Families of children with disabilities (CWDs) probably know the fear and insecurity that surrounds the first moments when they discover their child’s condition. For many, these doubts may cloud their decision-making. Occupational therapist and life coach Sid Hamid believes that families should be able to access opportunities and forms of support based on informed decisions.
“What’s important is for them to know how to get resources not only from a clinic, a hospital, or a school setting, but also closer to home, and closer to the community."
In his over 10 years of occupational therapy and coaching, Sid points to the usefulness of making use of environments that are as realistic as possible for helping CWDs overcome challenges. For example, a child with physical disabilities might also have problems with interacting with other children in general. Sid believes that their family would probably find it more helpful to go to the playground, versus the simulated environment of a clinic or therapy centre, which may not allow the child “to learn and adapt effectively in a natural environment.”
“The ‘natural’ resources are all there at home or in the community, the playground, the swimming pool. But [if they are] dependent on getting help from a therapist, a professional, the clinics, and this non-natural environment, the focus becomes unbalanced."
Nevertheless, community service providers still play an important role in providing platforms and activities like gardening or playgroups for people and children with disabilities and special needs. Sid believes in the importance of supporting them with expertise, training or sustainability. “We work with other community service providers so that they can continue to interact with the community and that the community service providers are trained as well.”
Because each CWD and family Sid coaches has their own set of challenges and goals, his measures of success have to be tailored to his clients. “Success is unique to the family, to the child. So how I measure is very much family-centred: the family [sets] the goal in terms of what they want to achieve. And if the child is a bit more invested, we agree on the goal we want to achieve together. Then we can have a better quantitative measure about the improvements that we get out of working with them.”
Sid conducting a group session for parents and caregivers together with an unexpected ‘teacher’s assistant’. He recounts a story of a boy who had been diagnosed with and prescribed medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“I think he gave up on himself. He never really understood what he wanted, what his goals were, what his strengths were. He focused only on the label and on the limitations.”
One day, the boy decided that he was not going to let his label define him. “That was a really good turning point for him,” said Sid, “because [with] that statement, he then became more confident, and he was the most improved student in class.” The mother of the boy also changed her perception of her son, and she became more supportive of his choices and encouraged him to explore his interests, such as skateboarding.
“That’s a major example of how we get too caught up with this idea that a person has a disability or a person has special needs – when they are still a person. They have strengths and weaknesses just like [everyone else]."
Finally, Sid believes that society’s acceptance of people with disabilities (PWDs) can move forward by creating partnerships between the different groups that work with them. This is one of the main objectives of his “very young social enterprise” called Oxytoseen Pte Ltd, that aims to empower families to nurture persons with disabilities and special needs. Creating opportunities for PWDs to be part of society in different ways will help reduce prejudice in society’s perceptions and treatment of them.
“We [need to] propagate and promote the idea of humanising experiences for families of persons with disabilities and special needs.”
This article is a part of our #AbleFamilies campaign in Singapore. Stay tuned for real life stories, advice and experiences from people who believe in and represent the potential of all kids. By now empowering the thousands of kids with disabilities in Singapore and supporting their parents and caregivers, we strengthen the next generation of citizens to promote a more inclusive Singapore.