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Spastic Children’s Association of Singapore

In association with the Spastic Children’s Association of Singapore (SCAS), YRC Magazine brings a series of stories from the children and their teachers from SCAS to give everyone an idea of how it is like to live a challenging life with cerebral palsy.

It May Be Hard to Swallow…
Text from the SCAS

You can call me Paul*. I have Cerebral Palsy, which is a condition that affects a person’s mobility. It can occur before or during birth, when a baby is in the mother’s womb, or from an illness or injury to the child early in life. My condition makes me wheelchair bound. I can see and hear but I cannot speak or control my head, hands and leg movements. During lessons at school, my mother will sit outside the class and will come in during snack time. I cannot eat through my mouth; I eat through my nose. To elaborate further, I need to use a feeding tube to eat, which I am well aware of, is rather unconventional. But that is the only way I can eat.

Sometimes when I see my friends eat normally, I wish I could eat just like them. I want to chew and taste the food that my mother has dutifully prepared for me, but I cannot. I hope to eat without the feeding tube, then I can know what it is like – that tingling sensation you must feel when you experience the taste, the texture, even of burnt food! I wish I could taste the hot chilli that makes my friends’ faces turn red and then drink lots of water to cool it down. How I crave for such fun and interesting experiences!

When I am being tube-fed, I experience pain and discomfort, since the food travels through my nose and then to my stomach. If I have a wish and only one wish, I will wish for a chance to know why some people like me cannot eat like how other people do. I used to be haunted with such depressing and sorrowful thoughts, but I came to a conclusion that self-pity is not going to help. Things always happen for a reason, even if I may not know what the reason may be. I am certain that one fine day, I will find it.

I know that all my friends in Spastic Children’s Association School hope to lead normal lives. I will try my best to lead an ordinary life like a normal boy, even though it is not easy. I am happy that my family cares for me and loves me. They send me to school for me to learn and to nurture myself, which shows in my Math and English test results. I am also grateful to have friends who help me whenever I am in need. For my future, well, I am not sure what it will bring, but I will manage, and I am sure I will do just fine.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy. This story is provided by Spastic Children’s Association of Singapore.

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TITLE: Will Be At Your Aide

Mainstream schools have Allied Educators. A special education (SPED) school like The Spastic Children’s Association of Singapore (SCAS) has Teacher Aides. They play an essential role in the classroom, such as 61 year-old Selvarajan Isaac Shadrak, who is ever ready to lend a hand to his fellow colleagues and students in need. Read his side of the SCAS story here.

What is your average day at work like?
As a Teacher Aide, my working hours are from 8.00am to 5.00pm and I work five days a week. Every morning, we assist in bringing down the students from their school buses. While the teacher is busy teaching students, Teacher Aides will assist the students in their class work. Most of the students have difficulty in writing, drawing and using the computer, and we assist them patiently.
During recess time, we will assist students who are unable to feed themselves, upon which we will help to brush their teeth. Because of their limitations and disability, we provide necessary assistance to the students. At the end of the day, we assist the students to their respective school buses and we also help to carry the wheelchair-bound students up into the buses.

What inspired you to be a Teacher Aide at a SPED school like SCAS?
I have been working as a Teacher Aide at SCAS for ten years. I never thought that I would be working with children with cerebral palsy. I have a passion to help children and adults with special needs. In 2002, as I was looking for a career change from being a police officer, I wrote to SCAS for a job because of my love of working with children. To my surprise, I was accepted as a Teacher Aide and I have no regrets till now.

Your wife used to be a counselor at a mainstream school. In comparison between the two sectors, what are the similarities and differences faced?
My wife is currently working as a counselor at a Family Service Centre. The differences between children in the mainstream education and SPED sectors are mainly centred on disability and dependency. Many children at SCAS need to rely on someone even for basic skills, such as eating. Due to their physical and auto-motor disability, they lack daily living, communication and social skills. In addition, the academic expectations are also different in the mainstream education and SPED sectors, due to the learning disability among special needs children.

What are the challenges you face, working at a SPED school?
Children with cerebral palsy and other conditions may experience difficulty in school. Most of the time, working with them can be very challenging as they are highly dependent, and as teacher aides, we need to provide all the necessary support and assistance with understanding, love and acceptance, which would help to make a difference in their lives.

What is your advice to all aspiring Teacher Aides at a SPED school?
As a Teacher Aide, I personally feel that you not only need a lot of patience, but also the passion to work with such children. Though it may not be easy at times, my main motivation is to bring joy to these less fortunate ones, by giving them all the necessary support and motivation, and to use humour to make them smile and be happy. Working with these children also gives me satisfaction, fulfillment and it keeps me grounded.

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