One of Mohamed Zimnaan’s fondest childhood memories was playing in a sandpit – an average day in the park for any kid. Born with hereditary TAR (thrombocytopenia with absent radius) syndrome, 16-year-old Zimnaan has short arms and legs, in addition to a genetically low platelet count.
“Childhood was fun. My disability hampered me from doing certain tasks but still I gave a try, often succeeding in the process. I remember playing around in a sandpit with all my trucks!”
Born in the Maldives, the teenager of Sri Lankan descent spent his childhood in a mainstream kindergarten and primary school there. After moving to Singapore in 2008, he attended Fengshan Primary School, where he completed his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). “School was actually a lot of fun. I blended right in with my classmates. I helped out when and where I could to the best of my abilities,” he said.
As a young man, Zimnaan believes in always keeping an open mind about people and looking for the positives in each person.
“A disabled person is not truly disabled. If time is taken to interact with the person to find out their inner strengths, a disability can be turned into a strength.”
For example, Zimnaan acknowledged that he found it difficult to sit long hours in his wheelchair and to write a lot, which he does using his middle fingers and chin. However, he is able to pick up concepts quickly through independent study. Therefore, instead of continuing on to secondary school, together with his parents Zimnaan chose to accelerate his education by taking the IGCSE certificates as a private candidate.
With the help of his parents (both of whom are teachers), and home and online tutors, Zimnaan studied independently for the examinations, which he took at the British Council with special time and writing accomodations. He is currently completing a foundation programme at James Cook University.
Having had such a positive experience in mainstream schools has made Zimnaan passionate about education and helping other children. With dreams of becoming an educational psychologist, Zimnaan wants to “help special children progress and excel in their education.”
“All the people whom I have associated with in my life have been very kind towards me. My parents saw me as a normal child despite my disabilities and they gave me the strength and resources I needed to do things independently.”
“My greatest accomplishment would be coming this far in life.”
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.