Caption: Mr Omar (left) and Johannezan (right) has grown closer together
Mr Johannezan, 29, can now clean his home, listen to instructions, and help others. He can even tell his father, Mr Omar, 53, what he wants to eat and where to go for their favourite food hunts. This is no small feat for Johannezan, who has intellectual disability and Noonan’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder which includes unusual facial features, short stature, and heart issues. He also has slurred speech and is blind in his right eye.
Johannezan has come a long way. When he joined TOUCH Centre for Independent Living (TCIL) in Ubi some seven years ago, he was uncommunicative. He would also be disruptive during classes. His coaches tried all means to engage him so lessons could continue.
Not Losing Hope
Despite the challenges faced, Johannezan’s coaches did not give up. They taught him how to focus on a task, manage his anger and improve his social skills, such as by using eye contact and expanding his vocabulary. Soon, Johannezan became adept at following instructions.
He even became a model trainee, taking the initiative to arrange tables and chairs, and showing concern by asking volunteers and staff to sit or opening doors for them.
“It was not easy at first. As my wife works during the day, I am left with my son at home. I also have medical issues so I worry a lot. Ever since he went to TCIL, I have peace of mind. I can now go for my medical appointments, do housework and run errands,” said Mr Omar.
Caption: Johannezan enjoys expressing his imagination through art
Caption: Johannezan picking up new skills at TCIL
Johannezan is also able to express himself better as he interacts with others. For example, he can communicate his preferences clearly when it comes to his favourite hawker fare. Through much effort, his ability to focus and his motor skills have improved.
“I was surprised when Johannezan started telling me what he wants to do every day. He knows what he wants. It can be a specific stall at a certain location or a special dish he wants to try at a popular hawker centre. He has many new ideas!” quipped Mr Omar.
Mr Omar is also happy to see his son applying what he has learnt in school to help out at home. Johannezan is meticulous when it comes to keeping floors spotless and gets excited whenever he passes by the vacuum section in the shopping mall.
Caption: Johannezan keeping the floor clean during housekeeping class at TCIL
Caption: Johannezan with his coach Ms Kastori
Johannezan always looks forward to going to TCIL every day. Although he has brushes with some trainees from time to time, his relationship with most of them has improved.
“It warms my heart to see my son discovering his interests and learning to be independent. I hope other parents will also send their children to the centre so they can mix around and learn something new. It’s good for them,” added Mr Omar.