Boy with autism does well in O levels with teacher's help
When Ryan Wu was younger, he often wondered why his friends mysteriously slipped away from his life.
He did not know how to reach out to his peers and social etiquette was a mystery to him.
It was only when he entered Swiss Cottage Secondary School that he learnt all about social cues from his then-form teacher Michael Rajanayagam.
"Mr Michael trusted me and helped me to become more confident. He cared for me and told me I had potential," Ryan, 16, who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), told The New Paper on Monday before he collected his O-level results.
The encouragement spurred him on. In Secondary 3, he transferred from the Normal (Academic) stream to the Express stream.
He scored an L1R4 of 13 for the O levels - a result he is satisfied with.
"I am passionate about clean and renewable energy and I am so happy I am eligible to do the course in Ngee Ann Polytechnic," he exclaimed after a fist pump.
Ryan was diagnosed with ASD as a child, but only learnt about the diagnosis late last year, during a medical check-up.
"Now it all makes sense to me (why I behaved the way I did)," he said.
He said that his parents did not tell him about his condition because they wanted him to grow up as normally as possible.
Ryan conceded he did not have many friends in school.
Girls would not want to touch the worksheets he had held because they did not like him. And nobody wanted to sit near him during school assembly, he said.
His classmate Koh Jun Kai, 16, said Ryan would sometimes put his sweat-soaked shirt on his classmates' tables, much to others' irritation.
Whenever he had an idea he was confident of, he would push for it strongly - something that came off as arrogance to his classmates.
"Actually, he is a very caring friend. His intentions start out right, but his actions somehow rub people up the wrong way," said Jun Kai, whom Ryan calls "my best friend".
Mr Michael added that Ryan was initially "manipulated" by some of his schoolmates.
"Many of the notorious students realised they could take advantage of Ryan and they made him do things that were not right... I had to figure out if he was a destructive kid (or just doing their bidding)," said the Physical Education teacher.
When Ryan started approaching him with questions like, "What should I do when this happens?", Mr Michael realised his student had been influenced by his naughty peers.
First, he made sure that Ryan was "protected" from the notorious students by assigning the class chairman to be his buddy.
Then, he gave him simple codes to help him study better. For instance, one hour of studying would result in a "D" grade, while four hours would result in an "A", Ryan was told.
"He is a good and very simple child who follows instructions well," said Mr Michael.
Today, Ryan is still a little socially awkward and he knows it.
But when asked if he feels different from the other students, he said simply: "Everyone is unique. I don't need to have all the friends in the world.
"I know that ASD is not reversible and it is hard for people to get better... But I am confident that one day, I can break out of this," he said.
As much as Mr Michael has been an inspiration to Ryan, he feels the same about his former student.
"I never had a student like him. He showed me that what I have done actually worked. He was a hidden gem. Now, the gem is uncovered," Mr Michael said with a smile.