COMMUNICATION: Two of Brendan Lau’s classmates at Millennia Institute, Miss Charisse Agustin (in grey) and Miss Lena Loke (in black), learnt sign language to help them communicate better with him.

Deaf Millennia Institute student did not let disability defeat him

He tops class and thanks students who learnt sign language

His friends call him a "good listener".

Which is a lovely compliment, since he is deaf.

Millennia Institute (MI) student Brendan Lau, 20, thanked his close friends when he topped his cohort after the release of GCE A-level examination results last Friday.

Two of them even learnt sign language so they could communicate with him better.

Mr Lau who scored five As, has been deaf since he was an infant, as a result of drugs administered for a pre-existing gastrointestinal problem.

After scoring 12 points in his O levels, which he sat while in Balestier Hill Secondary School, he pursued biomedical engineering in Ngee Ann Polytechnic for a year before he decided it was not a good fit for him.

Mr Lau then decided to enrol at MI.

Through a sign language translator, he told The New Paper that it was the best decision he has ever made.

"I didn't want my disability to be a hindrance for me to be involved in school activities. So when I joined MI, I tried to participate as actively as I could," said Mr Lau.

His classmates, Miss Lena Loke, 20, and Miss Charisse Agustin, 21, thought he was shy at first because he did not speak.

Miss Loke said: "I found out that Brendan was deaf during an ice breaker game in the 
first week of school. I thought he was very interesting so I volunteered to be his desk partner."

Miss Agustin also got closer to Mr Lau because the two do not take mother tongue classes and would spend their free time in the school library.

She said: "Initially, just like how our classmates and teachers communicate with him, Brendan and I would write notes to each other.

"But after a while, he taught me how to sign and slowly I got better at it."

To communicate better with her desk partner, Miss Loke even signed up for a eight-week sign language course at The Singapore Association for the Deaf.

"Slowly, Brendan became my friend and my confidant. I was willing to invest some time in those courses because I wanted to be friends with him for a long time," she said.

Miss Loke said: "This must sound weird, but Brendan is an exceptionally good listener. He understands the things you want to say even when you don't say them and he gives the best advice."


The trio, who were in the same class throughout the three years in MI, were also determined to help one another succeed.

Mr Lau constantly helped Miss Loke and Miss Agustin with their schoolwork by sharing notes with them, especially in subjects he excelled in, such as literature and economics.

"He would painstakingly draw us graphs and list out acronyms for specific terms just to make sure we understood," said Miss Agustin.

In return, they became his "ears" in class.

"Everyone in class calls him a genius because he consistently gets good grades despite his disability, but they don't see how hard he works," added Miss Loke.

Mr Lau also excels in his co-curricular activities.

He is the vice-chairman of the school's Young Diplomats Society, where he oversees meetings and determines the issues that would be discussed.

Some of the issues he is passionate about include the rise of terrorism, climate change and social inequality.

When asked who his role model is, Mr Lau pointed to the first deaf African-American female attorney in the US, Ms Claudia Gordon.

"Despite the struggles she faced, she succeeded by capitalising on her strengths and using it to stand out," he said.

Mr Lau hopes to study political science at the National University of Singapore.

"I cannot deny that I've felt demoralised by my disability several times before, but I believe that everyone is inspiring in their own way," he said.

"You're the master of your own destiny."