I’m not stupid, I just see things differently from you: How Tjin Lee teaches her dyslexic child to defend himself

August 27, 2019
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    Entrepreneur Tjin Lee regularly posts photos of her precious kids Tyler Lim, six, and Jake, three, on her Instagram account @tjinlee.

    Her 36,000 followers are familiar with their enviable jet-setting adventure and the amazing themed birthday parties that she put together for them.

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    Tjin is also an advocate for raising kids with good character over good grades. Last September, she spearheaded the Life Beyond Grades movement, which hopes to shift parents’ mindset away from grades in Singapore’s academic pressure cooker.

    Related: How to be an Instagram star like Bubu and his mum Tjin Lee

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    It turned out that the inspiration for Life Beyond Grades was actually sparked by Tyler’s learning struggles, Tjin shared in a recent interview with The Straits Times (ST).

    Her first child was diagnosed in February this year with dyslexia.

    Related: Why Tjin Lee waited until she was almost 40 to have her first child


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    “I am one of the co-founders because I could see that he was not going to be a typical successful A student, no matter how hard he tried,” she told ST.

    “Why should children feel worthless because they’re not good at academics? Children have different strengths. We shouldn’t measure everyone with the same yardstick.”

    Related: Singapore mum shares: My son is not difficult, he has autism


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    In an Instagram post on Aug 27, 2019, Tjin shared how she found out about her son’s condition: “We noticed that he had fallen behind his peers in reading, and would come home dejected, telling us he was ‘the slowest kid’ in kindergarten. His morale was flagging, so I tried reading with him, and realised that he was unable to recognise even simple words.”

    Related: Why homemade toys are better for kids: SG parents

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    “He just couldn’t see the words, even when they were the same words repeated on every page. At first I got angry with him, that he wasn’t paying attention, not able to focus. My worries deepened when I asked him to write a birthday card for his friend [pictured]. His letters were almost 100% inverted, but he also had challenges with spatial processing – the letters would all be different sizes and all over the page,” she wrote on Instagram.

    Related: 4 habits of successful dyslexics that your child can learn from

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    In her post, Tjin recounted the tests Tyler underwent at KKH: “Finally, it hit home that he was truly seeing things differently when they showed him a series of letters – p p q p – and asked him to point to the one that was different, he stared at the letters and said, ‘They’re all the same’. At that moment, I felt both dismay, and also, relief. I was sad to have our fears on his dyslexia confirmed, but also relieved that now we could begin treating him.”


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    According to the ST interview, Tjin is equipping her son with ways to defend himself against critics and bullies.

    “He has to be able to say to them, ‘I’m not stupid, I just see things differently from you,'” said Tjin, who is also the founder of the Mercury group of companies, which does marketing and events.

    Related: 10 signs that your child is being bullied

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    She says: “At first, I was distressed for my son and what he would have to go through, but after the initial worry had passed, I realised that dyslexia could be a gift.

    “Some of the world’s great leaders have dyslexia – Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, artist Pablo Picasso and founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.”


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    In her Instagram post, she adds that Tyler’s reading lessons at the Dyslexia Association of Singapore have helped him in more ways than one: “He realIsed he was not alone, and that there were other kids like him, that also had difficulty reading. This was the best thing possible for his morale, for him to understand that he wasn’t “stupid” or “slow”, he just has a learning difference.”

    A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.

    (Photos: Instagram/Tjin Lee)

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