“Autism is not a sickness but a different way of life. Every special needs child has their own talent, just like any other child.
Don’t look down on them, be more receptive and understanding when they behave in a strange manner though they may look normal.
My son, Chalmers has autism. He’s challenged by a lack of focus, sensory issues, auditory processing issues, and a lack of social awareness such as the concept of personal space.
I’ve seen Chalmers grow and learn slowly over the years. From getting him to have eye contact with me, to him greeting me in the morning and being able to tell me what he wants, all these things require patience.
Focus and behaviour were very big issues for him, and we’re still trying to overcome it on a daily basis.
Chalmers won the Goh Chok Tong Enable Award last year, for his multi-talents in sand art, paintings, drum and bowling. He’s the youngest awardee and first of the three awardees to be mentioned by ESM Goh Chok Tong during the award ceremony at Istana.
The journey has not been easy but this award shows me that my struggles and labour will pay off one day, as long as I don’t give up on Chalmers.
My dream is to create a source of income for Chalmers so that he can continue to live independently, even if I can no longer support him one day.
I have set up an online merchandise store for him, selling his art, sand art performances, and fashion and accessories made from his art pieces.
We are just starting out and have a long way to go in making this a sustainable business for him.
Apart from Chalmers, I hope to help other children with special needs.
My greatest motivation is to use my life to help others.
I’ve formed a special needs choir and teach art classes to help special needs children at no cost.
It all started because of an autistic boy that frequently went missing. I came to realise his parents were not engaging him at home. He felt bored and often ran away.
After befriending and intervening in their situation, this boy came to me and told me he’s a good boy now. Now, he doesn’t go missing anymore.
I started Singapore Special Voices, a choir comprising special needs children and their parents. We perform together at various community events.
I’m doing this to support special needs families especially low-income families or families of severely autistic children who can’t get therapy for their kids.
Being able to make a difference in someone else‘s life is what makes me happy and strong. I hope I could continue to use my setbacks to help others overcome theirs.
My ex-husband was never involved in our lives since my pregnancy and I’ve had to support my son since he was born and diagnosed with autism. He set up another family overseas, and I only recently found out after he suffered from a coma.
I learned to be stronger through these difficult seasons of my life. I have to be strong for Chalmers.
To the parents of special needs children, they are differently abled and gifted. It’s up to you to discover their talents.
Don’t give up on them, you need to put in that extra effort that nobody in this world will do except yourself,” said Magdalene Ong, 49, a single mother to a 15-year-old autistic son.
She is the founder of Singapore Special Voices, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping people with special needs. She is also the founder of Special Thots, a website where Chalmers’ artwork can be purchased.