Special needs. It’s a subject that receives less attention than it deserves. Broadly, the term special needs refers to individuals who need help with disabilities. Within an educational setting, common special needs conditions include autism and dyslexia.
Just a brief introduction to autism and dyslexia…
AUTISM. A person with autism usually has difficulty with three areas: communication, social interaction and imagination (Autism Association Singapore). It occurs across a spectrum—in other words, autism affects people with varying degrees of severity. By the way, if you read up about autism, you may come across the term “high functioning autism.” Basically this term refers to children who are only mildly affected by autism. They function well despite autism.
DYSLEXIA. A person with dyslexia often has difficulty with reading, writing and spelling. Often they have problems with visual orientation and sequence (they may see letters upside down, eg: confuse b and d, write h backwords). Because of this processing difference, dyslexic children often have great difficulty with reading. However, this is by no means a reflection on their intelligence. I personally have a close friend who has dyslexia, and know a few others through my friends. They are fantastic folks to be around… cheerful, witty and inspiring. One of them happens to be my fellow orchestra member who, by the way, plays MUCH better than I do!
~ YES! THERE IS HOPE! ~
In all my personal research, I have found the special needs community to be one of the most inspiring, hope-filled and exciting. It is true, there is no cure for conditions such as autism and dyslexia—ah, but there is HOPE. With patience, love and understanding, there is hope for improvement. And where there is little or slow improvement, understanding the reasons for the problem always leads to greater empathy. And don’t they need that! They need people who understand that while they might be different, they’re just as important as anyone else. They are not unintelligent beings to be pushed around, no! They’re intelligent, special people, just like us.
I’m always excited when I learn of more being done to help the special needs community here, and I’m grateful that there is a growing awareness and understanding in Singapore today. As I mentioned in my last newsletter, one of these is Brenda Tan, mother of an autistic little boy. Read her story, and others’ too, in her book Come into My World. It will touch your heart.
For further reading:
Do you know anyone with special needs? Care to share?