What is it like to be a special needs child growing up? Ms Priyadashani D/O Mohamed Husain pens an uplifting note about her supportive family and how being a student at a Special Education (SPED) school prepared her to take on the working world. The national sprinter is now a Teacher Aide at APSN Chaoyang School.
Hi, my name is Priya. I am 21 years old. I am a Teacher Aide in APSN Chaoyang School. I also have mild intellectual disability. I want to share my story about growing up, going to school and now working as a person with special needs.
Although I have special needs, when I was young, I did not feel that I was different, probably because I was rather quiet and everyone around me treated me well. My family loves me unconditionally and that helped me to also be positive in my outlook in life.
What I struggled with then was not being able to read very well, but with support from my family and school, I pressed on, kept on practising and overcame the struggle. I think I read quite well now!
I remember that when I entered APSN Delta Senior School, I was very excited because I got to do vocational training in retail operations, with an internship at the clothing store Hang Ten. The internship made me more confident and less shy to talk to strangers.
My teachers also discovered my sporting abilities and I trained with national coach, Coach Muhamad Hosni, three times a week. I got selected to represent my school, and even Singapore, at many different sports meets, such as the National Para-Athletics Championships (every year from 2014 to 2017), and the Special Olympics (2017). My best events are the 100-metre and 400-metre sprints. I am really proud of the medals I have won!
In 2018, I received the Lee Kuan Yew Exemplary Student Award for being a role model to my peers through my achievements in sports. The award provided me with even more motivation to continually do my best and strive to do even better.
When it was time for me to graduate, I found it hard to find a job that could fit my athletics training schedule. I am very grateful that my principal at Delta Senior School, Mr Subash Lazar, suggested to the Chaoyang School Principal, Mrs Angela Lee, for me to do a Teacher Aide internship there. Mrs Lee readily agreed, and I began my journey as a Teacher Aide!
When I started, I felt unsure and lacked confidence. I am very thankful to my colleagues at Chaoyang who always looked out for me and provided support and guidance, especially my principal Mrs Lee and my mentor Mrs Norlidah Shahrin.
They made sure that I was able to cope with my work and get along with my colleagues, and that I had someone to turn to when I needed help. My job coach from Delta Senior School also continued to support me and work closely with Mrs Shahrin to ensure that I was coping well. The skills I learned at Delta Senior School also helped me in the internship, like being resilient and persevering through challenges, and how to seek help when I am unsure of anything.
Because of my love for sports, I was really happy to work with a group of Primary 4 students during Physical Education lessons. I also managed and assisted students for Home Economics and ICT lessons as well. Through my work, I learned many new skills, like using digital apps, completing work-related administrative processes, working with the teachers, and managing the students.
I was overjoyed when the school offered me a contract to be a Teacher Aide in 2021. This involves greater responsibilities, and the role is like a dream job for me, so I am working hard and giving my best. With my paycheque, I can pay for my own expenses such as my phone bill, contribute to my family’s expenses and give some to charity to help less privileged families. I save the remaining half of the money for the future. If there is an opportunity, I want to further my studies and upgrade myself.
I am grateful to Delta Senior School and Chaoyang School for believing in me, so that I can have the opportunity to pay it forward and serve the special needs community. I am proud to be a Teacher Aide.