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

070 Practise Even More to Love and Feel Loved

NO Hugs, NO Kisses!

Last week, I spoke about teaching autistic children to be affectionate.  Many readers were touched by our family’s efforts to train our son to be warm and spontaneous. Some parents with autistic children, however, had their misgivings.

I was told of a story about a mother X who imposed strictly a “No hugs and no kisses” rule on her autistic son Y. She was concerned that the teenage boy would get into trouble someday if he displays affection inappropriately to strangers.  One day, the mother X even punished her boy Y by making him hug a tree for several hours after he had asked his mom for a hug.  The punishment was the mother’s way of protecting her son from getting into trouble.

Picture from WordPress Photo Library.

I felt troubled and told my wife about the story. She replied thoughtfully, “We’ve been through it ourselves. Let’s not be quick to judge others. She must have her reasons. Anyway, every family needs time to work their problems out.”

My wife is right.  There may be more than meets the eye to the story. Perhaps, the boy had gotten into some serious trouble. Or perhaps, the mom had done everything she could but failed to get the child to understand. We do not know the full story enough. But one thing I know for certain is, the suppression of the emotional needs may lead to dire consequences for the family.

Source: The Straits Times, 19 March 2016.

Three years ago, Singapore was shaken by the news of a mother, a primary caregiver of her seven year old autistic child, who threw the latter over the parapet to his death. The mother was depressed over her marital woes and physical exhaustion, which she believed was caused by her autistic son. And one could only imagine the desperation and pain the mother experienced for the murder to be committed one day before her 42nd birthday.

I trembled at the thought of seeing such tragedy recurring. For days, I thought hard about my family situation.  My family was nowhere near the brink of desperation, but the fatigue and stress had been mounting to a point where smiles and laughter at home had become scarce. I instinctively knew that more had to be done to bring happiness back. But I did not know how. 

Gleaning lessons from this tragedy, I became even more convinced that a spouse must share the burden of caregiving wholeheartedly. And parents must not suffer in silence or denial, hoping that their problems would just go away. I constantly reminded myself to learn and seek help from others whenever necessary. And most importantly, to stay hopeful always. Still, raising an autistic child remained a challenge as we had to cope with one problem after another.

Stop seeing the child as the problem

Finally one day, it dawned on me that parents must stop seeing their autistic child as the problem. Autism posed problems to the child and the family, but the child did not.  No child should be blamed for his or her medical condition.

If parents see their autistic child as a “problem”, there will be a limit to how much they can shoulder the lifelong heartache and grind of unremitting caregiving.  But if they can separate the child from the troubles they create, parents will be able to handle problems in their stride.  Over time, we have become more composed and skilful in dealing with all sorts of problems, from bizarre behaviour to severe meltdown that erupted at school and home.

The biggest encouragement came from the child himself. As we continued our efforts to train our boy to be affectionate, we began to experience more moments of joy. The son who was a constant worry becomes the wellspring of our family happiness.

Cherish joyous moments in daily life

Here is an episode of joyous moments that occured last Sunday. I found bouquets of beautiful flowers on sale in the supermarket.

Turning to my fifteen year old autistic son Kyan, I asked, “Do you want to buy flowers?”  

“Yes. I want to buy flowers.” Kyan replied.

I probed, “Who do you want to buy the flowers for?”

I was half-expecting his answer to be “Papa”.

Kyan replied without hesitation, “Mama!”  

I laughed and thought to myself, “Mom still comes first to the children no matter how hard I try.”

I knew my wife was not into flowers, but this was a not-to-be-missed opportunity for my boy to practise affection. I told Kyan, “Bring the flowers to mama and tell her!”

Picture taken at Fairprice Supermarket on 20 July 2019.

Kyan quickly grabbed a bouquet of flowers and ran to his mom who was preoccupied with buying grocery. Shoving the bouquet excitedly into his mom’s hands, Kyan remarked loudly, “I want to buy flowers for Mama!”

His mom, looking pleasantly surprised, thanked him and immediately gave the jubilant boy a hug while quietly slipping the bouquet to me.

“Now that you have given flowers to mama, what do you give papa?” I teased. 

Just as I was wondering what he would say, Kyan thought for a moment and said, “Kiss!”

With that, Kyan leaned forward and planted a gentle kiss on my right cheek

I was overjoyed and felt blessed.

Make it a priority to help autistic children become affectionate

Contrary to the conventional belief that parental love is inexhaustible and unconditional, the agony of unrequited love from an autistic child does take a toll on caregivers. Make it a top priority to help your child become affectionate.

Do not let any concern that the child may display inappropriate affectionate behaviour with others get in the way between you with your child. Once your child feels loved and safe, it will be easier to teach him the boundaries.

For a start, practise often at home proper display of affection between you and your child. All it takes is just two persons to love and feel loved. It costs nothing and the reward is priceless.

William W K Tan (aka Uncle William)

26 July 2019, Friday

066 The Boy Who Brings Sunshine

Last evening , a friend VK asked me, “How is your elder son doing?

VK is a kind man who is temporarily taking care of a child in neglect. Out of concern, he asked how I coped with the challenges of raising a child with special needs.

My elder son, Kyan, aged fifteen, is a boy inflicted with autism, a lifelong developmental disability that is characterised by difficulties with social interaction and communication, and limited by a fixation on repetitive activities.

Source: http://overthebrainbow.com/blog/

I told him, “I am thankful. He is doing great!” In fact, it gladdened me to hear others asking about him. Just last week, Kyan’s former school teacher, ST also told me, “I love to read about Kyan. It always brings sunshine to my heart just to see his name. ”

ST is so right. Kyan is a child who brings sunshine. Raising a child with special needs is challenging, but it also comes with rewarding moments.

My Reward: A Cup Of Sweet Corns

Last Saturday, I was engrossed in a novel while waiting for my children to finish their breakfasts at McDonald’s. All of a sudden, the reading spell on me was broken by the voice of my son.

“Papa, eat!” came a thunderous voice. It came from Kyan, who looked intently at me as he shoved me a half cupful of corn.

My heart was melted by his gesture to share his cup of corns with me. After all, it was uncommon for autistic children to show generosity and affection.

Excitedly, I sent a text to my wife, “Kyan just shared his cup corn with me on his own accord!”

“That’s just his habit,” came her reply.

I know my wife has always taught Kyan to split his cup of corns into two portions to share with his younger brother Conan, who gives him half a piece of hash brown in return. But that morning, Conan had bought his own cup of corns, so Kyan turned to me instead.

Even if it was just a habitual action, it made me feel good. At least he thought of me.

A Magic Moment

For a long time, I was worried that autism had incapacitated Kyan’s ability to think of others in their absence.  It seemed to me that when people are out of sight, they are out of his mind.

Over the last 15 years, four maids have come and gone. Some were close to him.  But he had never asked for anyone of them after they left. Even if he cared, he never showed. Or more rightly, he was unable to express how he felt.

Occasionally, when I was overseas, I would ask my wife, “Did Kyan ask for me?” Her answer was always a no. I stopped asking completely.

Then something happened in early March this year. I was on my way back home from airport when I received a text message from Conan. He wrote, “Dad, come back home quickly! Kyan has been asking for you.”

Accompanying the text message was a photograph that I would never forget.  My son was looking out for me behind the steel gate of the house.  It was the magic moment that I had been waiting for years.

Photo taken by Conan on 2 March 2019

Little Strokes Fell Great Oaks

Depending on the condition of the child, there is no telling how long it would take our child to give us these rewarding moments. But as the saying “little strokes fell great oaks’ goes, do not underestimate the power of persistent small efforts. Even dripping water can penetrate through rocks, it is just a matter of time that autistic children will show us that they can be as affectionate as any other children.

Perhaps, by now you can guess why I have been singing a self-composed song to Kyan all these years.  The lyrics go like this, “Papa loves you so. Papa loves you so. Papa loves you so much so.” 

I would always sing this part first, and my boy would always follow with, “Papa loves me so. Papa loves me so. Papa loves me so much so.”

One day I asked Kyan in front of his mom, “Who loves you most?”

He replied spontaneously, “Mama!”

Then on second thoughts, he quickly changed, “Papa loves me most!” to the chagrin of my wife.

My wife protested, ‘Conan, your dad has been brain-washing your brother!”

We all laughed heartily.

Raising a child is joyous as long as we never cease to look at the positives.

William W K Tan

25 May 2019, Saturday

062 What you can do when vulnerable children go missing?

An Insensitive Remark

Two days ago, I received an alert to look out for an autistic child X who had gone missing. What would you have done?

Photo: Facebook “Reunite Missing Children”

Some people might have carried on with their own business without batting an eyelid. Some people might have taken a closer look to check if they had seen the missing child somewhere. Some people might have spread the word to others. And there might also be people who offered their help to assist the family.

I was not surprised that people thought and acted differently. But I was aghast at someone’s comment on the Facebook page that went,

“Looks like this is not the first time this boy has gone missing. Shouldn’t the parents just get the child a GPS tracker?”

“What an insensitive remark!”I thought. In veiled anger, I wrote on the Facebook,

 “Please feel like you’ve lost your own child. Do what you can. If you cannot, keep quiet. Don’t make the parents feel worse.”

Almost immediately, the man deleted his comment without a word.

Parents Fear The Worst

As a parent who had been through similar ordeal, I know that when a vulnerable child goes missing, it is a time that the affected family needs support most.

Photo: Facebook “Reunite Missing Children”

My thoughts went back to several years ago, to that day my elder son Kyan, who has moderate ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) disappeared into the lift in the blink of an eye while I was locking the door. Immediately, I dashed down ten storeys of staircase in the hope of catching him in time. But I was too late. The lift was empty by the time I reached ground floor.

He was nowhere to be found. Not anywhere within the parameters of the condominium. Could he have sneaked out of the side gate with the other residents? Could he have walked out of the main gate under the watchful eyes of security guards? In my frantic search, I asked every passerby. No one saw him.

My wife and I split ways to search in the neighbourhood. I feared the worst as I watched on the fast-moving vehicles on the roads. What if he ignored traffic rules and got hit by a car? Immediately, I alerted the police for assistance who quickly dispatched their patrol cars.

Our ordeal came to an end after two hours when our boy was brought home by some policemen in their patrol car. I thanked the policemen profusely. A policeman said,

“We found him near the highway with heavy traffic. A member of the public was petrified to see him crossing the road dangerously. Because he couldn’t get any contact details from your boy, he called the police.”

Blood drained off my face. And my wife broke down in tears as she held our boy tightly in her arms.

Photo: WordPress Photo Library

What You Can Do

The problem with ASD children is they look normal, and do not attract any attention until they display odd behaviour. They are likely to keep walking quietly without anyone noticing them. And if they are limited in communication, they will not be able to tell anyone their contact particulars. Unlike a lost child, autistic children often do not know how to seek help and attention. In such situations, having community awareness and support are crucial.

Photo: WordPress Photo Library

Here are three things you can do when an autistic child goes missing:

(1) Spread the news

The more people know the news the better. When the daughter of local blogger Lee Kin Mun, better known as mrbrown, went missing seven years ago, social media played a pivotal role in helping to find her. The girl was found 1.5 hour later by a train station staff member and then Mr Lee’s friend.

(2) Offer your help

After I offered to be part of the search party for the missing child X two days ago, the boy’s father told me,

“Thank you! Police are on the lookout now and the public has been helpful to spread the news. Another helpful dad like you digitally modified my boy’s attire to his school uniform, as he went missing in his uniform that day.”

These are the little things we can all do for the affected family. Do what you can.

(3) Keep a lookout

Safety is the key consideration in such situations. And time is crucial. Most children can be found within hours if the public keeps a watchful eye. The search becomes complicated if it is extended to days.

Your alertness in keeping a watchful lookout has the power to lessen the agony of families and can possibly save lives. We have heard of reports of autistic children overseas who met mishaps like car accidents, drowning or even falling prey to predatory characters. Let’s help to prevent tragedies from happening around us.

Photo: WordPress Photo Library

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child

On hindsight, that man who made that insensitive remark probably meant well to offer a solution. But a GPS tracker is not a panacea to all runaway problems. It is not uncommon to hear of ASD children removing, discarding and damaging such costly devices. Other well-meaning parents also shared their ideas to tackle the problem.  Unfortunately, what works for one child may not work for another. In the case of X, it is already the fifth time the boy had wandered off this year despite the parents’ best efforts.  

I could only imagine that the parents had exhausted all solutions they know, and are truly at their wits’ end. Rather than jumping to the quick conclusion that X’s parents are probably not doing enough, shouldn’t we give them all the help they can get? I am indignant that X’s parents become an object of speculation that they were not vigilant enough.

Photo: WordPress Photo Library

Many parents I know keep a watchful eye on their ASD children, holding their hands whenever they are out, and training them to know how to find their way home independently to the best of their efforts. The truth is many parents, especially those with ASD children whose conditions are more severe, are perpetually living on a high alert mode. They do not have a life of their own. Their lives revolve around their care-needy children, as they juggle with work and family obligations.  But no vigilance by the parents alone is water-tight enough; this is where support from the community is crucial.

It takes a village to raise a child. If neighbours make the efforts to know and interact with one another, everyone will be watching out for one another. In an event of vulnerable children like X wandering off from home repeatedly, there will be more understanding and less criticism. In this way, we can move a step closer to becoming a more inclusive society where people exercise grace towards one another.

William W K Tan

26 April 2019


060 Have these kinds of friends!

Have friends who feel for you

Last week, I wrote about the biggest worry of caregivers – what happens to a child who needs special care after the caregiver passes on? I wrote to encourage others. Instead, I received encouraging messages from others.

Picture from WordPress Photo Library

A friend HP felt the enormity of my worry. He revealed that his tears rolled involuntarily as he was telling his mom about my story. Another friend YS told me that he believed my elder son chose me as his parent for good reasons. And he could tell that I have found more purpose in life because of my son. My friend and mentor AD wrote to me, “Parents always worry about their children. Your advice is good: Take care of self. As for the rest, God will take care.”

It’s heart-warming to have friends who feel for you.

Have friends whom you can trust and talk to

Everyone needs a listening ear in times of need. A study conducted by researchers on 662 caregivers in Singapore found that having someone whom the caregiver trusts to talk to, whether to share sentiments, seek understanding or vent frustration, reduces the degree of depressive symptoms he or she faces. Having friends whom you can trust and talk to is a blessing.

Picture from WordPress Photo Library

But I have heard of contrary viewpoints. I have met people who said dismissively, “Friends? Who needs them!”

It is not uncommon to hear of lifelong friends who fail to step up when needed, while mere acquaintances give more than expected. Disappointment from close friends hurts. That’s why sometimes people choose to distance themselves to avoid getting hurt. However, if you cherish that friendship, surely it deserves a second chance of repairing.

Picture from WordPress Photo Library

For people who have our lives wrapped up around caregiving, I think we should understand more than anyone that there are inconvenient times in everyone’s life. Perhaps, your friends were too caught up with their own problems. And perhaps they did not know how much you needed their help.  Anyway, no one should not be faulted for not living up to other’s expectations.

Maybe friends who fail you do not know that a listening ear from a trusted friend is all that you ask for.

Have friends who are willing to go an extra mile

Friends can make real lasting difference.

Several weeks ago, I heard a sad story from a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) physician who was giving me acupuncture treatment. She said,

“I know it’s not easy raising an autistic child. My close friend’s son is about the age of yours. She confided in me that she might chose to jump to death with her son one day, rather than to leave the child behind. I reprimanded her for harbouring such dark thoughts.”

I was stumped for words before asking her, “How’s your friend doing now?”

“My friend had passed on some years back. She was in her forties, so it was most unexpected. She died of complications from a supposedly minor surgery. That’s life,” the physician sighed.

Picture from WordPress Photo Library

My heart sank. “How about the boy’s father?”

“The father didn’t care much about the son,” the physician continued, shaking her head sadly. “The boy has a younger sister. And the little girl told me that her brother had never been out of the house since their mother passed away. Hence, I take the siblings along on outings with my children from time to time.”

I was moved and looked up approvingly at the physician,

“Your act means a lot to the children. And it means a lot to your friend.”

“I should do that for her.” She said.

It’s blessing to have friends who are willing to go an extra mile.

The physician, the close friend she spoke of and two other girls have been the best of buddies since their pre-University days. (Picture from WordPress Photo Library)

Perhaps you would never know who these wonderful friends are. If you already do, cherish your friendship with them even more.

William W K Tan

12 April 2019

059 The Biggest Worry of Caregivers

What’ll happen to my child after I pass on?

The worry of leaving behind a child who may not survive alone in the outside world weighs heavily on the minds of parents with special needs children. I have the same worry. My elder son Kyan, aged fifteen, is diagnosed with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) and dyspraxia.

Last Sunday, I read in the papers about a seventy-two-year-old father Clement, who is the sole caregiver of his forty-three-year-old son Conrad, making preparation for his son’s life in the event that he passes on.

Source: The Straits Times on 31st March 2019.

Clement has arranged for his son to live away from home twice a week in a facility to prepare him for a future without his father. And he has prepared the legal papers to have someone appointed as Conrad’s caregiver after he passes on. But even after these measures have been put in place, the father’s lingering wish is, “Whoever we take care of should go before us.”

Clement’s words speak volumes of parents’ anxiety. We fear that our child cannot fend for himself or herself. We fear that no one else knows or cares for our child as much as we do. And we fear that even the best-laid plan is not foolproof to keep our child safe. Despite our best efforts to prepare our child for tomorrow, how the child will survive without us remains our biggest worry.

Do not lose sight of yourself

For a long time, I put that biggest worry on the back burner. Over the years, there was just too much on the plate already:

When will my child talk? Will he ever make eye-contact? How to toilet train him? Does he know what to do in class and during recess? Will he wander out of the school when nobody is watching? Can he cope with his school work? How much does he understand what is going on? Why is he getting sick so often? Why is he sleeping so little? How to deal with his meltdowns when he grows older? Will he be employable after he completes schooling at 18?

Picture from WordPress Photo Library

This list of worries goes on and on. Caregiving can be both physically and emotionally exhausting. The years went past so fast in the blink of an eye. In the rush to do everything we could for our children, parents easily lose sight of themselves.

Many caregivers live in constant stress and fatigue, thus aging very quickly. Sometimes when I meet parents who look tired, I would think of myself in the past. I am tempted to say, “Do not be a burning candle to light up your child’s life. Be the sun in their life.”

Picture from WordPress Photo Library

Try to outlive your child

Sun emits energy. And energy comes from inner strength. In retrospect, the single most important lesson I wish to tell everyone is to live a life filled with energy. Aim to live happier, better and longer!

My friends know that I became totally withdrawn from social life for thirteen years. It was only two years ago that it dawned onto me that I must learn to take care of myself first. Since then, I have made the switch to place priority on taking care of myself better. I changed my dietary habits and physical exercise routine, sought balance in work and family, and made efforts to enjoy what I do to the fullest.

Picture from WordPress Photo Library

These changes have given me the composure to do more for my parents, spouse and children. And friends fit in well in this new-found formula where I draw strength, inspiration and support.

Rather than worrying about that fateful day when I can no longer be there for our children, I made an audacious goal to outlive my children. Try to live till 💯! Just this belief alone gives me strength to do things that I used to think not possible.

You should give it a try too!

William W K Tan

5 April 2019

To read more about Clement and his son, click the link below:

Inclusive society makes caregivers’ task easier


056 Movie Review: Guang (光)A Moving Tale About Acceptance

Picture: Facebook/Guang The Movie

“Guang” (光), a movie inspired by the real-life experiences of director Quek Shio Chuan (郭修篆) was emotive and thought-provoking.  Tears welled up in me naturally and my thoughts raced fiercely. I stole glances at my wife and two children. Emotions were erupting in us as we saw glimpses of our family in the movie.

Picture: Facebook/ 光 Guang The Movie

Poster caption:

“My brother is autistic, not a moron.”

A powerful movie

When the movie ended, my 13-year-old son Conan told me discreetly, “Mom was tearing the whole time.” I felt a need to have a family conversation, but I knew it was not the right time. Turning to a chat-group of families with special needs children on my phone, it was obvious that every parent who had watched the movie shared similar sentiments. That was how impactful the movie “Guang” was!

Picture: Facebook/ 光 Guang The Movie


The movie “Guang” was premiered in November 2018 in Malaysia, and is released from 14 March onwards in Singapore. This beautifully-crafted feature film has received four nominations at the prestigious “The 21st Shanghai International Film Festival” slated for June 2019, and it has also been chosen to compete at the Fukuoka Film Festival in Japan later this year.   It is a matter of time that the movie will win more accolades.

Picture: Facebook/ 光 Guang The Movie

Poster caption:

“Hi, my name is Wen Guang. I am 27 years old this year. I am friendly, approachable and helpful. Sometimes I may look strange to you, but I hope you understand. I have ASD (autistic spectrum disorder).”


An autistic young man is filled with a single-minded zeal to search for glasses and bowls that produce a repertoire of music notes. His brother, however, is desperate to find him a job to fend for himself. Just when it seems that the irreconcilable differences between the two siblings can never be fixed, they found an answer to their problems.

Captivating Story-telling

Quek tells a story of how a desperate brother, Di-Di’s (Ernest Chong,张顺源) attempts to secure a job for his autistic elder brother, Guang (Kyo Chen,庄仲维) were thwarted by the latter’s obsession to collect glasses and bowls. Using intersecting plotlines driven by the two characters, Quek skilfully pulls on the heartstrings of his audience as the siblings’ interests collided and their conflicts heightened to a climax, yet he succeeded to bring the story to a thoughtful ending.

Picture: Facebook/ 光 Guang The Movie

Excellent Cast

Ernest and Kyo delivered a splendid performance of siblings’ affection and conflict. I was warmed by the chemistry between the brothers. And my heart pained when Di-Di scorned and beat his autistic elder brother in exasperation.  Another memorable character is Su-en (Emily Chan, 陈子颖) who brought light moments as the kind-hearted girl next door who befriended Guang and lent him a listening ear. Even the supporting actors like the ones who played the roles of Di-Di’s supportive friend, Tony and the prospective employer of a café who rejected Guang’s job application were convincing in their portrayal.

Picture: MM2 Entertainment

Brilliant Cinematography

I was almost in disbelief to find out later that this is Quek’s debut movie, given his masterful use of cinematography. Faint flashbacks of the protagonist’s childhood memories; a microscopic shot of gushing water in the inner tube of an ordinary water pump and the sound and light on glasses and bowls. All these imagery lend credence to explaining how the protagonist Guang developed an obsession to embark on his secret odyssey.

On top of these, scenes are laden with familiar symbols such as old streets, spinning bicycle wheels and shattered glass. Colours, lights and sounds also work harmoniously as the plot thickens.  To the satisfaction of audience, Quek delivered a breath-taking scene that demonstrated Guang’s brilliance beyond expectations.

Picture: Facebook/ 光 Guang The Movie

Walk Your Own Path

Just when I thought that all surprises were over, the movie ended with the soulful voice of a singer, SHIO (郭修彧) who also composed a melancholic melody and penned a heart-rending lyric with a chorus verse that kept ringing in my ears,

“You are not a freak.

Don’t be afraid that anyone may bully you.

Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your happiness.

You have your own path. 

And you walk with no regrets.”  

你不是怪物 别害怕 谁来欺负
不必为别人 丢了幸福
你走你的路 走一个 没有遗憾的路

Picture: Malaysia Newspapers Sin Chew Plus

Be Confident

The next day, I told Conan,

“I was taken aback by how burdensome Di-Di felt about taking care of his brother Guang. Do you feel the same?”

Conan replied, “No, I am confident.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Don’t ask me why. I am always confident.” Conan said with a smile.

I feel compelled to recommend “Guang” to as many people as possible. And tell them, “Be Confident!”

Guang is not just a movie about autism, it is a movie about acceptance. It’s definitely the best family movie I have watched in years!

Picture: Facebook/ Guang The Movie

Rating: 5/5 (💯 )

Duration: 1 hr 30 mins

Language: Chinese

Subtitles: English, Chinese, Malay


My Indonesian helper said,

” The movie is really good, Sir. Although it’s a Chinese movie but there are English and Malay subtitles. I am sure your friends will enjoy it.”

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William W K Tan

14 March 2019, Thursday