Date of Interview: 23 February 2008
Interviewee: Mrs Susan Lim
What were your feelings when you first found out that your child had Down syndrome?
I didn’t know my child had Down syndrome until at birth itself. And the first time I saw her, I knew she was Down’s because I know the features of what a Down syndrome baby looks like. I was actually very upset. And the first question I asked myself was why me?
When you knew about it, did you immediately seek help?
It took me a few days before it sank into me that I probably need help. But I did have friends that were very helpful. They introduced me to the Down Syndrome Association. So it was only about after a week or so before I had the courage to call them up for help.
How old is your child now?
She’s 10 years old.
For the past 10 years, what are some of the difficulties that you faced raising your child?
Well, for Jennifer, she’s my fourth child, so I just raised her up as how I would raise my 3 other children as well, so I treated her as normal. Main thing is I knew that she is going to be very slow in all her other activities. In order to stimulate her, I gave her more attention.
But when you gave her more attention, were your 3 other children jealous?
Initially, I think so, but I had to talk to them. Explain that their younger sister is special, and she needs more attention and she needs their help as well.
So your children were quite understanding?
And just to let you know, my 3 other children are actually older. The youngest was around 10 years old when Jennifer was born. They were 10, 12,16. Old enough to understand.
So they would like help her in most of her activities?
They were a great help in helping me to raise her.
What did you mean by stimulate her?
Well, actually I called DSA for help. They did encourage me to enroll in a special school. And she actually started her intervention programme. It was about 6-9 months then. So she started going to school by 9 months already. At that time, it was at Balestier Rainbow Centre and I had to bring her there twice a week for the intervention programme. So they taught me how to teach her to do the normal things like crawling and rolling in bed also.
When you were at the intervention programme, what were some of your thoughts about it?
Well, she improved in her motor skills. She did improve in a lot of things as well. I should say that her milestone of a Down’s compared to normal kid is not that far apart.
So far has your child encountered any social problems like bullying or teasing?
Fortunately, she’s not able to tell me whether she’s being bullied. Basically, she’s a very happy child, very outgoing and very carefree. So even if people bully her, she would just ignore it. And she doesn’t complain back to me, and this is one of things that I fear, if she gets bullied when she gets older. Hopefully now that she’s older, she will be able to tell me what is being done or heard.
Right now, do your older children look out for her?
Right now, they are all busy with their own stuff, but as and when I need their help, they would help.
For the intervention programme, do they have any creative arts programme for your child?
In the special schools, they would normally teach them the basic skills like daily life skills, like eating – how to hold the fork and spoon, writing, like what is taught in a normal school. Of course in a normal school, they expect you to know all these already. In a special school, they would teach them one by one. In other activities, I would have to bring her along. DSA has been very good with organizing a lot of these activities. They got the visual arts, creative dance, speech and drama which she is attending now.
So she’s very active in all these other activities?
Does she enjoy all these activities?
So far, have you received any remarks about Jennifer from other people?
The first time when I heard someone did remark was when she was very young. I was about to take passport photo. The shop keeper just asked me if there was anything wrong with my child. So I just said that she was a normal child. I just ignored the remarks.
Wont’ it affect you?
If you knew of a friend who gave birth to a child with Down Syndrome what advice what you give her?
If I knew that my friend had, I would ask them to go and get themselves enrolled in the Intervention Programme as early as possible. There is also DSA to offer other avenues for help. For Down Syndrome kids, they also come with other problems.
Are they hyperactive?
Hyperactive? No, more of hypoactive. Actually they are more slow, of course there are different Down’s. Some are very hyper, but majority are very low.
In the coming years, how do you intend to prepare Jennifer to face the future when she goes to the working world, when she interacts with other working adults?
Of course I hope that she be self-reliant. Independent, if she can get a job, very good also, but I can’t promise she can do that so I have to rely on my older kids to watch out for her.
What do you think of her being independent?
She’s at 10 but I say maybe her intellectual is about 6-7 years old. When she goes up to 20, I hope that she can attain up to about a 15 year old child. A normal kid. Understanding. There’s still a lot of things. Independent is the life she is now in. She can do her own self-help things like eating. But to travel on her own, that one still have to learn.
If she needs to go out to work, she probably needs to go out on her own. Probably if I’m still around, then I would have to send her.
With regards to learning how to take public transport, we have created animations on how to take MRT or the bus, as well as learning how to top-up their ez-link card or tapping it. What do you think?
It’ll be good because she can log in to the computer very well, play games on the internet. But to teach them through, they will see it, but it’ll be good to do it actually on their own. Presently, the school that she is in, they also bring them out on outings, so she is taught how to use the ez-link card.
When you first found out about Down Syndrome, did you have good knowledge about it?
In a way, yes, because I’m a nurse.
Did you do a bit more reading up on it to find out more?
I didn’t really read up because she came up with other problems so I had to find out from other help I have. I’m not very good at reading up.