Finding Joy and Meaning Working with Special Needs Clients

Finding Joy and Meaning Working with Special Needs Clients

As an ex-Technical Training Specialist, Mr Goh Kim Yeow never imagined that he would spend his retirement years working with clients with special needs. Today, Mr Goh celebrates almost four years of working as a Lifeskills Coach at TOUCH Centre for Independent Living (TCIL) Ubi, and shares that he feels an abundance of joy connecting with trainees and seeing them develop new skillsets.  
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Caption: Mr Goh outside his workplace at TCIL. 

“I was introduced to this job at TCIL by my daughter when I was semi-retired back in 2020. I was doing part-time work at my previous company and also driving a taxi to pass time. I wanted my retirement years to be meaningful and I was glad this opportunity came by for me to contribute back to society,” shares Mr Goh.  

Rising Above the Challenge

As a Lifeskills Coach, Mr Goh conducts lessons on Activities of Daily Living (ADL) like self-care, Community Living Skills (CLS) like money management and housekeeping, and Personal Social Skills for clients with special needs. With no prior experience working with persons with disabilities, Mr Goh often questioned if he could manage the job. “When I first joined, I was apprehensive upon realising that I had to manage clients of very diverse needs and had to learn how to deal with their different behaviours,” Mr Goh recalls.  

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Caption: (Above) Mr Goh with some of his trainees and (Below) Mr Goh guiding a client during cooking class. 

During the pandemic, Mr Goh was briefly posted to TOUCH Ubi Hostel (TUH) as classes at TCIL were paused. With the initial exposure he had in TCIL, he slowly regained confidence and overcame his fears. “I’m thankful for the support I received from TCIL and TUH staff, who showed me that connecting with trainees requires patience and persistence. Each client is truly special, and I needed to take time to build rapport and earn their trust,” shares Mr Goh, who now enjoys making conversations about any and everything with the trainees.  

Learning from Clients' Strengths and Resilience

With his engineering background and a knack for doing things with his hands, Mr Goh was given the opportunity to introduce leather crafting to TCIL trainees in 2021. “These trainees may take time to pick up new skills, but I’ve been inspired by their determination and am amazed at what they can achieve when they put their mind to it.” 

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Caption: (Above) Mr Goh, together with client Eugene Lim, proudly showing the leather products he has crafted, (Below) Mr Goh teaching trainees leather crafting.  

One such example was Eugene Lim, a client with cerebral palsy who struggled to use both his hands to stitch the leather pieces together. “It took Eugene about a year to learn how to stitch well. He found his own way to stitch single-handedly and became so good at it! It was incredible watching his journey of growth over the past year and I’m reminded of how much potential each client has,” shares Mr Goh.  

Discovering Joy and Purpose

Mr Goh looks forward to bringing a small group of clients to volunteer for Meals-on-Wheels (MOW) with TOUCH Home Care twice a week. For MOW, volunteers deliver food packets to homebound seniors and are given the opportunity to interact with residents.  

“MOW is a very meaningful opportunity for our clients because we can share about the importance of giving back to the community while learning how to travel independently. With the simple act of delivering food, our clients develop positive self-worth and gain confidence,” shares Mr Goh.  

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Caption: Mr Goh guiding trainees to pack and deliver food packets to the correct households.  

“It can be challenging working with clients with intellectual disabilities because I have to make sure they are meaningfully engaged and not get into trouble. Despite this, I am filled with joy at the end of each day because I’m also learning from them as they learn from me.”  

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