Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Celebrating The Chosen Ones

Over the past few months, I had quite a record number of stories on Majalah 3. And they all had very tight deadline.

For example, for a 10-20 minute feature, I had approximately 2 days to shoot, 1 day to edit and 1 night to write the script.


If you're not familiar with documentary work, that is madness. A 20-minute feature on international TV channels would take about a year (or more) to complete a story and here we are, getting everything done in under a week.

I usually end up coming home late and not sleeping at night just to meet the deadline. During those period of sheer madness, I hardly see my kids too. Thank God Mer is able to help out (had to sacrifice his working hours though).

Most recently, in conjunction with Autism Awareness Month, I did a feature on Autism. The main idea was to do a story about 'gifted autistic kids.'

I wanted viewers to be amazed and inspired by these special people while creating awareness about it. That was my goal.


I approached two NGOs - NASOM and Yayasan FAQEH.

Via FAQEH, I discovered that the founder's 14-year-old son has a special gift.


And via NASOM, it was more difficult to decide because there were a few characters shortlisted. I finally decided to feature Hazim - the 20-year-old college student who learns foreign languages solely through YouTube.


The shoot took 4 days and what was initially supposed to be a 20-min feature ended up being a full 1-hour documentary about these gifted individuals.

YouTube Video

I must say it was a different experience doing this story because I feel it. As a parent of a special child, I learned a lot.


I can't deny that I worry about Raees' future. He's almost 7 years old and we never had a proper 2-way conversation with him. Then I found out, these individuals I featured only began stringing sentences and conversing properly at 9-10 years old.

And looking at how amazing they turn out to be, I have faith and confidence that Raees' future will be OK. It may be challenging but I know there's hope.

So did I achieve my goal with this feature? Were viewers amazed by these specials individuals? Yes. Did their story inspire others? Yes.

But I think I achieved more than that. It made me look Autism in a bigger picture. It gave me hope. It gave me strength. And I believe many other parents like me felt the same.


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Friday, January 15, 2016

The School Boy

2016 is when Raees will turn 7 years old. As of last year, quite a number of people would say,"Your son is going to be in standard 1 next year!"

When I came across such situation, I just smiled and left it at that. Truth is, I wasn't even sure if he was going to enter standard 1.


At year end, I see a lot of photos of friends sending their kids for orientation and first day of school in uniform. A proud moment for any parent, definitely. I couldn't help but feel a bit envious.

Raising a child as special as Raees is not easy. In order to ensure he gets the chance to learn as well as other kids in his early years, the choice of preschool is vital. 

We tried enrolling him to a kindergarten when he was 3-4 years old. But that didn't turn out well. 

We turned to Early Intervention Programme (EIP) that aims to help children with learning issues. Besides academic, the programme also includes occupational therapy and speech therapy. So that was just perfect!


But it didn't come cheap. We had to spend A LOT every month for Raees. At one point it took a toll on our financial. But we had to make that sacrifice for Raees' sake.

As 2016 was fast approaching, as of December we were still uncertain on where he would go. We knew he's not ready for mainstream school. 

It was either:

A) Special education at a government school
B) Delay entry to primary school by a year and enter kindergarten (with hope he'll be ready for mainstream school a year later)
C) Private/international school with shadow aide (a person dedicated to guide him in class)

We were not keen on option A - we have our reasons. Option B looked most likely but we had second thoughts. And we couldn't afford option C.

But in late December, we discovered a special school. A brand-spanking new school just 2 minutes drive from our home. It teaches mainstream school syllabus (KBSR) but with special approach for special children. It has classes for standard 1-3.

When I first heard it, I thought Raees must go there! It's everything we were looking for. We paid a visit to the center with the kids. I liked what I saw and heard. 

But first Raees needed to pass the assessment. This bugged me because Raees doesn't cooperate well with new people and environment.

Two days later we received a call from the center saying that judging from the first impression during our visit to the center, it seems that Raees isn't ready for the school.

Bummer. Raees didn't even make it to the assessment. 

But I didn't give up. I appealed. I showed doctor's report on Raees' school readiness assessment, sample exercises that he has done, video of him obediently doing his work, comments from his teachers...anything I can think of to proof what Raees is really capable of.

You see, Raees behaves differently at school with teachers compared when he's with us (especially with his daddy, Raees tends to do his own thing his way). So what they saw before that was the other side of him. 

Given the new info, the school agreed to conduct the assessment. Four days of assessment and we finally got the good news we were hoping for. Alhamdulillah!

Now I can confidently say, my son, Raees, is in standard 1 😊 (man, that feels good!)

So Raees bids farewell to EIP and starts a new journey as a school boy. #PrayForRaees








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