Living with disability: Meet 3 Singaporeans finding their place in society

SINGAPORE - The Straits Times interviewed three people with different disabilities as well as their caregivers to capture their daily routines and hopes.

Their stories carry common threads of hope for more patience and empathy, more community support, and more structured help after graduation.

Here are their stories:

Living with autism: She loves social media and make-up but struggles with talking to herself

ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Some may look askance when Sarah Nurul Ain Ismail, 18, talks to herself as she goes about her tasks.

“Sarah, take off your apron. Fold it and put it in your bag, don’t forget. It’s important,” she says quietly as she follows a checklist of tasks to do before she finishes her shift at Swensen’s in Sun Plaza in Sembawang.

The repeated sentences serve as reminders and are a coping mechanism for the many thoughts in her mind, said her eldest sister Nurul Jannah Ismail, 28, an assistant editor and producer.

Sarah has autism spectrum disorder - a developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact.

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Living with Down Syndrome: As father’s best buddy, he says he must care for dad after mum’s death

ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

“Mummy, I love you,” said 34-year-old Guan Chau Kuok as he looked skyward when asked about memories of his mother, who died in 2012 of breast cancer.

“Before she passed, I said, ‘Mother, please don’t go. If you go, I will be sad,’” he said.

His father Henry Guan said the pair have become even closer since his wife’s death and his two younger children left home after getting married.

“Chau Kuok has been my good company since my wife passed on. When he comes back from work, he gives me a lot of joy, he will crack jokes. He is a very lovable and caring boy,” he said.

The younger Mr Guan has Down Syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that impacts a person’s physical features, intellect and physical development and occurs in about one in 700 births here. He has also been diagnosed with mild intellectual disability.

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Living with cerebral palsy: A ‘music maniac’ and avid swimmer finds himself through his hobbies

ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Music is my language, says 30-year-old Samuel Ho, who has cerebral palsy. The self-professed “music maniac” picked up the piano when he was five and violin when he was six.

Born with the rare Kasabach-Merritt Syndrome, Mr Ho has a dark patch of skin on his abdomen - a hemangioma, or a tumour formed from blood vessels. Platelets would be trapped within the tumour and he was at risk of bleeding complications.

Doctors experimented with a variety of drugs, including cancer drug Interferon. Some of the drugs, while stopping the growth of the hemangioma, affected his overall development.

But his disability has not stopped him from pursuing his interests.

“I am lucky that God gave me a gift - my instruments and my music,” he said.

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