This is the story of Elaine Lee Yin Lin obtained from the interview with her mother.
What were the difficulties faced by Elaine before entering BEST?
Elaine had both emotional and behavioral difficulties, she was easily offended, threw objects, hurt teachers and students physically in the school, and did not complete her homework. The school characterized Elaine as a bad student. I received warning letter from school saying that Elaine will be expelled if she remains the same. As a mother, I begged the school to give us some time, as I wanted to look for a professional to diagnose the child’s emotional status, as her status wasn’t formed over a day. When Elaine was in standard one, her emotional status was quite stable. Over the time, her situation has gradually become serious. At school Elaine managed to cope with most of the subjects except Malay and English. At the beginning, I thought that it was due to Elaine’s laziness, so I disciplined her with a cane.
The worst situation was when I compared Elaine with her elder sister, always questioning, ‘Why can’t you be like your elder sister?’ As I continue to compared Elaine with her elder sister, she stopped sharing and kept all her feelings to herself. Elaine lost her confidence when she felt that everything she does will be viewed as inappropriate. I did not realize that was a warning signal nor did I realize her psychological problem. All I thought it was because of Elaine’s laziness.
What worries you the most as a mother?
The interaction of Elaine with any other person in my absence. I have no idea what the teacher at school told Elaine, as she tried to commit suicide when she was in standard three. When that incident took place, Elaine was having Mathematics class on the second floor. Suddenly, Elaine started throwing tantrum and wanted to jump off from the second floor of the school. However, the teacher was able to stop her and called for a meeting with her parents. Everyone just did not understand why Elaine had such reaction towards something so minor. I tried my level best to understand Elaine, but she shut herself off and wasn’t willing to share her feelings. I had no experience and did not know how to handle the situation. I felt so helpless. I paid no attention to her, as I thought that she was just being lazy and emotional.
As time went by, Elaine’s emotional problem became very serious. When Elaine was in standard five, preparing for her UPSR, I felt that she has lost control. Elaine’s classmates were scared of her and felt that she was too emotional. The school send us a warning letter again in regards to Elaine’s emotional problem. I shared this matter with the principal of the day care center Elaine attended. The principal introduced BEST Centre and Ms. Phoebe to me. I found out more about BEST Centre by visiting the place in person. I also brought Elaine along to be psychological assessed. After that session with Ms.Phoebe, I was able to understand that Elaine’s problem was not because of her laziness. I blamed myself for that, as I did not realize Elaine’s difficulties much earlier to sought for intervention. I also felt ashamed to let others know of Elaine’s problem as it concerns the family’s reputation. I was worried that others would see Elaine as mentally retarded child and not know the real situation.
Any adjustments that you have to make when accompanying your child?
I used to be a hot tempered person, I scolded and caned Elaine most of the time. All these action of mine made Elaine unable to feel my love for her, she might have thought that she wasn’t my biological child, and that I only cared and loved her elder sister.
This created a gap between us, and made her to go to her father for every need of hers. I realized that after all I only knew how to complain about everything that Elaine does because I could not accept her the way she was. After Elaine joined the BEST Centre, Ms. Phoebe explained more about Elaine’s situation, taught me how to handle Elaine by following her path, and this is when I learnt ways to assist her in her further undertakings. I tried to be more open minded, ignored the curious and questioning eyes of others, controlled my own temper, reminded myself constantly not to exhibit my temper to Elaine. Slowly, Elaine started to open herself, accepted me. In this process of changes, I first learnt to take control of my temper. How did I do that? I focused on craft that I like to do, trained myself to be more patient. I knew that my hot temperedness had led to Elaine’s problem and that I must change it. As it will be beneficial for both of us. I also made changes in my ways of thinking. I tried to let Elaine know that I am proud of her by showing it through my action to support her in all ways and not only by saying it. Currently I communicate with all my children using the friendly approach rather than being a mother-like figure to them. Now they are willing to share their thoughts and feelings with me. At the same time, I am stern with them when it comes to being respectful to everyone.
As for Elaine, she needs to find a balance between study and play, at times, she needs motivation to prevent her from being sluggish. As of now I do not take much of cake orders as she is still learning to cope with such pressure. I want to ensure that she enjoys her work and to work at a comfortable pace. She is still young; she should enjoy life. It is important for me to set rules and daily schedule for her, so that she is able to self-discipline herself when I am not around. The rules should not be too harsh, so that she is willing to accept the rules I set, to achieve the win-win situation. Besides, our presence is also important to these children, we should not use the word “busy” as an excuse. As for me no matter how busy I am, I willing to take time off to stay with my children. I am willing to sacrifice my personal time at night, to share quality time with my children in watching television program, doing homework, drawing and baking. Elaine and I give our comments and advices to my eldest daughter’s painting jobs too. At night, we sit together to solve the problems faced by our family members.
Do you think it is important for parents to collaborate with the education policy of the Centre?
Yes, it is very important, we as parents should try to collaborate. It will make the child not to get confused with two different educational policies. I chose to collaborate with the Centre’s education policy to provide support for the child. I trust BEST Centre very much, every time BEST Centre tell me about the challenges of Elaine, I will try my best to help Elaine to break through it. I must prioritize my responsibilities towards Elaine’s education to assist the Centre in their quest to provide a quality education for her. The Centre simply cannot do it alone; they need the family’s cooperation. When Aunty Lian Ai told me that Elaine has great interest in baking, then, I learned to cultivate that interest of hers. In the beginning, I bought a small oven and a small blender for her. After she showed some good results, then I bought a bigger version of the equipment for her. Every child has their own interest and talent; I do understand my children’s thought now. I do not define their future; I do help them to analyze and give advice on their planning but allow them to make their own decision. However, they must take responsibility for their decisions made.
What is the most notable improvement in Elaine after having joined BEST Centre?
Self-confidence! She was once a child who does not dare to do anything; now she can answer questions confidently and have constructive arguments with me. Although I faced problems with inconvenient transportation system, I was persistent in sending her to BEST Centre. In BEST, she learnt a lot, most importantly, she learnt to complete her homework and solve problems independently. She also discovered her specialty in BEST which I never took notice before. Though I knew baking, but I refused to teach my children and I never let them to experience it. Now, even my youngest daughter bakes with us. This is what I learn from BEST that baking could be an ideal family activity. It is more important for everyone in the family to have fun during the baking activity even though they cannot bake. I do my best to create opportunities for Elaine, I invite both parents and children in our neighborhood to come over and let Elaine to be the baking instructor of the day.
How do you weigh the time and money that you have invested in your child?
I do not take the time and money spent very seriously. What I am thinking right now is that I want Elaine to improve and break through; for which I am willing to spend my time and money to be there for her and encourage her.
What do you think about BEST Centre?
Great! BEST Centre identified the challenges faced by my child and provided assistant to the child. I never regret the selection of BEST Centre made four years ago. BEST Centre helped me a lot, I will recommend the centre to my friends. The facilitators are full of patience, they observe the children, understand their challenges, train the elder children at the Centre to take care of the younger ones, teach them to be independent and equip them with all the vital skills. I felt very relaxed when I sent Elaine to BEST Centre, my job was to understand Elaine and work together with the facilitators, and expect her to breakthrough which would not be a problem.
Anything you wish to tell other parents?
If you find that your children have difficulties in personal development, do not panic or feel ashamed to share with others. Currently I am able to share Elaine’s challenges to teach others to understand and take control of the situation. When a child has special needs, parents should seek for appropriate assistance, find out the best suitable way to help their child, also accompany and support the child in the journey of learning. Be calm, you might feel exhausted in the first few years but when things start to change, your child is able to breakthrough, I believe that you will feel the joy and excitement which is inexpressible!
Previous challenges faced since 7 years old…
Confrontational and constant rebellious, verbal and physical aggressiveness towards family members, teachers and friends. Blacklisted and almost expelled by the school and attempted suicide at the age of 9 years. Was diagnosed with Dyslexia.
Highlight of Elaine Lee’s breakthrough began when
1.Parents sought guidance from professional
2.Parents follow through strategies recommended by BEST Centre and constantly realign appropriate expectation towards her development at home
3.Parents constantly created opportunity to restore the wounded relationship and by appreciating her involvement in family activities.
Over the four years at BEST Centre and support from home, Elaine developed
from someone who exhibited deviance behaviour, to someone who:
– could carry out task independently
– able to be motivated to explore things that were of interest to her in various areas
– turned out to be a confident young lady