Pupil with cerebral palsy gets through PSLE, domestic helper and 3 friends play a part

Pupil with cerebral palsy gets through PSLE, domestic helper and 3 friends play a part
Zhonghua Primary pupil Keith Tan, who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, will be receiving his PSLE results.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Keith Tan, 12, was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects muscles, movement and motor skills.

This means he needs a wheelchair to get around and is a lot slower in accomplishing simple tasks when compared to others his age.

But do not feel sorry for the Zhonghua Primary pupil.

Citing his hero, Nick Vujicic, a well-known author who was born without limbs, Keith said: "He did not wallow in self-pity and worked hard to overcome his challenges."

This can-do spirit was what earned him a trophy for performing well in his PSLE, despite the challenges he faces.

Keith, an avid reader, was happy to receive 2As, for English and Chinese. He scored 194, which was higher than he had expected.

But he did not do it alone - his form teacher asked his three best friends and domestic helper to share his prize, praising them for their part in helping Keith through his studies.

Since Keith, who is an only child, was diagnosed as a baby, his family have done all they can to ensure that he leads as normal a life as possible.

His mother, Madam Jenny Tan, who works in retail sales, sent him to early intervention classes and physiotherapists.

When he was evaluated to be suitable for a mainstream school, his mother recalled the challenges Keith faced to prepare for school.

"He spent so long just writing out the letters of the alphabet, one by one. It's just a lot harder for him," said Madam Tan, 46, who is divorced.

With the support of his family and the community, Keith has been leading an active lifestyle. He used to go for horse-riding sessions and swims regularly.

When it comes to school, his helper, Miss Rima Kartika, 25, plays guardian angel - she accompanies him to school daily.

She joins him in all his classes and plays with him during physical education lessons.

"He is a very good boy, but sometimes I have to tell him not to spend so much time on his mobile phone games," said the Indonesian helper, who has been in Singapore for less than a year, with a laugh.

Three of his classmates, Ethan Lai, Joven Christopher Arnold and Fang Zheng Hao, were also commended in their teacher's speech at the school hall on Wednesday.

Mrs Wendy Ng, who is Keith's form teacher and teaches him English and Science, said in her speech: "I've learnt so much from observing how they treat him.

"They took really good care of him, spending time with him and helping him whenever a need arose."

Mrs Ng told The New Paper that Keith has been a joy to teach and was well-liked by his classmates, who would not hesitate to stand up for him.


"I remember how Joven looked very angry one day. I later found out that it was because someone didn't want to play a card game with Keith because he was slower.

"He was so upset that he didn't want to join the game either."

Ethan, who teared a little as his teacher made the speech, said: "We became closer this year because I always talked to him. I felt sorry that he was in a wheelchair and I didn't want him to feel left out.

"I cried because I'm happy that he did well in PSLE despite his condition and I'm sad that we will be going to a different school after this." Joven added: "I'm sad too, but we can always keep in touch by WhatsApp."

Madam Tan said she has been very grateful for the school's support.

"This was the third school I approached, as other schools in the neighbourhood were not suitable," she said.

"The school has been very kind and allowed us to make arrangements, such as having the helper in class and giving him extra time for his exams."

The friendly boy is excited about secondary school and his mother hopes he can become more independent in future.

Madam Tan said: "There are jobs that might not be convenient for him to do in future, so he doesn't know what he can do yet.

"But I'm happy he has managed to get through the PSLE after working so hard. He improved so much over the years and I think that as he gets older, he will figure out his direction."

This article was first published on November 27, 2015.
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