Letter of the week: Be kind to people with less obvious disabilities

A classroom at Awwa School @ Bedok, a specialised school for children with autism spectrum disorder. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

It is heartening to see positive developments in helping and understanding those with disabilities in our community.

The recent focus on helping them to get jobs, the appreciation of their contribution in various careers, and the call to be inclusive in accepting them - all these are encouraging (More adults with autism to be employed in healthcare sector under new agreement, Oct 2).

There is a big group of individuals with disabilities that may not be outwardly obvious. Examples include people on the autism spectrum with less severe and obvious difficulties, people who have obsessive compulsive disorder and people with various phobias.

These "hidden" disabilities include a lack of perception of social cues, and a fear of doing things that are seen as normal in society.

Unfortunately, such individuals may be seen as "stupid" in school and "liabilities" at their jobs, and be treated unkindly and at times with contempt.

While some may excel in various fields like mathematics, design, music and computer studies, their lack of social skills may make them vulnerable to mockery from their colleagues and friends.

We need to learn to understand such individuals; we ought to empathise with them in their struggles instead of ridiculing them when they fumble in areas of work which seem simple to us. We need to be kind.

Let us realise that they belong as much as we do in society, and they may well contribute much more in many areas of life than we realise.

Embrace such individuals by giving them the extra understanding and appreciation, and do not dismiss them and feel that they are not up to the mark.

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)

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