See that certificate? To many parents, it heralds a moment of pride and joy as they celebrate their child’s academic achievements. However, to one Singaporean mother – Pamela Liu – it is a symbol of more than that. It embodies love, tears, fears and joy. It stands for the unimaginable sacrifice that only a mother can make.
On Thursday 26 July, Pamela shared the incredible story of her son’s academic journey in a poignant and inspiring post.
It’s a story of courage and persistence, fueled by a mother’s courage and love.
Singapore Mother Pamela Liu’s Incredible Story of Determination and Love
“This is just a piece of paper, but a paper that is full of sweat, tears and stories,” begins mother of five, Pamela, in her post.
In 2011, her son Sean was labelled with multiple learning disabilities. Despite being selected to the gifted education programme (GEP) in school here, he was rejected from the programme after a year. Pamela was informed she’d be better off putting “him into a school for special needs children.”
Sean refused to go to the special needs school and even the psychologist they were seeing at the time agreed it was not the place for him.
Pamela says, “MOE and the school were not happy we did not heed their advice, some are not happy that I refused to put him on Ritalin [a drug often given for ADHD and other learning disorders].”
Her only “solution”? Send Sean to regular school but exclude him from all school activities. He was to sit in the principal’s office all day. The school would assign him a maths teacher. That’s all. No other subjects in regular classes. Not even PE or recess with the other kids.
For Pamela, this was hardly an option.
‘So I took him home’
She wasn’t going to give up that easily though. Determined to find a solution, she thought, “I will educate him myself,” i.e., homeschooling.
However, the psychologist advised her against it, saying that doing so would “endanger” her. Pamela then decided to make a huge leap of faith for the sake of her son. She brought him, and her four other children, to Australia.
In her words, she was “determined to find a solution for each kid.”
She explains that while her two older kids were in university already, her younger children, including Sean, had no school they could go to. They were not residents, so she could not send them to public schools. And the private schools had no places.
Pamela rented a container. From there, this determined mother taught Jo (one of her daughters) and Sean daily for two hours. And they blossomed and shone.
Within just six months, 10-year-old Sean moved rapidly from Year 4 to Year 12 work. He was “attentive and a quick learner” explains his mum. “He even won some medals for his SAT exams for being a top scorer,” she shares.
In the same time period, Jo too rapidly advanced from Year 8 to year 12.
“Jo became the youngest the university matriculated at 13, outdone only by Sean,” explains Pamela.
The Youngest Ever to Attend UQ
At just 11, Sean enrolled in UQ (University of Queensland) and entered the record books there as the “youngest they matriculated in history.”
However, there was one condition for him to go to university at such a tender age. And this was that his mother accompany him to every single class. And she gladly did!
‘Every class, every day, every moment’
Pamela sat with her boy 30 to 40 hours a week while raising three other teenagers and her youngest son all alone.
Mid-way through Sean’s degree, they hit a stumbling block. He started failing at everything. He confided in his mum that “he really did not like that he had no age peers.”
So Pamela took a step back, stopped uni and instead, enrolled him in high school. However, that wasn’t without obstacles either, as Sean thought the kids there were “noisy and boisterous.”
18 months after the high school experience, Pamela “decided to dual enroll him, both in the university and high school.”
School still had its fair share of challenges that were not of academic nature. Pamela explains in her post that when it got too noisy, Sean would hide in the toilet. Sometimes, he would be there for the whole day. Eventually, the school advised her to send him to a psychologist.
There, Pamela was to receive a surprise. Expecting to be told the same thing she had been hearing for years – that her son was autistic – she was told instead that “Sean is way ahead of his peers socially.”
“All these years, I was told he is autistic, in that he is socially poor, and all these years, I was told to send him to therapies so he could catch up and learn social skills. Five years of doing all these later, I was told he is the opposite. His problem is that he cannot endure the childish behaviour of his age peers.”
At age 16, Pamela finally got some time to herself as Sean was old enough to attend university alone. She had sat in for classes with him for “two years full-time and two years part-time”.
However, the challenges still kept popping up. Sean skipped classes, and he was found sleeping in the library. Pamela also learnt at the same time that her son had narcolepsy, which is a sleeping disorder. But the university kept supporting Sean and crafted personal exam hours for him.
And so, Sean finally graduated. Currently, he is pursuing a Master’s degree, in the second semester.
Pamela finishes her post with these words:
“What a journey. This piece of paper is probably the most hard earned one for me this lifetime. It is also the most precious.
“Sean is now 18, he is officially an adult (in Australia), and looking back, I will never do it any other way. I think, journeying this with him has made me a much better person than otherwise. I am thankful for all that we had to go through, and I am thankful he was put into my life. I learned so much.
“Well done, Sunshine Boy.”
In this era of tiger parenting, and pushing children to reach academic glory with little regard to other matters, Pamela’s final words of advice ring true:
“We took the time to adjust and ensure each child is comfortable in the education path. Education is about finding our kids’ potential and bringing that to the fullest. Isn’t it? Time and age should not determine what we do with them.”
Singapore mother Pamela Liu is an incredible inspiration to us all. We are positive that her children will shine ever brighter with her love and support guiding them.
Source: Facebook/Pamela Liu