One win at a time…

Nicholas celebrated his 26th birthday recently. I am happy with how he is and where he is at the moment.

He has great receptive skills; sharp eyes and ears. He picks up on any conversation and visual clue, even the emotional content and, knows what is going on in the household. However, he has poor expressive skills. He does not talk well and still self-stimulate with repeated words or sounds. So, we fill-in the words slowly for him, saying them aloud and trusting that he will pick them up. And he does, at his own time. Once in a blue moon, he would surprise us with a comment, yeah really rare!

He is helpful and takes doing certain jobs like doing the laundry very seriously. In our home, he is the laundry specialist… hanging out the clothes, taking them in, sorting and folding with great efficiency, just not too neatly. But we can live with that and, grateful that someone is so passionate about laundry.

Nick packing cookies for Xiao En funeral park.

He is very stoic when it comes to his baking. After so many years, he knows what he needs to do and that, sometimes there are extra things to do, or that we may have to work late into the night. I just have to explain the time and extra work.

He takes short breaks but until and unless I say his work is done, he stays on standby. Of course, there were times when he did shoddy work, got scolded and had to re-do to which he complied without fuss. Now he is learning to pack the cookies and muffins. He understands that baking the cookies and muffins is a job – he gets paid and that we deliver them to Xiao En Centre. However, there is still a need for supervision over his work and, at this point, I would say the road to independence is still a long time away.

He has good coordination and spatial skills so he picks up sports activities relatively easy. However, he has no competitive spirit (so far). At bowling, a strike or spare means nothing to him. In swimming, he finishes his 10 laps quickly because he just wants to float in the water after, and not because he wants to be fastest.

Nick’s getting nifty at table tennis.

We have realised that he just likes doing things and I believe he knows we are happy when he gets it. It is easy to engage him in any activity. Late 2021, we had introduced table-tennis to him when a neighbour gave us a table. Today, he can serve and return the ball adequately. Having a half-hour to an hour game is a piece of cake.

There were defeats as well, like learning guitar and piano although both were not due to his lack of enthusiasm but that both would require long-term financial and time commitments. Most times I also have to be the secondary teacher.

Hard decisions have to be made all the time because life has to go on. When we stumbled onto Hands Percussions, I thought that we have finally found the right fit. The teachers and students were very welcoming of Nicholas and we even performed to an audience. All seemed well and good until Covid-19 landed on us.

Two other major fails for me are that Nicholas does not know how to read and count. These 2 items have been in my “to-do-list” for the past many years. I have never really got them off the ground.

It was a start and stop kind of campaign. I thought 2019 was to be the year to start again, but that faltered and I got distracted with every other thing, including Covid-19. And, because it is tough. For me.

This year I am re-visiting the 2 items.

Thankfully, there is no time line for any form of learning. Science has shown that the brain can learn or re-learn things. I think the brain also gets excited when it knows it is going to learn something new or gets re-wired and that the dormant parts would appreciate getting woken up.

Knowing that he is an intuitive and experiential learner, I thought I could teach him to read and count using recipes but that did not quite work out. When faced with a wall, I surrender; easily, and feel that I should leave it for another day which then stretched into weeks, months and years.

Definitely there are many, many creative ways to teach reading but I lack patience and Nicholas needs time. A lot of both are needed.

This year, I have started with the handphone as a tool to teach him to recognise words and read. He needs to identify the symbols, names of people as well as to use the phone to call and answer calls. I would like to teach him to take pictures and videos and improvise the language part from there. I have also dusted the tried and tested Peter and Jane books and doing the old-fashioned reading out loud method. Perhaps this will be a good year.

Counting? I will leave that for another birthday and pray for honest people.

The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. – Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.

N.B.: Main picture is of Nicholas at 26 years old, in this Year of the Tiger, 2022.

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