Latest TODAY column: My daughter the fish
ON Monday morning, at Marina Mandarin, there was a symposium on early intervention for kids with special needs, and kids from my daughter's special school performed a musical item.
My daughter was a fish.
I don't know about the rest of you parents, but for me, this is a moment of pride, one of the highlights of my three-year-old's brief academic career.
My daughter the fish
On Monday morning, at Marina Mandarin, there was a symposium on early intervention for kids with special needs, and kids from my daughter’s special school performed a musical item.
My daughter was a fish.
I don’t know about the rest of you parents, but for me, this is a moment of pride, one of the highlights of my three-year-old’s brief academic career.
The last time I was this proud was when Faith learned duck dunks, sticking her head underwater like a duck, then coming up for air (the first time she pulled that stunt, her teachers thought she was drowning and freaked out). I am hoping that Duck Dunks becomes an Olympic event by the time she is old enough to compete. Hey, a Dad could hope.
Sure, at this symposium, Dr Vivian B announced that the Government would be spending $3 million a year for the next five years to fund special early intervention programmes.
That’s all good. Government putting money into special needs is always welcome. But more importantly, my daughter got to be a fish. She was an orange fish, species unknown.
Now you may think that being a fish, or the parent of a fish, is easy or glamorous. Just wear the costume and perform lah, I can hear you say.
What you don’t see are the weeks of long rehearsals, the hand-made elaborate costumes, the blood and sweat of her teachers preparing the kids and dealing with the temperamental little diva Mermaids, Fish and Seaweed.
And you try getting a toddler used to waking up at 8am to wake up at 7am because she has to be there early for costuming. Then you sit in the audience with your little Orange Fish Girl who is extremely grouchy from lack of sleep.
In the silence of the room, Dr Vivian says the first sentence of his speech.
At which point, sleepy and cranky Orange Fish Girl decides to kick up a royal fuss and embarrass her entire fish family.
So Mommy Fish takes cranky Orange Fish Girl out of the hall, so that the good Minister can continue his speech. Twice.
When the time came for the item, all the little sea creatures lined up like good sea creatures should, to enter the stage to the cue of the music (“Under the Sea” from the movie “The Little Mermaid”).
All but, yes, Orange Fish Girl, who decided to go onstage before the music started. Her teacher had to reel her back in.
With the help of the teachers on stage, and some Lord-of-the-Rings-quality special effects (soap bubbles to simulate the sea), the kids of AWWA Special School danced/swam their little hearts out.
After that Tony-Award-winning performance, Dr Vivian chatted with the parents of the cast. My wife told him Faith has ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). He must have heard it wrong, or it was noisy, or my wife mumbled, because he looked very concerned about Faith’s condition, and asked my wife, “Need surgery ah?”
My wife helpfully told him that Faith has Autism, a more common name for it, and I think he got it.
My wife also had the chance to chat with the parents of Faith’s fellow sea creature schoolmates. She asked one mom whose daughter has delayed development, if she sent her to regular kindergartens besides her special school.
She said, for a while, her daughter attended a normal kindergarten who was willing to take her in, but that did not last.
Because the parents of the “normal” kids complained, "I pay good money to send my child here, what if he/she becomes like her?"
Yes, of course. autism and delayed development are all contagious. Hang around children with special needs and your kid will become stupid too.
My wife said it best: what is the use of making your child a genius if you do not teach them how to love and accept others who are different from them?
This mom she spoke to also has two normal older children. She tells them, when mommy is gone, you must take care of your little sister.
She also said she doesn’t go out much because people stared at her child’s “misbehaviour”.
Here’s an idea, I suggest a Probation plate for all special needs kids in future. That way, when they act up in public, people will know why. And also, they can spot the “P” plate from afar, and keep their “normal” children safe from that “disease”.
I heard that the Government spent some $200,000 to develop a set of CD-Roms to give parents with special needs kids some basic tips on how to care for them.
Maybe we should start educating parents with the “normal” kids first. Give them the CD-Roms instead. Then maybe, one day, when people meet my daughter and others like her, they will not see a fish out of water, but the sweet little girl inside the fish costume.
mr brown is the accidental author of a popular website that has been documenting the dysfunctional side of Singapore life since 1997. He is now working on getting his Orange Fish Girl a contract on Broadway, maybe in the musical Cats.