“My Name is Aarriz”. Aarriz is a student at Fei Yue Community Services.

When their son was between 1 to 2 years of age, Dawnie and Rossidah noticed that he was showing some signs of delayed development. He was still babbling and had not spoken any words. They were particularly concerned because he was not displaying eye-contact with them in their daily interactions.

At the age of 1 year and 10 months, Aarriz Sharrez Karni was diagnosed with global developmental delay and suspected autism spectrum disorder and was referred to Fei Yue Early Intervention Programme for Infant and Children (Fei Yue EIPIC) where he started receiving intervention in September 2014. (The diagnosis was reviewed in 2015 and he received a diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder).

When Aarriz first came to Fei Yue, he would often lie prone on the floor and cry when teachers carried him or tried to interact with him during their sessions. It took a few weeks for him to be familiar enough with the classroom environment and participate in the activities. He had also just learnt how to walk and although he was very enthusiastic to try different gym equipment, he still found it a challenge to retain his balance when walking on uneven surfaces.

Although Aarriz enjoyed exploring objects in his surroundings, he was not able to focus on a particular activity or toy for very long, as he would easily distracted by other activities taking place around him, such as another child activating a musical toy. There were also certain things he was not open to try. For example, he did not enjoy playing with sand, flour and paint during sensory play sessions and would cry as an indication of turning down the activity. Even in the gym, he was reluctant to play with equipment such as the swing and hammock. He was also not open to trying new food.

Dawnie and Rossidah hope that Aarriz would be able to talk and interact with adults and other children. They also hoped that in time, he would become more independent in his daily living skills (e.g. Changing clothes, toileting routines).

Aarriz’s teachers exposed him to a variety of activites during class routines. While building up his motor abilities, he also became more confident at exploring new activities and trying new food. Reducing his anxiety towards novel experiences helped to build a greater resilience in him that optimised his learning and receptiveness.

Helping Aarriz to improve involved tapping his strengths. Although he was unable to use words when he first came to Fei Yue, he always displayed a strong intention to communicate with his parents and teachers, often using vocalisations and gestures that were difficult to understand. His teachers systematically taught him simple gestures to effectively request for help and to direct other people to his needs. For example, he learnt to pat his chest to express, “I want”, and then pointing to an object he desired. As he progressed, he learnt to communicate with others using the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and simple words.

After attending intervention at Fei Yue EIPIC for close to three years, Aarriz has since grown into a more confident, outgoing and friendly boy who is a joy to those around him. In the classroom, Aarriz remains engaged in group activities for longer duration and is able to take turns with his friends, with the use of visual supports. This has enlarged his capacity to learn. He has become adept at his gross motor skills such as running, jumping, and climbing which allowed him to thoroughly enjoy outdoor activities with his teachers and peers.

Aarriz now goes to the toilet independently and eat a variety of food. Recently, he tried chicken rice at the hawker centre with his parents for meals.

From a child who found it challenging to use spoken words, Aarriz has now progressed to using sentences of more than three words and spontaneously uses what he has learnt to communicate freely with adults and peers. His improvements in his expressive language skills has placed in him a greater desire to express his needs and wants, and to inform and describe the things he experiences to others. Moving forward, his teachers will work with him in responding to a variety of open-ended questions, expressing his emotions verbally, and expanding his vocabulary to bolster his opportunities to interact with others and to learn.

Mdm Rossidah, mother of Aarriz, said, “I would like to thank the teachers for their dedication and passion in guiding Aarriz in his journey in Fei Yue.”

 It is our hope that the many children, like Aarriz, who fill the classrooms and corridors of Fei Yue EIPIC at Jurong East, will also find this a safe place to grow into confident and independent individuals; members of society equipped with the means to support themselves, learn continually and contribute in a valuable way to society in the process.

Written by Joel Lim, EIPIC Teacher