Sarah Lim learnt to defeat her learning and social disabilities when she stopped listening to everyone.
Her peers called her "that weirdo kid" in primary school. She would crack offensive jokes, grab her classmates' hands, or hug them all of a sudden.
According to Sarah Lim, now 20 and an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (NUS), growing up with disorders that affected both her learning and social interactions was no easy task.
Speaking to Youth.SG yesterday after receiving the Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities by Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), it was difficult to imagine the friendly and confident scholar was once asking herself: "What is wrong with me? Why do I keep irritating people? Am I really that dislikeable a person?"
SARAH FEATURED A SELF-DRAWN CARTOON DURING HER SPEECH AT
THE APB FOUNDATION SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS CEREMONY.
Sarah has been diagnosed with dyslexia and motor co-ordination difficulties since primary one. After a reassessment at primary five, she was also diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and Asperger's Syndrome. In August this year, she was further diagnosed with a neurological disorder that disturbs her sleeping patterns and affects her concentration.
These conditions made it a challenge for Sarah to make friends or keep up with her school work. "I need to rewrite information down five to seven times before I get it into my head," she explained.
When asked about what motivated her to persevere against such challenges, Sarah's eyes lit up as she declared with conviction that her father is her biggest inspiration. "He is a living proof of someone who overcame his disabilities," she said.
Sarah's father is also dyslexic. Being diagnosed only at the age of 33, he did poorly in school, but miraculously entered university despite failing the equivalent of two H2 subjects in Junior College. He eventually went on to start his own business.
THE RECIPIENTS FOR THE APB FOUNDATION SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS:
(FROM LEFT TO RIGHT) TEO ZI LIN, SARAH LIM, AND JOSHUA ONG.
PHOTO CREDIT: SPD
Having overcome the odds himself, her father's encouraging words manifested into strength in Sarah's heart. Whenever she entertained the thought of giving up, she would think of the stories her father used to tell her as a child, such as the fable of the deaf frog who escaped from a well because it could not hear the discouraging remarks of the other animals.
Stories like these carried her through her teenage years, reminding her to ignore the people who told her that she could not make it. When a doctor recommended her to drop a few subjects while she was studying in Catholic Junior College (CJC), she strengthened her resolve and replied confidently: "No way I'm going to do that!"
She eventually topped her cohort in History and Literature in CJC.
While her father's words gave her courage and determination, her mother's support helped her with her social awareness. Her mother was her source of assurance whenever she made a "social mistake". Now, she interacts with people well and made close friends in CJC.
Sarah has been regularly volunteering at the Singapore Cheshire home and Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen. Her dream is to pursue a doctorate in human rights and ethics to help other people in need. She said: "Researching about the human condition and how we can use these philosophies to improve public policies or real life social dilemmas is what I would like to do at the end of the day."