This S’porean mum left her full-time job to care for her special needs child & still finds time to give back
A sacrifice any parent would make.
Suriah Kidam looks like your average Singaporean mother.
Like most Singaporean parents, she ensures that her children participate in extracurricular activities and sends them to tuition.
But unlike most parents who do these so that their children will be ahead of the rat race, Suriah does this so that her children — especially her eldest daughter — don’t get left behind by her development delays.
Couldn’t teach her own child
The 36-year-old has three children: 11-year-old Farah, 9-year-old Fathia and 5-year-old Fathi.
Suriah used to be a full-time working mother, taking on a job as an educator six days a week while she sends her children to a childcare centre.
On top of work, Suriah and her husband were also juggling with courses/further studies while raising their children together.
To compound matters, then 4-year-old Farah faced several obstacles like not being able to recognise letters, having speech delays and was constantly fidgeting.
Suriah’s attempts to teach Farah were futile and she started to feel guilty.
“I am a teacher myself. If I could have the patience to teach a class of students, why couldn’t I do the same for my daughter?”
Not afraid to seek help
But Suriah and her husband didn’t want to give up on their daughter.
“As a teacher, I have faced similar difficulties of teaching kids who couldn’t grasp my methods and I know it’s harder on them than it is for me. So I didn’t want my child to be in these students’ position.”
She decided to bring Farah to a specialist after confiding in her fellow teacher colleagues and friends.
After further assessment, they found out that she has global developmental delay (GDD) and dyslexia.
GDD is a term which means that a child has shown delays in several areas of development like speech and language skills and gross or fine motor skills.
Ready to quit her full-time job
As Suriah was told by the specialist, helping a child with GDD requires the parents’ fullest commitment.
Which was why Suriah was fully prepared to leave her passion and career of eight years to always be there for her daughter.
Suriah said: “If her family isn’t going to be there for her, then who will?”
However, thanks to the support of her understanding colleagues, she was then offered a part-time position, going to work on days when her husband is available to help with Farah.
Getting diagnosed with GDD and dyslexia means her eldest daughter has to go through several programmes to help with her studies.
These programmes have to take precedence over her school activities like supplementary classes and her co-curricular activity (CCA) which she enjoys very much — international dance.
Missing out on these activities and bonding time with her classmates, leaving her feeling discouraged.
Her mother said:
“She would always look forward to her CCA and would practice her dance moves diligently at home. And then she came home one day looking disappointed as she wasn’t selected to perform because she couldn’t commit to her training as a result of her GDD programmes.”
Silat as an extracurricular activity
Not wanting Farah to be left out from such activities, Suriah signed up both Farah and Fathia for silat classes on Friday evenings.
Why the Malay martial arts, you ask?
One of Farah’s symptoms of GDD is the slow ability to grasp a second language.
When she was in primary one, Suriah described her Malay to be of an equivalent level of a kindergartener.
Therefore, silat is one way for Farah to appreciate and understand her cultural roots.
“Apart from the cultural and customary aspect, I chose silat as an extracurricular activity for them as they get to meet and train with people of all ages and since they are girls, it is good for them to learn some self-defence skills.”
And it seems to be working out as the siblings would look forward to their weekly training and will be going to Malaysia for competitions.
Middle child syndrome
While Suriah may sound like a superhero mum, like many other parents, she feels guilty for not giving equal attention to her children, especially Fathia, the middle child.
Ever since Farah’s diagnosis, Suriah said she has subconsciously given more attention to her than her other children.
This has resulted in the middle child to become more independent but also a bit more detached.
“Being more independent also means she can be a bit stubborn and may have some problems sharing her emotions with us.”
Participation in programmes
That was when Suriah and her husband made the decision in December 2017 to let Farah be more independent in her learning by enrolling both Farah and Fathia into Mendaki’s Tuition Scheme.
The tuition scheme is an initiative by the Council for the Development of Singapore Malay/Muslim Community (Mendaki) to provide quality tuition at affordable rates for the community.
Apart from tuition, Suriah and her husband also took part in [email protected], a 10-week educational programme by M³ that helps to better equip parents in guiding their children’s learning of mathematics, and enhance parent-child bonding.
“My children’s syllabus is very different from my time, so it helps that I learn new things even as a parent.”
Helping hand from M³
For the uninitiated, the M³ framework is a collaborative effort between the Islamic Religious Council (MUIS), Malay Activity Executive Committees Council (MESRA) and Mendaki. Together, they leverage on each other’s strengths and improve on their services to the Malay/Muslim community.
True to the essence of the tagline, “Progressing with M³”, the organisation aims to empower citizens by providing social programmes like [email protected] for families in need and collaborating with Malay/Muslim organisations and government agencies to address the community’s challenges.
Seeking knowledge to give back
With all these activities in tow, Suriah somehow still manages to find the time to give back to the community.
As part of M³’s goal of rallying the community to help one another, Suriah has spent part of her Sundays as a volunteer with Mendaki’s kidsREAD, a programme in collaboration with the National Library Board.
The programme targeted towards kids between the age of four and eight is aimed to inculcate the love and joy in reading.
For Suriah, volunteering opportunities like these are important to her as knowledge is meant to be shared.
“Once I learn something new, I like to share. What’s the point of me learning and keeping it to myself?”
And she would do all these just so she could help other mothers in need too.
“After I go for such programs, I would share them to my colleagues and friends because who knows if they need the help too? No mother is perfect, so don’t be afraid to seek help.”
This sponsored post brought to you by M³ has made the writer more thankful for her parents’ sacrifices.
Top image courtest of Suriah Kidam