Pow Kai Lee
Structured Teaching for Exceptional Pupils
Strengthening Home-School Partnership
Usually, students return after the long June and December holidays somewhat maladjusted for school in various ways. In 2013 however, eleven year-old Poh Kai Lee came back from the June holidays ready for school and raring to go. Her parents revealed that they reminded her about school throughout the holidays in order to prepare her for the new term. Indeed, Kai Lee’s parents are sterling role models for home-school partnership. Said Senior Teacher Azila Arifin, “Our collaboration with Kai Lee’s parents is very good. Her mother shares her views with us, and is reinforces at home what is taught in school. We communicate regularly.”
Kai Lee has made great progress in regulating her emotions and impulses, and exhibits cheerful confidence along with intellectual prowess. Kai Lee’s mother, Mrs Poh, sets high expectations for Kai Lee. Senior Teacher Azila shared that it is not easy to convince parents to be strict with their children, but Mrs Poh does not flinch from expecting the best of her daughter.
Kai Lee was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when she was two and a half years old. Mrs Poh was saddened by this, but more challenges followed. Unable to express herself, Kai Lee often cried and screamed, while her mother tried to figure out what she wanted. The stares and hurtful comments people directed at them added to the mother’s anxieties and despair. A few years ago, Kai Lee suddenly wrenched free of her mother’s grip at the neighbourhood hawker centre and ran away. Mrs Poh frantically scoured the neighbourhood looking for her, until a crowd by the roadside drew her attention to Kai Lee at the road divider. She dashed over and brought Kai Lee back to safety, still badly shaken, and found herself reprimanded by people in the crowd.
The frequent curious stares, admonitions, and ignorant comments often drove Mrs Poh into despair, and even into severe depression. However, these did not defeat the strong and loving mother, who stands as one with her child and does what is best for her. For example, with consummate patience, she taught Kai Lee from a young age to keep herself neat and clean, and the efforts paid off. Not only did Kai Lee grow into a tidy girl, she also helps to keep the house spick and span.
A Blessing To Nurture
Senior Teacher Azila recalled that when Kai Lee joined Rainbow Centre Yishun Park School in 2007, she did not speak much and had sensory issues which made her very prone to screaming outbursts and hurting herself. Not knowing her schedule for the day also upset her. To modulate her screaming outbursts and develop her communication skills, picture communication system and schedule boards were introduced to her. With these, Kai Lee was able to express her needs, and pre-empt her activities. Today, Kai Lee verbalises well and has outgrown picture communication. The mobile schedule board that used to be placed such that it was always visible has been replaced with a smaller schedule card which she keeps in her pocket and refers to when necessary.
Being able to communicate better also spurred Kai Lee’s learning and development, both emotionally and academically. She is doing well at numeracy and literacy, adapts more easily to changes, and also warms up to unfamiliar activities more quickly. For instance, at the beginning of the year, she started showing frustration barely fifteen minutes into art lessons. By the end of the year, not only was she enjoying the full hour-long classes, her well-accomplished artwork was displayed at a Very Special Arts event!
Senior Teacher Azilah described Kai Lee as an endearing girl who is full of surprises and a joy to be nurture. Intellectually, she goes beyond regurgitation. Instead, she processes information. She also possesses an amazing memory. Her father Mr Poh shared that the family had packed away a home computer for one and a half years. When they wanted to start it up again, Mr Poh, his wife, and elder daughter racked their brains but could not remember the password. Kai Lee sauntered up to the computer and successfully keyed in the extensive password without a fuss.
Taken together, the joys, the challenges, the tears, and the smiles of being part of Kai Lee’s life is a blessing. This is evident in her family’s strong bond. Mrs Poh shared, “I am very happy with my family. I have such a caring husband, and two lovely children.”
Society can be very harsh with people who do not understand the rigours parents raising children with special needs go through; and with people who are quick to judge and reprimand others. However, for many others, nurturing children with special needs imparts a loving wisdom which would bring about a better humanity for all.