SINGAPORE - Teo Heng Soon could tell his left hand from his right only when he was in primary school.
And he was able to recall the months of the year in the right order only when he was in Seconday 2.
But now at 16, he is about to take his O levels as an express stream student. He is also eloquent, active and is captain of his school's dance team.
He managed all this after overcoming the challenges of dyslexia through sheer determination and strong family support.
His achievement has won him the Dyslexic Association of Singapore's (DAS) Young Achievers Award this year.
The award, sponsored by OCBC Bank, comes with a $5,000 scholarship.
Dyslexia is a developmental reading disorder. Dyslexics find it harder to learn to read and understand what they read despite them having normal or above-average intelligence.
Heng Soon's parents, company director Teo Chiang Wee and housewife Lynne Teo, both 53, have another dyslexic son who also beat the odds.
Their second son, Mr Teo Heng Hao, 24, is studying in Australia. He, too, beat the condition to win the inaugural Young Achievers Award in 2011.
While Mr Teo struggled until Sec 3 before his dyslexia was diagnosed, Heng Soon, the youngest of four sons, was fortunate as his condition was confirmed when he was nine.
Mrs Teo said her "antennae shot up" when Heng Soon was unable to read or write by Primary 1. By the time he was in Primary 3, she was certain he had dyslexia and she sought help from the DAS, which trains dyslexic children through multi-sensory teaching.
The brothers study nearly three times as hard as their peers just to keep up.
For Heng Soon, paying attention in class is a huge challenge. He has to be trained to be mindful of what goes on in class.
With strong family support, he soon improved. Mr Tay, in particular, often kept his younger brother in his "rear-view mirror". But being a dyslexic himself did not mean he could easily help his brother.
"While I used a harsh and disciplined method on myself," Mr Tay said, "I realised I could not replicate this on Heng Soon. Even though we are both dyslexic, we respond differently. I had to use a softer approach to help him."
Heng Soon's other brothers, Heng Bin and Heng Xuan, would help plan his study schedule and challenge him academically, especially in history, his favourite subject.
His parents would drive him to the DAS for his twice-weekly sessions.
Heng Soon tries to stay focused on his goal of studying banking and finance at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
"Even though it is very draining to take so much longer than everyone else to learn the same things, I try to keep awake by drinking green tea," he said.
"I also often meditate on what I want to keep myself motivated.
"Dyslexia has given me an opportunity to be more disciplined and also more empathetic."
To find out more about the DAS, go to www.das.org.sg or call 6444-5700.
This article was first published on July 4, 2014.
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