He has fantastic memory and earns his keep

HE confidently rattled off the score line of this year's World Cup finals when we met him last Friday.

But Mr Sebastian Koh, 24, who watched all 64 games of this year's World Cup isn't just an avid football fan.

He's also autistic.

Yet, he has an ITE certificate in information technology and is able to earn his own keep.

He has been working full-time, with a monthly salary of $1,100, doing data entry work at education consultancy firm Hui&Kuah for the past four years.

Mr Koh leaves the office at Keng Cheow Street at 6pm after an eight-hour day and heads back to his home at Upper Thomson Road by bus on his own.

He's good at remembering names and numbers, and is proficient in searching for information on the Internet, said his boss, Mr Philip Kuah, 55, the managing director of Hui& Kuah.

"Sebastian has a fantastic memory although he doesn't like to interact with other people," said Mr Kuah.

Mr Kuah employed Sebastian partly because his own son Justin, 25, is also autistic and the two young men used to study together in Margaret Drive School.

Justin is now a final-year student in Murdoch University pursuing a degree in nanoscience.

Mr Koh's mother, Mrs Koh Kee Ang, 56, a housewife, said: "When the doctor confirmed that Sebastian is autistic, it was like putting a nail in the coffin. I cried a lot."

She quit her job as a law lecturer in a polytechnic and has been a full-time caregiver to Mr Koh ever since.

Between the age of six and 14, Sebastian enrolled in an occupational therapy course.

Hours of exercise

For three hours every day, he would participate in physically intensive exercises such as jumping or repeatedly throwing a ball at a wall under the supervision of a private therapist.

"That helped him to expend his excess energy and allowed him to focus," said Mrs Koh of the course, which cost $400.

So what does the future hold for Sebastian?

The young man hopes to do something that allows him to apply his web skills and memory.

"When I am free, I will read information on Wikipedia," he said.

Mrs Koh said: "He is actually a walking encyclopedia. I may want to let him further his studies in a polytechnic.

"Compared to distance learning using a computer, interacting with friends in a campus may benefit him more."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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