If you think that some parents of children with disabilities are making life difficult for them…

…think again.

By pushing them hard and forcing them to do things which they do not like but are good for them, their parents are helping them to achieve their optimal potential.

My mother used to tell me: “Never mind your disability, son. Just like others, you can be the best if you believe in yourself and persevere no matter how tough the circumstances”.

While my mother is a woman of words, my father is a man of action. To ensure that I keep abreast of my classmates, he will not excuse me from attending school even though I am suffering from multiple fractures.

My mother will “fight” with him for me to rest at home because of the pain and distress I have to endure and the risk of aggravating the injury.

Somehow, he will win the argument and she will relent reluctantly.

That means I have to go to school with tears rolling down my cheeks. It is as much the decision as the searing pain brought about by every movement.

His winning argument, which agonises me, is: “If you want him to be strong, you must not pamper him. He must learn not only to endure the pain, but also prevail over it”.

I hate to say, it but he is right. I believe I am stronger for the experience. I discover that I am made of sterner stuff and that the pain will pass.

And that gives me more courage to face the challenges that come with my condition and my wish to live out my dreams.

Therefore, I urge parents of children with disabilities, who are thinking of withdrawing their children from or not sending them to the mainstream schools because it will be hard for them, to consider carefully.

You may not be doing them a favour by depriving them of their best chance to develop themselves.

Believe me, the challenges will make them grow and provide them with the opportunity to learn more about themselves.

When I was a pupil of Pei Chun Public School, the school had two other students with disabilities – one was suffering from autism and the other had learning disability.

I am proud of the school because it welcomes children with challenges and gives them a chance to develop themselves academically and socially.

Unfortunately, both students found school difficult despite the special care, guidance and motivation given by the teachers. Their parents took them out of school to “save” them from their burden.

But I believe good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger will the trees be.

There are many “achievers” with disabilities. Just take Jovin Tan (Singapore’s sailing representative at the Athens Paralympic Games), Grace Chan (author of the book I Am Human, Not Alien), Tan Wei Lian (winner of Channel U’s Project Superstar), Dr William Tan (a wheelchair athlete, well known for his record breaking feats) and Amanda Mok (Asian Women’s Welfare Association Young Talent Award winner).

I am sure they overcame many adversities to be where they are and their parents had played a vital role in the development of their strength and spirit. Some children cry because they do not want to go to school. Some children bawl for more candies.

Some burst into tears just because they have to undergo physiotherapy.

If parents listen to the tears of the moment and take the easy option, they will miss the laughter of a life-time.

(This article was published in TODAY of 10 November 2005)