CASPER to link up with The Law Society of Singapore, which gave a pro bono talk on wills for caregivers.

CASPER continues to organise forums and share resources via its secret Facebook group. 


CASPER, a secret Facebook group, was created as a safe haven for all special needs caregivers to share information and thoughts. It works with the KKH Department of Child Development and other partners to run talks and activities for special needs children and their caregivers. 

About CAREconnect

Edward, who volunteers with CASPER, has also joined CaringSG as a CAREconnect lead. 

With his help, special needs caregivers can participate in our CAREconnect program jointly organised by CaringSG’s caregiver and professional volunteers, which include: 

  • CAREconnect webinars, forums and respite events build your caregiving knowledge, skills and personal resilience. 
  • CAREconnect family activities help you bond with your child and other special needs families. 
  • CAREconnect social and inclusive activities connect you with other caregivers and your neighbourhood.

To be updated on CaringSG’s latest events and join your preferred caregiver support groups in our CaringSG Alliance Network (CAN), sign up as a CaringSG member and let us know your preference!

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I wish…if I could turn back the clock…

I wish...if I could turn back the clock...

“I wish…if I could turn back the clock, I would be more accepting of my son’s condition, and not push him and myself the way I did, with so much therapy and extreme desperation on my part, to see him improve….”

“I wish…if I could turn back the clock, one of the things I would like to do is to spend more quality time coaching and involving my son with real life daily activities rather than rushing around to fill him up with various therapy and classes.”

“I wish…if I could turn back the clock, I would start talking to more parents and be open to more options and activities for my children. Rather than keeping to myself.”

“I wish…if I could turn back the clock, I would give my son more hugs, more love, more understanding. I would make him feel that he is unconditionally accepted and that he is a blessing.”

“I wish…if I could turn back the clock, I would stop working and be with my boy.”

“I wish…if I could turn back the clock, I’d be more relaxed with my son, bringing him out to play a lot more than being cooped up at home feeling overwhelmed. I would teach him life skills instead of trying to meet academic demands, journey with other SN mums more, and pray more.  Jia you everyone!”

“I wish…if I could turn back the clock ,I would spend a lot more time teaching my daughter life skills that can lead to self care independence, like bathing, washing clothes, folding clothes, general cleaning (if her abilities can match up) rather than on academic programs like reading and writing skills which she still could not. Regardless what program your child is in, having a joyful time interacting purposefully with your child is what matters + caregiver’s self care. (My daughter has moderate-severe autism, non-verbal with a bit of hypotonicity)”

“I wish…if I could turn back the clock, I would let her start taking up household responsibilities at a much younger age at 5 years old. Let her wash her plastic cups, plates etc. I let her do her laundry using a washing machine at age 10. Believe your child can start early even though it may be messy a bit. They can do it. Just slow and not perfect.”

“I wish…if I could turn back the clock, I wish I had started earlier with XX but instead he was given so much entitlement and we were putting him into many classes, performances to occupy and engage him. In some ways it may be good but some ways may not be. It would be better if I could slow down and understand, support and coach him on a daily basis to help him achieve the necessary skills. We have lost some years but there is no looking back. This pandemic clearly helped us realise many areas to improve.”

If you could turn back the clock, what advice would you give your younger self?

Special thanks to Hope for the Journey (HOJ) for the sharing. Featured photo from pxhere.

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