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Help for the Helpers

CAREGIVERS – If you are a caregiver to a challenging child, the Singapore government provides help for therapy, programmes and training.

If you are a caregiver to a challenging child, the Singapore government provides help for you
By STEVE DAWSON

One of the most important roles we can play during our lives, is to nurture our children should we choose have them and are fortunate enough to do so. It’s ironic then that such an important task comes with little training. 

We are perhaps able to draw upon the experience of our parents as they now move into grandparent phase, but while that help comes from a thorough grounding garnered over 20 or more years, in fact the scope is very narrow – defined by the kind of children we were and the challenges we presented to our folks.

We probably accept from the experience of having been surrounded by our peers at school, that children develop at their own pace. But a significant challenge for parents is a difficulty in understanding that some people may not be able to do the things we managed without too much difficulty. 

Oddly, we accept that some people can do some things better than we can. That’s drummed into us. When exam results are handed out and our ranking is made apparent, we come to accept that although there’s no limit to how much harder we can work, some people are just more adept at certain things. 

Less thought goes towards those beneath us in the achievements league table, so our simplified conclusion is that they don’t work hard enough or are just not very smart. 

My children, I’ve always been convinced, are smart. They’re both graduates now and I believe will be successes in whatever they choose to specialise in. So, when one of them faltered during her primary school years, both my wife and I tended to focus on the notion that she wasn’t trying hard enough. We were aware that learning difficulties were a thing, but my own stubborn pride delayed any professional diagnosis. 

I wish now I’d been better educated in this area. My daughter may have been diagnosed with Irlen syndrome (a form of dyslexia which is very effectively managed with a tinted lens in her spectacles) a little earlier. It all came good for her in the end, but the shaping of her young personality must have been affected by the years prior to her diagnosis, that no matter how hard she tried she just wasn’t able to match the standard of the others at school. “I just didn’t think I was as clever as them,” she told me, heartbreakingly, in later years.

So when my other daughter got the chance to work on an awareness campaign managed by the government, for the support parents can get, I felt duty bound to share it with you.

In her accompanying message to parents, the Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling said:
“You may have picked up this guide because you want to learn more or have concerns about your child’s development. You may want more information because:
  • You notice your child faces more challenges than his/her peers and are not sure what to do next.
  • Your child’s teacher recommends referring your child for a developmental assessment with a paediatrician or a support programme.
  • Your child’s doctor diagnoses your child with a developmental condition and asks you to consider an Early Intervention service.
  • You wish to learn ways by which you and your family can support your child,”

The 62-page guide focusses on assessing developmental milestones involving gross and fine motor skills, speech and language development and social skills at various young ages, plus what to do about any related concerns you might have. Importantly it also addresses how you as a parent react to confirmation that there are developmental concerns.

Identifying challenges early means that there is every chance for intervention, at the stage of life when the brain is developing at such a fast pace. The pamphlet talks about how you are not alone in making this journey, the government support available for early intervention costs and the support you can get in making important decisions. I’ve often reflected on how having the money to help my child was crucial and what might have happened if times had been harder for us, as they can be for so many.

Among many questions and concerns it addresses some of the concerns I had as a parent, that I now know were borne out of a lack of education in the area, namely over the stigma of being labelled as ‘special needs’, when in reality your child should never have to carry that tag line and instead will take such delight from having doors open where previously they couldn’t pass through.

There are links to videos where parents and children who needed help and are now adults with rewarding and valuable rolls in life share their experiences, one in particular speaks of a letter he would have written to his former self.

My journey as a parent has been an overwhelmingly happy one. Mixed with my regret over the mis-steps I made with my daughter’s developmental needs are the concerns I have for other parents, both that they are able to find the right conclusion, as we did, but also to do so quickly and to be able to afford the costs along the way.

The pamphlet is available here and I wish someone had offered me this link when I was at the same stage, some years ago.

go.gov.sg/ecda-parentsguide 

Singapore-based Steve Dawson is a seasoned sports journalist and broadcaster who has covered thousands of sporting events at arenas, in studios and hunkered down in commentary booths.
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