ADHD is not a negative label

THE YAU FAMILY

Arion and Lily relocated from Hong Kong to Singapore in 2020. Both are full time working parents; Arion works in the technology industry and Lily is a human resources specialist. They have a son aged 10 and a daughter aged 7.

At what age was your son diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)?

He was diagnosed when were living in Hong Kong at the age of 5. We took him to a specialist and our son had to undergo a few assessments. He has been on medication ever since the diagnosis and he sees an occupational therapist on a regular basis.

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Considering his diagnosis, how well did he cope with the relocation?

When we first moved to Singapore, we weren’t able to put him in a local stream school due to our visa status, therefore we had to find an International School. We viewed 4 schools and he was the one that decided to go to the International French School (IFS) – even though we do not speak French. As school life takes up a large amount of his time, we wanted him to be comfortable and happy, so my husband and I agreed to enrol him at his chosen school.

Singapore offers more space and playing opportunities and he quickly adapted to the new environment. It makes a big difference when the new school (IFS) does not have exams and less homework load as compared to his old school in Hong Kong.

We also took him to see a psychiatrist just as extra support during the settling in period of the relocation.

 

He was a student at IFS for only 2 years and when we successfully applied for Permanent Residency, we moved him to a Singaporean mainstream school. He is a very resilient boy and it didn’t take him long to integrate.

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Your son has attended 3 different primary schools, which school has provided him with the best support?

I would say that not only did IFS provide the best support, but the holistic way of teaching was really beneficial to him. At IFS they had play therapy and it really encouraged him to reach his full potential.

The school in Hong Kong would allow for extra time for exams and he was able to sit away from the main class so that he could focus. I really appreciated this and it significantly helped him.  

 

His current school does not really accommodate for his ADHD, with no additional time for exams nor any support. Seeing the positive impact by having play therapy at IFS, we take him to see an occupational therapist.

How is it parenting a child with ADHD?

 

From the very start we embraced his diagnosis. I know of families that are in denial and cannot come to terms with it, which doesn’t help the child in the long run. There also seems to be shame and embarrassment linked to this “label”. We do not feel this at all and are open to talking about this with friends and family.

 

We have to be even more understanding with him. We give simple instructions and we do not overwhelm him with too many options. We manage his triggers by removing him from a situation before he gets frustrated or over stimulated. We just need to be one step ahead and this all comes down to trial and error and experience.

 

My husband and I have been very fortunate to be able to work remotely which gives us more time to focus on the children and to attend to both of their needs. We try to ensure that our son and daughter get equal special attention and so on some weekends we aim to have quality 1:1 time with each child.

 

 

I have joined a WhatsApp group “Fostering Resilience: exploring support and challenges in mainstream school”. This is solely for parents in Singapore and we give each other advice, encouragement and it feels that we are not alone in this parenting journey.

 

 

 

His ADHD does not hinder him and we recognise and celebrate his strengths. As parents we do our utmost to support him and above all he feels loved by us.

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What does occupational therapy entail?

 

Our son has a good relationship with the therapist whereby he is able to share his thoughts with her and trust her completely. The therapist uses play and movement to facilitate social interaction and build on skills to function better at school. Noticeably his emotional regulation has improved and he is able to participate more in a group amongst his peers. This will be an ongoing long term therapy for him.

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How else do you cater to both of their individual needs?

Our daughter attends a mixed gender school, whereas we have placed our son in an all boys school, as we find that the teachers’ tolerance level is higher and they are more experienced and effective at noticing and responding to the differences that is observed in boys. 

Being at different schools, they come back with their own stories and experiences and it has taught them to be more independent because they travel to school separately from each other.

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Moving away from Hong Kong, how do you build on the childrens’ roots and heritage?

 

We only speak Cantonese to them and we buy many books in traditional Chinese. Only our son can read traditional as his early years and Primary 1 in Hong Kong has given him a robust start to Chinese to the point where he writes the traditional word if he doesn’t remember the simplified. Our daughter on the other hand has only known simplified, yet we don’t want her to forget the origins and the true meaning of the words and will read to her traditional at home.

We celebrate festivals with food that is eaten in Hong Kong. I find that keeping to traditions is a strong reminder of their roots. If I don’t pass this down to my children then it will get lost.

 

It is very important to form a tight circle of friends that come from Hong Kong too as the children will get a high level of exposure of Cantonese and bond with friends that can relate to their heritage.

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Writer's Notes

I am extremely grateful for Lily’s openness. I acknowledge that a child’s health should be kept private, but then again with Lily’s sharing, we are able to understand more about a subject that I find isn’t talked about enough within Asian culture. There are these misconceptions that it’s a negative trait for a child. It’s wonderful that Arion and Lily recognise that it can bring positives too, such as extra enthusiasm for a hobby or creativity. I love that they are child led and gave the decision making to their son when it came to picking a school. Usually a child’s instinct is pretty accurate and can sense when something just clicks and feels right – Arion and Lily respected that.

 

January 2024