The Road to Success: Xian Pin’s Story

We live in a society where academic success is highly valued and it is the desire of most parents that their children excel in their studies and achieve the best that they can. Hence, finding out that your child has learning disability is never easy. It can be traumatic and stressful and finding the road to success is a long and challenging one.

Madam Neo and her son, Xian Pin (DAS graduated student) shared their stories with us on how they have managed to tackle and conquer Dyslexia.

When Xian Pin was four, Madam Neo and her husband started noticing hints of developmental delays in him such as his difficulty in knowing his right shoe from his left, or having troubles expressing himself verbally.

Despite these differences, not once did it occur to Madam Neo that her son was dyslexic. “Our first real shock came about during his kindergarten graduation ceremony,” recalled Madam Neo. “His teacher came to me and informed me that Xian Pin didn’t know his ABC’s. I had kept quiet then but honestly, I was fuming. I couldn’t believe how irresponsible the teacher was to have only told about her concerns for Xian Pin at his graduation ceremony.”

It wasn’t until Xian Pin entered Primary 1 back in 1998 did she begin to realise that her son was indeed facing some sort of learning difficulties. Madam Neo had spent an entire day teaching him spelling. While learning a list of 20 spelling words may come easy to most children his age, it definitely wasn’t the case for Xian Pin.

He would try so hard to memorize each word, only to forget them the next second. He couldn’t match the letters to their sounds or combine the letters to create words. At the same time, his form teacher called Madam Neo to discuss his poor performance in class. Madam Neo was told that Xian Pin often confused his letter “b” and letter “d”, or that his writing was untidy and he had a poor memory.

“Instead of living in self-denial or reacting negatively to the fact that my son was labelled as a kid with learning difficulty, both my husband and I choose to face this bravely. We didn’t blame ourselves, indulge in self pity or think that the problem will go away itself. Instead, we sought out professional help and got him a full psychological assessment. Later, the results of the test confirmed that my son was dyslexic.”

“We chose to face this bravely… we sought professional help… and found out about the Dyslexia Association of Singapore”

It definitely wasn’t an easy road for Madam Neo or her family after the test revelation. It wasn’t easy supporting a dyslexic child as well as juggling the demands of a career and family, this was especially so for Madam Neo who provided the extra support for her dyslexic son.

Xian Pin’s school teachers would often call her in to school to complain about him being inattentive in class, or that his handwriting was illegible or that he failed to submit his homework.

“Before and during the initial period of his DAS programme, Xian Pin’s self esteem was extremely low. He was actually aware that he couldn’t recognise his ABC’s, nor could he spell. He told me that he was a stupid boy and that literally broke my heart!”

This added stress caused Madam Neo to finally break down in tears. But being the strong mother that she is, she finally decided to seek his teachers’ understanding by revealing to them about her son’s dyslexic condition. “It worked because all his teachers in school began explaining to Xian Pin’s classmates about his condition and everybody stopped thinking he was stupid or lazy!”

Xian Pin added, “I do remember how curious my primary school classmates were with regards to how a dyslexic person perceives the letters ‘d’ and ‘b”. They would always ask me what I view on the whiteboard and I would just play along with them and pretend that I was visually handicapped.”

Xian Pin’s struggle with reading and writing the English language posed a huge obstacle on his other subjects too. Mathematics, had always been his favourite subject and it was the one subject that he fared relatively well. Despite all these struggles, his learning difficulty never put him down. Instead, he worked a lot harder than his fellow peers.

It wasn’t long after Xian Pin’s enrolment with DAS classes that Madam Neo and her husband began noticing a major transformation in him. Xian Pin became more receptive to learning and definitely a lot more confident than he was in the past.

“With the lessons at DAS, I was soon able to catch up with my peers in class. Language is no longer foreign to me,” chirped Xian Pin. “I remembered how my Mom had made me read ladybird books back then. and then progressed on to more complex stories.

It was like a game to me as I couldn’t wait to progress on to a higher level book after mastering the easier ones. Since then I’ve developed a passion for reading. I love borrowing books from the library.”

Madam Neo shared, “He really enjoyed his classes at DAS. I think the ratio of 3 or 4 students to 1 Educational Therapist is perfect! Each student is able to receive a lot more attention from the educator, unlike his big class-size in school.

Xian Pin enjoyed the classroom interaction at DAS. It gave him plenty of opportunities to interact and express himself in front of the educator.

The yearly psychological test reports also convinced Xian Pin and us that he is highly intelligent.”

When asked to describe his moments at DAS, Xian Pin laughed and said, “I really did enjoy my lessons at DAS. There was this reward system in class where we get to earn stickers in exchange for the prizes. I was always looking forward to classes hoping to get more stickers to claim the Styrofoam airplane that I so dearly wanted! Besides that, I really like the way that the lessons were structured, and how the basic rules of the English language was taught and ingrained into us in a fun and pleasant way! I did feel a lot more confident after several lessons, especially when it came to reading and writing!”

“I really like the way that the lessons were structured, and how the basic rules of the English language was taught and ingrained into us in a fun and pleasant way!”

Madam Neo and her husband noted the continued improvement in Xian Pin, be it academically-wise or his overall mental well being, ever since he was enrolled with DAS.

After graduating from DAS, Xian Pin achieved an outstanding result of 6 A1’s and 1 A2 for his GCE O’ Levels.

In addition, he scored 38 for his International Baccalaureate (IB) well above the world average for IB scores, and has a place waiting for him at the National Technological University (NTU) Accountancy programme in the upcoming semester.

Xian Pin attributes his success to DAS, saying, “I definitely have to say that without the proper teaching by DAS educators on how to use the English language, I would be severely illiterate.”

As the old saying goes, “Success doesn’t come to you. You go to it.” Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do, however you are able to venture as far as your mind lets you.

Xian Pin’s path to academic achievement was filled with twists and turns initially, but he had met with success due to his indomitable spirit and his perseverance in reaching his full potential.

Tips from Madam Neo:

“When you suspect that your child has a learning problem, it is wise to go seek professional help as soon as possible. A psychological diagnosis will provide you an idea on which training programme suits your child’s needs. Never blame yourself, your spouse or your child for his or her ‘disability’. It is nobody’s fault. Do not think that the problem will disappear if you look pass it. That is called self-denial. I knew people who refused to seek professional help for their suspected dyslexic children and I witnessed how these children suffered in school. Every child is special. Do not compare your child against his or her sibling(s) nor neglect the other. Give them all the love and support that they need.”