How We Deal With Meltdowns?

Of all the challenges parents face, dealing with severe meltdowns and aggressive behaviour from their autistic children is perhaps the most daunting.

Probably triggered by hormonal changes during puberty or perhaps frustrated with not being understood by others, my usually docile son, who was then about 13 years old, became easily upset and inconsolable.

It was a very stressful period at home and school as his behaviour spiralled out of control.Thankfully, it didn’t take us very long to discover a way that solves the problem.

The solution was simple. Instead of finding a magic bullet to solve the problem, we improve the conditions to make the problem solvable.

Here are the four steps we took:

# 1: Teach Others How To Respond

– The person who needs to make change first is not the child but the caregivers ourselves. Sometimes, we aggravate the situation unknowingly. At first, I would tell my son off firmly and even resorted to overpowering him. That only made the situation worse. Reflecting on my mistake, I learned to watch calmly from a distance. That gave my son time to calm down, allowing me to respond more tactfully.

Keeping the child and the people around him safe is the first thing to do. You do not want your child or others to get hurt. So, tell your family members and school teachers to give the child ample space and time. I even gave his school teacher an extra bolster so that she could give him at times of abrupt meltdowns.

#2: Teach your child to self-regulate his emotions

– Get your child to practice proper breathing techniques. We also taught our son to count numbers aloud until he calmed down. In addition, we taught him to hug himself or hug his bag or a cushion tightly for stress relief. Having some ways to self-regulate helps the child to manage his meltdowns better.

#3: Fill his routine with lots of positive vibes

– This works marvellously, as my son’s time is filled with enjoyable activities. At that time, my son enjoyed copying words, assembling blocks, reading, and watching cooking videos. We arranged one activity after another to redirect his emotion to things that gave him positive vibes. In the process, we showered him with praise, encouragement, and smiles. It raised his positivity and the frequency of meltdowns drastically reduced.

#4: Do more physical exercise together

– During that stressful period, my son did about two sessions of 1-hour physical workouts plus 30 mins of swimming daily. Physical and mental wellness is the priority. A healthy and energetic body raises a person’s motivation. Excess energy was expended daily, and he became happier and fitter.

Through trial and error, we fine-tuned the abovementioned steps by adjusting to the child’s responses. Sooner than we expected, the problem dissipated entirely.

The issue of meltdowns had become a distant memory. Now, at eighteen years old, my son is positive-minded and enjoys doing many things. I hope this sharing helps some families out there.

William W K Tan

16 December 2023, Friday.

Choosing School For Your Child With Special Needs

I feel parents’ anxieties in a simple question of “which school should I choose for my child with special needs?” Because I had been through it painfully.

When my son, Cairn, was six, I had to decide. He was non-verbal and moderately autistic. Academically, he had high mental calculation skills of four operations and an extensive vocabulary for his age, but his comprehension ability was weak. In addition, his awareness of the environment is low, and was incapable of social interaction. I decided to delay his primary school admission by two years to give him more time to prepare for formal schooling.

During the two years, Pathlight, a SPED school that provides mainstream education, rejected Cairn’s application because of his limited communication abilities. We went to Grace Orchard School (GOS), a SPED school for children with weaker abilities. The opposite thing happened! I was told that my son’s performance surpassed their admission criteria. The assessor said, “Academically, he won’t get any further here. We focus more on emotional and social development here.” We were caught between a rock and a hard place. Mainstream education became our only option.

I chose a primary school nearest to my home with anxiety. I made a list of things to inform his condition and explain how to support him. I spoke to every stakeholder, the Principal, school leaders, teachers, allied educators, canteen stall owners, and also cleaners. I learned to be an advocate for my son.

But it was not sufficient. I negotiated to put in my helper as a shadow. Then I took frequent half-day leave from work to handle every problem that surfaced and taught every helper who came and went on how to assist my boy in class.

In the next four years, my daily routine after work was doing school work and therapy exercises as long as I was not traveling overseas for work. By Primary 5, I switched him to GOS when I knew the school’s focus on PSLE was going nowhere. That was where I started to refocus on things I instinctively knew were important but couldn’t do all this time.

I started working on creating the right conditions for Cairn to flourish. That includes developing his affective behavior, independent living skills, and building good habits of reading and physical exercises. Cairn blossomed after school demands got out of the way. From 15 years old onwards, Cairn improved tremendously. He emerged as a performing student who successfully progressed to Delta Senior School (DSS), a vocational institute for people with special needs. Now, at 18 years old, Cairn continues to show good progress in school, at home and in many side hustles I created for him.

My takeaway from the journey is this. Choose a school that matches your child’s condition and priorities.

Mainstream school is very academically driven; you may choose it if your child is academically inclined and can cope with group learning. But if the child is academically-abled but needs individualized attention, select Pathlight school. But if your child has many more challenges, you should choose other SPED schools.

A word of caution is, no matter what school you choose, “DO NOT ALLOW THE SCHOOL TESTS AND HOMEWORK DICTATE WHAT IS IMPORTANT.”

The essential thing is to raise a happy and confident child who gets better year by year. And things got better for Cairn after we refocused our priorities.

I hope my sharing helps some families out there and encourage you to share your child’s schooling journey too. Just even helping one other family would mean so much!

William WK Tan

21 November 2022

091 Is spending more money the answer to ASD problems?

< Think Aloud Episode 1> Is spending more money the answer to ASD problems?

Many young parents do whatever they could to help their children with autism, including spending a lot of money and resources on treatment. I want to share some heartfelt words with you.

As a dad with a non-verbal asd son who is now 18 years old, my wife and I, too, did everything we could. If anything, I would encourage you to review the problem from what your child needs.

Therapies and treatment programmes are helpful only when given at the right time. Otherwise, they are nothing more than placebos. Do not spend to the point that strains your family life and personal well-being. That’s not sustainable.

My recommendation is for any treatment you take up, you must first define a clear purpose and determine a period to achieve that goal. Be involved in the process. That way, you’ll participate in your child’s progress and learn a lot too!

You can also learn from the experience of others. It took me several years to discover that encouraging more affectionate behaviour with lots of practice in simple things like hugs, smiles, eye contact, and joint attention made a more significant difference than many expensive therapies. Believe in the value of home treatment through love and bonding. It brings you, your child and your family closer.

I am not against seeking professional help; just reminding you can do much as a parent. Believe in yourself more and use your money wisely.

William WK Tan

16 November 2022, Wednesday

090 What Makes A Good Staycation?

What makes a good staycation? Is it the quality hotel amenities, great breakfast, ideal location, or simply anything that adds up to your overall sense of value for money? These considerations are necessary but they are insufficient to make a good vacation. I discovered one most important ingredient from our first family staycation last weekend. That is, spending quality time together.

As a family, we all enjoyed watching a Chinese movie from the comfort of the hotel beds. It was an action movie, titled the “S-Storm”, starring some of my favourite Hong Kong’s male actors like Louis Koo and Bowie Lam. I was pleasantly surprised that the children enjoyed watching the same movie. All these years, our choice of movies has always been based on the children’s liking.

Separately, I enjoyed listening to my younger son, Conan, about his school life, his friends’ antics and exchanged thoughts about his brother’s future while we were spending time at the jacuzzi pool. I also enjoyed watching the light moments between the two brothers in the pool.

As for my wife, one of her best moments was probably with our elder son, Cairn, as she gleefully told me, “Last night, Cairn was stealing my blanket in his sleep. But the next morning, I woke up finding him putting cover over me.”

So if you have not used the $100 worth of Rediscover SG e-vouchers that is meant to support local tourism, I suggest that you use it to spend some quality time to do things that you all enjoy as a family. Do it before it expires by the end of June!

William WK Tan

28 April 2020

089: How I Handled A Devastating Piece of News?

A Terrible News

If you receive a devastating piece of news from the school, what would you have done?

Several weeks ago, on the day that my sixteen-year-old son, Cairn, was supposed to attend his school graduation ceremony, he was abruptly removed from the list of graduates! Instead of receiving his certificate in robes like the other graduating students on the stage, Cairn was told to sit among the audience to applaud the achievement of others.

Out of concern for Cairn’s feelings, his class teacher kept a close watch on him and assured me that he was unaffected. I was told Cairn cheered enthusiastically for his friends who went up the stage.

“Class of 2020” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

When Cairn arrived home from school, all I got from him was a sealed envelope containing a letter that said his application for admission to a senior high school for students with special needs was unsuccessful.

The rejection letter carried big implications. Cairn would remain in his current high school, and make another attempt for admission to the senior high school the next year. But if he were to be rejected again, his special school education would end the next year in the current school as eighteen is the cut-off age. That is tantamount to an off-the-cliff ending to his adult education.

“Off the Cliff” (WordPress Photography)

The biggest headache at hand was we were clueless about the reasons for rejection. By all measures, Cairn had always been held as an exemplary student in his junior high school. We were under the impression from both schools that Cairn would certainly be accepted because he had met all the stipulated requirements. Without knowing the reason, we would not know what could be done to improve his chances in the next shot.

I felt indignant for my son as unpleasant memories surfaced. All the these years, Cairn had put in so much effort in everything he did. But not all his efforts paid off. For instance, last year, Cairn won his first swimming competition, but was bizarrely disqualified. The ridiculous reason was he swam a lot faster than the timing submitted before the race. In the spirit of participation, we cast aside our disappointment and did not pursue the matter further. But this time, the issue is more than dealing with disappointment, Cairn couldn’t graduate despite his good performance at school!

“Touching The Wall First!” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

I lamented to my wife, “Just when we thought that everything is moving smoothly for him at last, this has to happen!”

My wife was visibly upset as she spoke, “They gave us hope, then took it away! ”

I told her with resolve, “I’ll settle this.”

“An angry fist” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

Take Thoughtful Actions

I thought hard about the content of my appeal letter to the school principal of the new school. After I drafted the letter, I showed to my wife and fourteen-year-old son, Conan.

My wife seemed pleased that I had backed up my appeal with strong arguments and proof. Conan, however, remarked, “Dad, shouldn’t you preface with some niceties? After all, you want to work with the new principal.”

I took his advice and edited the letter accordingly.

Dear Principal,

Sorry to take up your precious time. I need to consult you regarding school admission criteria. I am also writing to appeal for my son, Cairn Tan on the following grounds:

Cairn has met the two key criteria for school admission: the WPLN ( Work Place Literacy and Numeracy) Assessment and the independent traveling requirement.

Moreover, Cairn was graded “excellent” in Housekeeping. In addition, Cairn has actual retail work experience. On a daily basis, he has been operating his snack vending machine for nearly a year since December 2019. The operation includes the checking and replenishment of stock; and changing the prices and items. Cairn can do all that independently.

“Tending To A Vending Machine” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

Cairn also knows how to key in data of inventories and keep account of daily sales in excel spreadsheets. In addition, he is also responsible for proper packing of goods ordered from our e-commerce website, for delivery to respective customers.

“Packaging his merchandise” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

Recently, we even discovered that Cairn can memorize the value of pi up to 20 places, and do square roots and indices of two and three-digit numbers mentally! That shows the boy has much more potential than we imagined!

“Solve square roots of 4 digit-figures mentally” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

To prepare Cairn for the transition, we have also trained Cairn to travel independently to and from your school. See attached pictures.

“Taking a bus ride myself” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

During the admission interview, we were told for certain that Cairn will be offered a place in your school because he meets the admission requirements. The only purpose of the interview was to find out which vocation is most suited for him.

Even his current school was under the impression that Cairn will be moving on. That was why they had him participate in the graduation ceremony rehearsal. But only today, we were told that he had been taken off the list of graduates and denied his spot at the graduation ceremony. Despite working hard to qualify for your vocational programme, Cairn will be retained for another year!

As a parent yourself, can you imagine the big disappointment to our family to receive the rejection letter? As the reason for rejection is not stated, I have no choice but to seek help directly from you.

“Help me!” (WordPress Photography)

I believe that as a respected school leader, you will help us in this matter. We have been looking forward to Cairn starting a new chapter at your school. And we are very supportive of school efforts and are most willing to work with you. Please call me to arrange a meeting ASAP.

William WK Tan

Shortly after, the principal replied with warm and encouraging words, expressing delight to receive updated information about Cairn’s ability to travel independently. A week later, the good news came. Cairn’s appeal was successful!

Immediately, I wrote another heartfelt letter to Cairn’s current school’s principal. A few days later, Cairn’s class teacher called me up cheerily to inform me of the school principal’s decision to arrange a make-up graduation ceremony for Cairn! I felt so thankful to the school leaders and teachers in both schools.

All things ended well at last.

“I have graduated!” (William WK Tan’s Photography)

Parents, what’s your takeaway from this story? If anything, I hope you pick up the following steps about how to be an effective advocate for your child:

Be An Effective Advocate For Your Child

Step 1: Do not get emotional. Think about the real issue you want to solve.

Step 2: Know your child’s rights and strengths.

Step 3: Organise your thoughts with supporting evidence.

Step 4: Seek support from stakeholders.

Step 5: Show appreciation and a strong intention to work together.

Children with special needs are often incapable of speaking up for themselves. They need their parents to be their voice. Therefore, we need to learn how to speak up on their behalf, rationally and passionately. Don’t you agree?

“Be An Effective Voice!” (WordPress Photography)

William WK Tan

28 December 2020

088: “What Would You Say To Someone in Distress?”

A Stranger In Distress

I hope she is doing well. A stranger whom I have never met is on my mind lately. Yet, I have no idea who she is, and I don’t even know her name to begin with.

But the woman sounded despondent when she spoke about her life on a social media platform where parents seek advice from one another. She wrote anonymously,

“I feel very sad about my life. My elderly father is sick and estranged from my mom. My husband earns enough for the family but he is a temperamental man. I had to go through IVF to eventually conceive two children. Unfortunately, one turns out to be autistic. And I have to take care of both of them as a full-time housewife, making it impossible for me to earn any income. My parents-in-laws are understanding of my difficulties but they are curt in their words. They made me feel that a daughter-in-law will always remain an outsider in the husband’s family. When I am down, I have no one to share my feelings. I feel so helpless over what’s happening in my life.”

“A person in distress” (WordPress Photography)

It occurred to me that the woman might be suffering alone. Could she be suffering from burnout as a caregiver, stressed by all the problems that are beyond her control? Could she be already at her breaking point? Perhaps I was paranoid, whenever I read news of tragic news of families with children of special needs, I knew that I couldn’t just read, sigh and then pretend that there’s nothing I can do.

The Straits Times, Published on October 19, 2020

Immediately I wrote to her, as if I knew what to say. Magically, words just flowed out seamlessly with my thoughts and feelings as I wrote,

“It looks like you have been given a poor hand of cards in life—sick and estranged parents, temperamental spouse, an autistic child, hostile parents-in-laws and you, being a stay-at-home-mother who feels helpless about not making any income. Things are indeed tough on you. What can you do? I might have the answer for you.

May I suggest you look at your situation from a different perspective?

Do try to think about your circumstances the other way round:

“Although things are not easy for me, I am proud of myself for not leaving my sickly and estranged parents in the lurch. Although one of my children is autistic, he can still improve and I am blessed with another healthy child. Although my husband is temperamental, there are times he is good to me and our children. Although my laws say nasty things, they are understanding of my difficulties.”

How you feel depends on whether you choose to adopt the “half-empty or full glass”perspective of things.

“Half empty or full” (William WK Tan’s photography)

When life is hard, it either weakens or strengthens you. You make the choice. If you choose to see things positively, negativity cannot get you down. You can then find the strength to change the narrative of your life.

I know of some people who turn their lives around completely by simply waking up 2 hours earlier to do these things:

(1) improving their health by running;

(2) reflecting to become better parents;

(3) earning a side income of $200-$400 a month by distributing newspapers.

Change your perspective and find a formula that suits you!

I look forward to seeing you start a new chapter of your life in the subsequent months. Best wishes!”

I do not know if my words have helped her in any way. But I know my words have struck a chord among parents as more and more people responded. Many others also offered their own advice and encouragement. Suddenly, the suffering of one person has turned into a common concern of many people. The burden is lightened and things start looking brighter.

“Things look brighter” (William WK Tan’s photography)

Here is where I learnt an invaluable lesson— do not let anyone suffer in silence. Be kind to others. Give a smile, an encouragement, a praise or an act of service. We can all help to lighten the emotional load of others by just doing a little more.

William WK Tan

17 November 2020

087: How You Can Unleash Your Child’s Potential?

It’s hard to identify our preconceptions, let alone breaking them because most parents believe that they are always acting in the best interest of their children. On hindsight, however, we would probably admit that there were occasions when we could have made better decisions.

Using a personal story, here are four steps to breaking preconceptions that could unleash the potential of your children:

(1) Uncover your preconceptions

(2) Re-discover what your child can do

(3) Start a new learning journey

(4) Walk the journey together

Uncover Your Preconceptions

“Could I have held back my son’s development?” This startling realisation dawned on me after my sixteen-year-old autistic son, Cairn, demonstrated his Maths prowess at school recently by doing square roots of 3-4-digit figures mentally two weeks ago (See 85: “How Far Can This Child Go”). In retrospect, I had stopped teaching Cairn Maths in the last three years.

“Cairn tries to solve square root mentally” (Photography by Ms. Lim WT)

The realisation made me uncover two preconceptions— beliefs that had hindered me from pursuing my son’s abilities in certain areas further.

Preconception One:

Cairn should focus on developing independent-living skills and enhance his employability, even if it means disregarding his strengths and interest.

“Cairn packs the inventory for his e-store.” (Photography by William WK Tan)

Preconception Two:

Cairn should learn only English since he is already facing daunting obstacles in language acquisition due to his poor receptive and expressive communication ability.

“Cairn’s recent English homework.” (Photography by William WK Tan)

Do not get me wrong. Of course it is good to develop independent-living and enhance employability. And it is also prudent not to impose the burden of learning an additional language on the child when he is already struggling with learning one. The bigger question is, even as we work on these priorities, are we compromising on their strengths and interests?

Re-Discover What Your Child Can Do

I deliberated on the things Cairn can learn by utilising his strength in Maths—coding, computer literacy skills, memory and thinking techniques, and high school Maths topics such as algebraic equations and calculus. The more I thought about it, the more possibilities I could see. I felt a renewed sense of excitement, a feeling that’s often lost in parents when their children get older.

Out of curiosity, I tested Cairn’s memory using the value of PI. Cairn memorised up to 10 decimal places (3. 1415926535 ) effortlessly and could recall every digit correctly even after 2 weeks. His memory astounded me!

“Cairn writes the value of Pi” (Photography by William WK Tan)

Then I thought to myself, “Does Cairn know how to read and write any Chinese word?”

I turned to Cairn and asked, “Do you know the numbers from one to ten in Chinese?”

Without hesitation, Cairn recited and wrote the Chinese character of each numeral. Those were the characters I taught him more than ten years ago!

Start A New Learning Journey

“Would you be willing to do something for your brother for just fifteen minutes every day?”

That’s the question I asked Conan, Cairn’s fourteen-year-old younger brother, after I showed him the Chinese words that Cairn could remember. Conan started giving Cairn 15 minute-lesson from the next day.

“Conan guided Cairn to write Chinese Characters.”(Photography by William WK Tan)

“Now you copy the word, “thousand” which is “qiān” (千) in Chinese three more times,” Conan was telling Cairn to learn from copying the words that he didn’t know.

“Next, do you know the Chinese word for ten thousand?” Conan asked.

Cairn replied, “wàn“(万)!”

He had actually stolen a quick glance at the book and copied the character.

“You ah!”, Conan laughed and moved on to teaching Cairn more words. Towards the end of the session, Conan was praising and hugging his brother, who was also beaming a wide smile.

Conan told me his observations, “Cairn can read and write many words like “dà” (大-big) xiǎo” (小-small), shàng (上-up), xià (下-down) even before I taught him.”

“Words that Cairn recently learnt.” (Photography by William WK Tan)

Walk The Journey Together

“I really appreciate that you are spending time with your brother like this. It takes commitment to do it daily. Thank you!” I told him.

I also told Conan my observations of his lesson, “I like how you motivate your brother with praises and encouragement. You didn’t reprimand him when he copied the word. You just moved on. That kept his motivation going!”

Conan looked pleased.

“There is, however, no need to keep testing him with questions. It can become stressful. Read to him more. You can tailor the lesson in any way to match his liking.”

Conan remarked with a chuckle, “He obviously likes to copy.”

“Cairn enjoys writing Chinese Characters” (Photography by William WK Tan)

Two weeks had lapsed since we embarked on this new endeavour. It has become a routine for Cairn to take the Chinese textbook and his Writing practise book to the sofa after dinner, where Conan would start working with him.

I have no idea how long Conan can sustain his efforts. One month; three months or a year? But I hope it would be long enough for Conan to realise that he benefits as much, if not, more than Cairn from walking this journey together with his brother.

“Rainbow” (WordPress Free Picture)

I hope our endeavour offers you some useful insights to how you can unleash the potential of your children.

William W K Tan

086: Should I Bring A Baby With Disabilities To This World?

To Keep The Child Or Not?

If someone is struggling with the painful decision of keeping a baby who is likely to be born with disabilities, what would you say to her?

Two days ago, a pregnant woman sought advice in a parenting group in the social media. She wrote about her dilemma,

“I am at the 13th week of my second pregnancy. A recent Down Syndrome test revealed an absence of nasal bone in the foetus, which caused alarm. I just did a further blood screening test, which will reveal the result in two week’s time. I am worried sick. What if the baby is inflicted with Down Syndrome? If the risk is high, should I keep the baby? Should I bring the poor child to suffer in this world.”

I was mulling over her words till the wee hours of morning. I felt compelled to share with her my thoughts, hoping that it would help the poor mother in her decision-making. Here’s my heartfelt sharing with her, which, to my surprise, garnered a lot of positive reaction from other parents.

Cherish The Opportunity To Make A Deliberate Decision

“I have a child with special needs. And I have not met any parent who deliberately CHOSE to be parenting a child with special needs. So, you have a precious opportunity to make a deliberate decision now.

I can tell you unequivocally that raising a child with special needs is a rewarding gift of love, humility and empathy. Raising my son has taught me what unconditional love and absolute patience mean. The journey so far might have been fraught with difficult moments, but I believe I have emerged a better person.

Weekend runs with my children (Photography by William WK Tan)

You can do even better. But that is only if you and your husband are willing to accept, love and support not only the child, but also each other unconditionally.

The Onus Is Solely On Parents

My son brings me much joy with his innocent smiles and every small step of progress he made. Life itself is a gift, disabilities not withstanding. It is not a suffering to any child if they are adequately loved and cared for. I am of the opinion that the argument children with disabilities will surely lead a life of hardship is flawed.

The real question is whether you and your husband are willing to accept that the child is not the problem. The real issue is whether parents are prepared to:

(1) accept the child fully;

(2) take up their responsibilities;

(3) learn about their child; and

(4) allocate time and resources wisely

Consider your family’s circumstances and the things you need to do to receive the child. If the more you know, the less scared you become, then you are ready to go on the journey.

A Journey (Photography by William WK Tan)

Let’s pray for the best and be prepared for the worst. Hopefully, it is a mistake. Meanwhile, please do serious research by watching video documentaries on raising children with Down Syndrome and read up everything you can find. If possible, visit some happy kids at the Down Syndrome Association. Better still, speak to parents of these kids.

In the end, after u have done all your research and had heart-to-heart discussion with your spouse, whatever decision you arrive is not for others to judge. You would know in your heart if you have made the right decision.”

From the heart (Photography by William WK Tan)

I hope my words have helped someone out there.

William W K Tan

24 October 2020, Saturday

085 How Far Can This Child Go?

Everyone is good at something!

This is a real story about how a teacher uncovers the extent of a child’s potential out of a genuine curiosity to find out “how far can this child go?”.

Two days ago, Ms. Lim, a special needs school teacher, decided to tell her class an important message, “Remember this—everyone has something that he or she is good at.”

Knowing that Cairn, a 16 year-old student, who has moderate autism and speech difficulties, is good at simple Maths calculations, she asked the boy to perform an addition of two six-digit figures in front of the class.

Ms Lim was astounded to hear the boy saying out the correct answer before her fingers even finished keying in the numbers on the calculator!

Testing the child’s limits!

Encouraged by Cairn’s mental calculation prowess, Ms Lim asked Cairn to solve subtraction, multiplication and even division of six-digit figures. The boy answered every question correctly without pen and paper!

Testing the child’s limit, Ms. Lim wrote 2 to the power of 3.

The whole class watched the question in bewilderment, “What’s that? Miss Lim, what’s that? How come we had never see this kind of question before?”

Before she could explain, Cairn answered, “Eight!”

Surprised, Ms Lim thought to herself quietly, “Wow! Cairn knows how to do indices! Let’s test him a little more!”

Randomly, she wrote 16 to the power of 3 on the whiteboard, half thinking that he is unlikely to solve it mentally, even if he knows indices.

To solve this question mentally, one has to perform a series of calculations on the head:

(Step 1) 16 x 6= 96;

(Step 2) 16 x10 = 160;

(Step 3) then add 96 and 160 = 256;

(Step 4) 256 x 6 = 1536 which involves several carry-overs;

(Step 5) 256 x 10 = 2560;

(Final Step 6) 1536 + 2560 = 4096.

Cairn took a while to think as the class waited in silence. The moment he said the correct answer, the whole class erupted in applause. Classmates went up and gave Cairn a huge pat on his shoulder and congratulated him after he could answer all of the questions! The students were saying to him like they were talking to their younger brother, “Ah boy!!!! Good ah!” Their euphoria also attracted teachers from other classes to see what Cairn was doing!

Keep Searching What Your Strength Is

Cairn’s spectacular performance had many students started thinking, “How come he is so good at math? What am I good at then?”

This was a great teaching moment. Ms Lim took the opportunity to encourage the class, “Like I said, everyone is good at something. All you have to do is to keep searching what your strength is!”

The next day, Ms Lim took a video of how Cairn learns and performs square root for the first time.

Looking at the examples she created for Cairn on the whiteboard, I could tell how much she believed in my boy’s ability to figure the logic on his own. All this while, I am fully aware of Cairn’s strength in Maths, but unlike Ms Lim, I had stopped asking, “how much more can his strength be expanded?”, after I had switched my focus to work on enhancing his employability.

Do not underestimate the intrinsic value of learning

That’s the problem with most typical Singaporean parents. In the face of practical concerns, we would encourage children to learn only what is of use, instead of what is in their interest and strength.

I do not think that I am wrong to focus on my son’s employability, but I had unwittingly neglected on expanding his strengths further. Yet, I have kept on polishing my writing and photography skills as a hobby in recent years. And I know how much personal satisfaction I had gained from doing such endeavours.

Although I do not know how Cairn’s strength in mental calculation can be translated to employable skills, I now know the intrinsic value in encouraging Cairn to pursue a subject or area where his interest lies. Can you feel the enthusiasm that overflows from his back when he is trying to learn a Maths concept on his own?


p.s: Special thanks to Ms Lim Wan Ting for your passion and commitment in discovering children’s potential! And for being such a wonderful teacher!

Ms Lim is not the only wonderful teacher I know. Over these years at Grace Orchard School (GOS), Cairn had encountered many excellent Teachers and therapists who had gone the extra mile to help him. Thank you, GOS principal, Mrs Goh and your team!


Special Deal (Ends on 18/10/2020 23:59)

Interested in supporting Cairn in his e-commerce business with his dad?

Cairn is getting ready to sell and pack our latest products to you — Premium Grade Mala Abalaones!

Buy for yourself, family or friends at special rates! Usually sold at $18.80 per box (2 cans) at supermarkets. Probably the best deal in the market NOW.

My friends in Singapore, this product is for mala-flavour lovers. Buy only if you and your family enjoy mala flavour.

And to friends in overseas, this is only for delivery in Singapore. You may purchase as a gift for someone in Singapore though. Or share the link with someone you know.

Thank you for your support!