Caption: Yi Ting at TOUCH Centre for Independent Living (TCIL)
62-year-old Mr Chua Kian Seng never expected that his second child would be born with a disability. When he and his wife, Ms Ng Mui Cheng, discovered that their only daughter, Yi Ting, was born with hearing impairment and intellectual disability, they were fraught with worries.
Mr Chua recalls, “My wife and I were not sure what to do. How would we communicate with Yi Ting when she could not hear? Will she be able to receive a proper education and become independent in the future?”
Learning to Listen and Communicate Better
Motivated by a parent’s love and determination to enable Yi Ting to live independently, Mr Chua and his wife started learning simple sign language through books and attending workshops. Though it was not easy, Mr Chua feels thankful that sign language and hand gesturing have helped to bridge the communication barrier and allowed them to understand and be understood by Yi Ting better.
“When we need to discipline Yi Ting, we do our best to explain why certain behaviours are not good and encourage her not to repeat them in the future. We may not always succeed in correcting her on the first try, but we’ve learnt not to give up in our journey of parenting Yi Ting,” he shares.
Finding Opportunities to Learn and Grow
As parents who want the best for their children, Mr Chua was concerned about Yi Ting’s education and future. With the help of friends and medical professionals, Mr Chua and his wife learnt about the Singapore School for the Deaf (SSD) and enrolled Yi Ting there.
At SSD, Yi Ting learnt sign language, English, and simple Mathematics that she could use when buying food or groceries outside.
Yi Ting was also introduced to TOUCH Silent Club (TSC)’s mentorship programme and attended supplementary lessons over the weekends. “It was difficult for Yi Ting to make friends because of her hearing impairment. We are grateful that TSC’s weekend programme gave her a platform to forge new friendships and continue learning outside of school,” Mr Chua shares.
Discovering and Fulfilling Potential
When Yi Ting graduated from SSD when she was 17 years old, her parents were referred to TOUCH Centre for Independent Living (TCIL) for Yi Ting to continue receiving guidance and training.
Mr Chua remembers, “I did not want Yi Ting’s journey to stop after SSD. I feel that she has the potential to achieve more, and I want to keep trying even though it is challenging. I thought that enrolling her into a Day Activity Centre like TCIL would give her the opportunity to mix with hearing friends and learn important skills to prepare her for work.”
Caption: Yi Ting with her best friends from TCIL.
Since joining TCIL in 2009, Yi Ting has honed her sign language skills and picked up daily living skills like cooking, cleaning, and financial management. Through TCIL’s weekly mobility training, Yi Ting has also learnt how to take public transport independently and do simple calculations before purchasing items on her own.
“When Yi Ting first joined, she had low self-confidence in learning and making friends. She often replies “I don’t know” or scratches her head when we ask her something. Today, Yi Ting has so much more confidence in communicating with her coaches and friends. She participates actively during lessons and is well-liked by her peers!” shares Ms Tan Wei Ling, Yi Ting’s Lifeskills coach.
Today, Yi Ting is confident of making public presentations and helps as an assistant facilitator when TSC conducts Disability Awareness Workshops for organisations.
Caption: Yi Ting helping as an assistant facilitator at a recent Disability Awareness Workshop.
Yi Ting was also given the opportunity to explore different jobs like meal delivery and cleaning through ad hoc job training. Since March 2023, Yi Ting has been working as an Office Maintenance Support Intern where she cleans meeting rooms and washes the pantry area once a week.
Caption: Yi Ting cleaning high touch common areas as part of her job training as an Office Maintenance Support Intern.
“I’m thankful that the job trainings have given Yi Ting exposure in different areas of work. At home, she applies what she’s learnt at the job training and helps with household chores. I hope that she can become independent and eventually take up a job – whether it’s full-time or part-time!” says Mr Chua.
Yi Ting has been an example of how people with disabilities can be enabled and given the opportunity to fulfil her potential. Mr Chua and his wife have much to be proud of by how far Yi Ting has come.
TOUCH Centre for Independent Living (TCIL) is a day activity centre which offers competence-based training programmes for adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities. It aims to provide them with functional knowledge and skills that will equip them to live independently in the community. This client-focused training programme teaches daily living and pre-employment skills to trainees, and visual arts, sports and recreational activities to improve their quality of life.
Story published in 2023