Elliot's day starts with his parents sending him to his preschool in the morning. They would then pick him up before dinner. In the evening, the family would spend the precious few hours before his bedtime playing with him and keeping him engaged. This sounds like a typical day in the life of a 2-year old. The difference is - Elliot also attends early intervention sessions, such as physiotherapy and speech therapy before going to school on some days.
Shortly after he was born, Elliot was diagnosed with Leber Congenital Amaurosis, which causes an early onset of visual impairment. Receiving the diagnosis was agonising, but Mummy Wei Shi and Daddy Eric are now taking things in their stride, providing Elliot all the support he needs to lead a purposeful, independent and fulfilling life.
To share their family's journey, Mummy Wei Shi has also started an Instagram page - @blindandshine, to inspire other families who may be facing similar challenges. She also hopes to demystify misconceptions and clear the stigma others may have for individuals with disabilities.
Read on to get a sneak peak into a day in Elliot's life and gain some insights into how the family hustles to give Elliot a "normal" childhood, experiencing the challenges in their parenting journey and sharing joys along the way.
Elliot exploring the bird whistle, from the Five Senses Squizzel Box.
SB: What is a typical day in Elliot's life like?
WS: We would send him to school in the morning, and pick him up before dinner. In the evening, we spend the precious few hours before his bedtime to play with him and keep him engaged. On days with early intervention sessions, he would attend them before going to school.
We share little snippets of baby Elliot's daily life on our Instagram page - @blindandshine!
SB: What are some of the daily challenges the family have faced in caring for Elliot?
WS: One key daily challenge is the lack of time that we can dedicate towards playing with, or engaging him. As working parents, we have limited hours after work to spend with him before his bedtime. Sometimes, it is tiring for us after work too.
On top of that, we feel that there is a lack of resources dedicated to support blind children in Singapore. As such, we have to put in substantial effort on our end to guide him amidst our own busy schedules. Having said that, we are thankful for the support that we have received from associations, organisations, other parents of children with visual impairment and the online community we have built through our IG page.
SB: What are some of Elliot's favourite activities?
WS: He enjoys story-telling sessions and play time which involves interaction with us or other adults.
SB: How do you introduce toys to Elliot?
WS: Elliot can play with 'normal' toys, but may require some adaptations at times. The key is choosing suitable toys that are appropriate for his current developmental stage. When we introduce new toys to him, we will usually guide his hands around the toy, and verbally describe it. It helps him get a basic understanding of what the toy is, and how it works. Over time, as he familiarises himself with the new toy, he will start to play with it independently.
Elliot exploring different textures in the texture crate, from the Five Senses Squizzel Box.
SB: How did you introduce him to school? Does his preschool have special programmes that cater to students with Visual Impairment?
WS: His preschool is a mainstream school and do not have specialised programmes that cater to students with visual impairment. Nonetheless, they have put in effort to include him for classes and activities. Elliot was very afraid when he first joined the school. As time went by with our reassurance, he has grown to be familiar with his environment, teachers and friends. They have been accommodative and accepting of him, something we are really thankful for.
SB: How have you adapted your home to cater to Elliot's needs?
WS: We did not specially adapt our home to suit someone with visual impairment, but we might be doing so when he is a little older. Currently, our adaptations are probably similar to what other households with young children have, such as bumpers on corners and edges to keep young children safe.
SB: Are there any misconceptions you want to demystify about children with Visual Impairment?
WS: There are many! One misconception is that people with visual impairment are unable to do a lot of things, such as to travel independently, or to engage in sports or work. This misconception might cause some individuals to not be given the same opportunities as their sighted peers.
Follow my instagram at @blindandshine to find out more!
SB: What are some little moments of joy or wins in your journey of learning with Elliot?
WS: It is definitely seeing him grow and progress so much in the last few months. The lack of sight has caused his development to be delayed, but with therapies, our guidance, and patience, he's now able to walk and speak a little. All these was unthinkable just a year ago when he was still facing a lot of challenges with milestones. We have learnt to celebrate small wins.
SB: How do you think the public can offer support and promote inclusivity?
WS: I think it would be helpful if we start to treat people with disabilities the same as anyone else - to see them for who they are and not let their disabilities define them. This is a big step forward to allow them to feel accepted and included. It would also be great if we, as parents, are role models for the next generation and 'normalise' disabilities. We can clarify our children's questions, instead of avoiding the topic. This would encourage our children to accept their peers or friends with disabilities and contribute towards building a society that is truly inclusive.
Mummy Wei Shi shares that Elliot's growth has brought her much needed “aha!” moments that Elliot just requires a different way of learning - he is just like any other kid. To make sense of the world around him, Elliot uses his sense of sound and touch a lot and he's always drawn to sounds and music. We love that unlike most of us, who take photos to look back on memories, Daddy Eric takes out a recorder to document important milestones in Elliot's life with their voices.
Through this story of hope, the family has taught us that through sheer determination and an open mind, cliché as it may sound, anything is possible!