Three years ago, Jolie Lim was told by her art teacher that she would "not get anywhere" because she did not listen to instructions.
Now, her drawings of animals appear on T-shirts and bags that are being sold to raise funds for a wildlife rescue group.
Pathlight School student Jolie, 12, was diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder at three, which resulted in various social and behavioural difficulties.
"She had difficulty blending in; she didn't have any friends," said her mother Fann Koh, 46. "It made her question herself. When she was younger, she had problems with motor skills; her actions were misunderstood as disobedience in school."
Madam Koh said that, on one occasion, Jolie squeezed a tube of glue too tightly and spilled its contents - resulting in her teacher hitting her hand.
The situation improved when Jolie drew a picture for Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling- an A3-sized drawing of a mouse with a gold medal.
"I kept asking my mother if it was nice," said Jolie. "I was so doubtful of myself until I realised that doubt actually kills more dreams than failure ever will."
Her doubts faded when the swimming star later thanked her in a video, saying he would treasure the artwork "for the rest of his life".
With her new-found confidence, she embarked on a project to call attention to the plight of endangered animals - a group she felt was "bullied" liked she was by her teachers.
After watching a video about animal abuse last month, she said: "I knew I had to do something about it. I have to speak up for these animals."
Her mother contacted the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), which is now using Jolie's art to raise funds so that it can buy a new wildlife rescue van.
Madam Koh has forked out $3,000 to print one of Jolie's drawings of endangered animals on 100 tote bags and 250 T-shirts. They sell for $22 to $23, and $5 from each sale is donated to Acres. Jolie hopes to raise at least $1,500 for Acres.
The Straits Times is featuring Jolie's efforts as a lead-up to the newspaper's annual Causes Week, which returns for its fifth year from Dec 5 to 11. Anyone with a story or cause to share for the betterment of society can write in to have it featured in the newspaper and inspire others to contribute.
Madam Koh hopes this project will teach Jolie that hard work is needed to turn dreams into reality. "As she works with my support to interact with people and put together the project, I hope that she can one day make every dream of hers into a reality independently."
Added Jolie: "Imagine all the animals that I would be able to save."
•More Causes Week stories at http://str.sg/causes2016