A mother took to Facebook to share a drawing her 8-year-old son with autism made to explain why he has been feeling depressed in school.
Janice recounted her story yesterday (Jan 9) in a heartbreaking post to Friends of ASD – a Facebook page focused on families raising children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The son is understood to have mild autism and attends a local mainstream primary school.
The boy came up with the drawing as he could not verbalise his feelings well.
”Mummy I have no friends”
The drawing revealed that the boy was depressed because “nobody wanted to play with him”; even at one time, he was laughed at by his classmates when he slipped on a wet floor and fell.
Janice explained that she taught her son to take the first initiative to befriend a playmate, and to “move on to other children if they refused”. Unfortunately, the boy felt discouraged after facing “rejection after rejection in his repeated attempts in finding someone to play with”.
”Worse, when he slipped on the wet floor and fell, he was laughed at and no one came to help!”
– Janice, mother of 8-year-old autistic boy
Facebook commenters suggest a ‘buddy system’
Facebook commenters were largely empathetic to Janice’s experience. Some suggest the school come up with a ‘buddy system’:
Lack of disability awareness an issue in mainstream schools
Janice claimed that even though the school that her son attends has an allied educator, he receives no support because he only has a mild case of autism.
She further said that whatever education available on disability focuses on differences rather than the similarities shared by all children, including the need to feel accepted.
“Disability awareness is still largely lacking in mainstream schools and whatever meagre efforts there are tend to hinge on what make these children different rather than emphasize on the sameness, that everyone yearns for acceptance regardless of abilities or backgrounds.”
Janice went further to talk about the “painful irony” of her son being excluded in what is purportedly an inclusive mainstream education. She said: “There has been a lot of talk about inclusion but inclusion is meaningless if children with different abilities are merely being put in the same place without any genuine form of interaction.”
MP calls for Government to set up a “proper support structure”
Speaking in Parliament on the future of Singapore’s education system in July last year, Member of Parliament (MP) Rahayu Mahzam – who is a mother to a child with Down Syndrome – called for an inclusive education where all children learn and play within the same setting “but in different pathways”. They receive support and assistance based on their needs but have the opportunity to interact meaningfully with others, she said.
She added that research has shown children with special needs show greater speech and language development when they are supported to communicate with their peers.
MP Rahayu Mahzam with her son, Ayden, in a photo taken in June 2018. (Photo courtesy of Rahayu Mahzam)
The Government needs to set up a “proper support structure” along with an improved career pathway for special education teachers. It should offer a curriculum that caters to different needs, paces of learning as well as provide the facilities and resources required, said Ms Rahayu.
“If there is segregation and the children are not treated equally within the same setting, that’s not truly inclusive education,” she added.
In response, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said the Education Ministry will take the suggestions seriously and study them further.
“We need everyone to commit to this – teachers, schools, parents, the public, employers and the wider society,” he said. “Likewise, we have to teach our children with Special Educational Needs to be advocates for themselves. They must learn how to communicate their needs to friends, co-workers, and employers, and to be confident contributors to society.”
”Do to others what you want them to do to you.”
Janice hopes that all children can be educated with the golden rule, “Do to others what you want them to do to you”.
She added: “I hope my son’s drawing will serve as a reminder that autistic individuals too have feelings, just like everyone else.”
Here’s Janice Facebook post in full:
I would like to share a picture drawn by my eight-year-old son who has mild autism and is studying in a mainstream school.
He drew it one day after school as he was depressed that nobody wanted to play with him. I have spent a long time to teach him to initiate play with peers and to move on to other children if they refused. But he was so dampened facing rejection after rejection during his repeated attempts in finding someone to play with. Worse, when he slipped on the wet floor and fell, he was laughed at and no one came to help! He couldn’t articulate his feelings well so he drew this picture to show me what he had gone through.
This is only part of his daily struggles in school. Although his school has an allied educator, he receives no support as he’s considered a mild case. He is basically left to cope with the school day on his own devices. This is how a whole day in school feels like for a boy autism – https://themighty.com/2018/06/coke-can-autism-meltdown/…. In addition to the challenges caused by his autism, he has to deal with being excluded. It is no wonder why my boy sometimes comes home and explodes.
Sometimes people do not realise how hurtful exclusion is, especially in what seems like inclusion on the surface. It is such a painful irony to be excluded despite being “included” into mainstream education. There has been a lot of talk about inclusion but inclusion is meaningless if children with different abilities are merely being put in the same place without any genuine form of interaction.
Disability awareness is still largely lacking in mainstream schools and whatever meagre efforts there are tend to hinge on what make these children different rather than emphasize on the sameness, that everyone yearns for acceptance regardless of abilities or backgrounds. Actually all it takes to educate school children about the decent way to treat others is the golden rule – “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” I hope my son’s drawing will serve as a reminder that autistic individuals too have feelings, just like everyone else.
I appreciate how this dad advocates with a very simple message that speaks to everyone (https://www.facebook.com/imjoshshipp/videos 10155936140784246/). He asks you to connect with the place in yourself when you felt lonely and ask what you can do when you realise and recognise that someone near you is lonely. No one should have to eat alone or spend the whole day in school without a friend, everyday.
Contributed by Janice whose son goes to a mainstream primary school.