At 16 year-old, Theodore Wong proves that nothing is impossible.
A recent winner of the Lee Kuan Yew Exemplary Student Award, a three-time gold medalist of various swimming competitions and winner of multiple academic awards, you would be well impressed by what Theodore who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, has achieved thus far.
Yet there is more to just the achievements, Theodore loves lending a helping hand to his peers – from pushing his friends’ wheelchairs to coaching his peers in their schoolwork. Known as a well-mannered, responsible and kind-hearted student and friend, Theodore is looked up to as a role model amongst his classmates and teachers in AWWA School where Theodore studies in.
Recounting his son’s growing years, Mr Jeffrey Wong shares that Theodore’s journey was not always easy. At age 2, when Theodore was diagnosed with autism, Mr and Mrs Wong were initially shocked but soon after, gathered their strength to accept Theodore’s conditions and meet the challenges head on. They read up as much as they could about autism, tried various methods of therapy and relentlessly sought for suitable therapists for Theodore.
However, by age 5, Theodore still could not speak and had frequent meltdowns as he could not convey what he wanted. After seeing countless speech therapists, Mr and Mrs Wong were told to give up hope that Theodore could gain speech and to resort to using sign language instead. However, the couple were not deterred from exploring different ways to support Theodore and continued being patient with him. They soon discovered the use of a visual schedule that helped bridge their communication with Theodore and lessened his frustration. By age 6, with his parents’ support and the help of a dedicated therapist, Theodore finally uttered his first word. Today, his parents describe him as a chatty and sociable young man who enjoys going to school.
Mr Wong feels extremely proud to see the tremendous improvement his son has made since he enrolled in AWWA School where he has been given many learning opportunities. Theodore is not one who gives up. His teachers commend him for his perseverance in overcoming challenges in his school work and in constantly improving himself. He also works hard to perfect his swim strokes to represent Team AWWA in swimming competitions. Over the years, Theodore has not only excelled academically and served the school by responsibly carrying out duties during the school’s daily assemblies, he also has gained confidence in himself.
When asked about what a parent can best do for a child with autism, Mr Wong’s advice is to be patient and to trust the process, as “you never know what can happen next, they can surprise you”.
Today, Mrs Wong runs a therapy centre that offers help and support to other children who has similar conditions as Theodore.
Against all odds, the Wong family’s never-say-die attitude has paid off.
As the saying goes, “Patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet”, Theodore’s story is an inspiring and heartwarming example of how a little determination and patience goes a long way.