Be Kind, Include Us

I am pleased to share with you this special personal journey from my guest Danielle Chan. She is one of the kindest and most compassionate person I have met. She is who she is because of what she has.

Be Kind, Include Us.

I have two boys; my older son is 16 and was diagnosed with Attention Deficiency, Autism and Dyslexia when he was 7 years old. Around 8 years of age, my younger son who is now 12 years old was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Because of them, I went for an informal diagnosis for myself and discovered that I also have Attention Deficiency Disorder all along. The 3 of us would often joke with their father that out of the four of us, he is the only abnormal one in the family. This reminds me of the movie “Planet of the Apes”, where apes were the norm and humans were the outcasts. The norm is defined as the majority. But that number which constitutes as the majority is not an absolute, it changes doesn’t it? It is not a constant. Recent medical research indicates that the number of autistic children have increased from 1 in 2000 in the 1970s, to 1 in 150 at present. This rate of increase has astonished the medical community. My older son said to me “Mommy, one day autistic people will be in the majority and the world will be ruled by people like us.” That is probably not that far from the truth, as Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg are said to have slight autism, and these two people have certainly changed the way we live and interact with each other.

It was not known to me that I had ADD, but once I knew, everything that I did or didn’t do made a lot of sense. I laughed when I received the news because I really did not think there is anything wrong with me. My kids carry the same perspective that when they are performing certain actions that seem strange or unacceptable to society at large, they do not think there is anything wrong until someone from the ‘outside’ tells them that it is wrong. So the three of us like being around each other because we are free from being judged, moralised, and criticised.

Isolation, escapism and distraction are common tactics we employ to avoid the feeling of hurt and annoyance. Most of us have a beautiful mind trapped in a body. We feel and we understand a lot more than what people perceive, but we may not always have the ability to express these feelings, or we express them in ways that are explosive.

We accept that there will not be a lot of people who will understand us though there is always that one or two persons who take the time to figure you out. I was lucky to have met my husband and he accepted almost all my idiosyncracies. He actually found my habits cute. Most guys that I dated before always moralised and try to change me. And when they attempted to do that, I countered them saying “How do you know you are right? Because that is what everyone thinks? Didn’t the majority thought it was right to own slaves at one point in time? Terrorists think they are right. How can you be absolutely certain that you are not a perpetrator of a bigger vice?” Well not many like my argumentative style, but my husband did. He says I make him think. I was born this way; there is not much I can do about that. I only know how to be me. How is it possible to be someone else? Even if I tried to be someone else, am I supposed to live a life of hypocrisy and falsity? We may not be the brightest, have the best social manners, or the latest outfit, but we live an authentic life. We do not pretend to be anyone else other than who we are.

Luck was also showered on my older son, who came across a Ms. Shabana Haleem at Bedok South Secondary School. Before my son met Ms. Sha (this is what my son calls her), he was a lost and frustrated yet talented boy. He loves math but he did not always have the language ability to express his needs. Sometimes he is side-lined because of his weirdness. Ms Sha was the special needs teacher who took the time to listen and understand him. She did not find him annoying and neither was she disgusted with his habits. Instead, she patiently taught and fought for him. She found some of my son’s habits ‘cute’. Throughout the last three years at Bedok South, Ms Shah was Jai’s solace and mentor. She was also my saviour. A kind act of understanding and fighting for an underdog has changed life for my son, and paved the road to what I believe will be a successful path.

How are we to practice inclusiveness? Be kind. It is a verb. When you see a special needs person or someone who you think is weird or does not fit into what you think is right, first be kind not to judge. Be kind not to moralise. Be kind to take a deeper look into that person’s eyes and believe that beneath that body is a beautiful mind. And do your best to include us. See us as your equal not as your inferior, because one day, maybe just one day, one of us odd balls may be in the majority, and it will be us who will decide who to include!

Danielle Chan


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