A roly-poly figure with bristly hair sat at his work desk quietly, working on his favourite activity set. He had a task to complete: to arrange and match various food products into their respective categories. A while later, he pushed his chair backwards, held a piece of the puzzle and walked to the nurses’ station.
“Looks like we’re not able to head out again today,” Coach Eve said to her teammates as she watched Xuan meltdown by slamming himself. This time, in reaction to the heat. Guiding Xuan back to the air-conditioned classroom, she had encouraged him to work on another activity, but with little success as Xuan had started becoming fixated on arranging the visual cues on his table.
He reached for her hand. That sudden touch on the arm was not something Teacher Visa had expected. She turned around, and saw that it was Xuan. Some unintelligible sounds were made. The 18-year-old youth on the autism spectrum who was non-speaking, was trying to initiate communication. It was unusual.
Imagine that you are a non-speaking person with autism. Imagine what your day and reality is like. Imagine what it would be like to be supported to have a community rallying around you. That is what we are doing at St. Andrew’s Autism Centre (SAAC).
Ms Gloria Yzelman is St. Andrew’s Autism School’s Programme Lead for students aged nine to 12 year old. This year, Gloria was recognised for her work in special education when she was named a recipient of both the MOE-NCSS Outstanding SPED Teacher Award and the MOE Masters Scholarship in Special Education.