“Ann” means “grace; favour”. Her Chinese name “恩” has a similar meaning. We thanked God for His grace and kindness when He gave us Li-Ann but it was only after she was born that we see and receive these blessings.
When it was confirmed that Li-Ann has Down syndrome, Chee Meng and I shared our thoughts about her future and how to help her. We wondered if we should lower our expectations for Li-Ann. Having taught John and Rebecca at home and read up about homeschooling, I realised that for learning to be effective, it should be tailored to the child’s learning style and pace. I resolved to love Li-Ann just as I’ve loved John and Rebecca and would not expect anything less than what she could achieve. If I had to teach her fifty times for her to understand, I would. If I had to give her ten minutes more for a task, I would. If Method A doesn’t work, I would try Method B. Why? Because I know eventually she’ll get it. And she did!!
The synergistic outcome of homeschooling became more visible when Li-Ann was born. On hindsight, I saw how God had paved the way for her arrival. John and Rebecca loved her very much and wanted to talk and play with her. Li-Ann was constantly stimulated and most of the time, all her senses were actively engaged. This impacted Li-Ann’s growth and development tremendously. She saw what her siblings did and wanted to do the same – that in itself was an impetus for her to pick up the necessary skills so she could be on par with them. She ran where they ran. When they pretended to fall, she did the same. If they ate something hungrily, she wanted to try too. If we bought something for the older two, she would ask for it as well.
Homeschooling also means training the children in life skills like doing dishes, hanging and folding the laundry, sorting of groceries, preparing meals, sweeping the floor etc. I would usually hand-hold Li-Ann through her tasks while instructing her verbally at the same time. Now, I give her more responsibilities and expect her to finish her job well. We talk as we work and learn colours, counting, sorting and categorizing etc. The children are also taught to feed, bathe and dress themselves as soon as they are able to do so.
Another challenge we face is teaching Li-Ann to obey us promptly. However, as we remain consistent and persistent, we see the sweet rewards of our labour. It is difficult to contain our excitement and gratitude when we see that Li-Ann can be trained to respect her elders, to love her siblings and friends and therefore, be aware of what behaviour is socially appropriate and acceptable.
We also teach our children to pray and sing at a young age. Beginning with only saying ‘Amen’, Li-Ann is now able to pray spontaneously for others outside the family. The first song she learnt was the “Three-Fold Amen”. I was overjoyed when she could sing the song on her own. Now she can sing many action songs, if she wants to.
We adore Li-Ann and never see her as a burden. Li-Ann’s amazing progress testifies that given time, training and opportunity, coupled with our love and God’s grace, she can be an independent and contributing citizen to her community.
*Charis, used in the New Testament of the Bible signifies the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, affected through the agency of the Holy Spirit. While we sometimes speak of grace as an inherent quality, it is in reality the active communication of divine blessings by the inworking of the Holy Spirit, out of the fullness of Him who is “full of grace and truth,” (John 1.14)
written in October 2010