Singapore

Seven kids challenging but ‘a joy’

Mum is pursuing diploma in learning differences, four of the children have special needs

Ms Lennie Tan has her work cut out for her - taking care of seven children, four of whom have special needs. Her first child was born nearly 20 years ago.

Ms Tan is part of a small but growing number of households in Singapore who have chosen to have bigger families, perhaps in response to pro-family policies. (See report below.)

"There are always challenges, especially the teenage years, which are really trying," said the 43-year-old housewife, whose children have dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

"They will try to test every boundary and all their characters are different, so we have to consider how to discipline or talk to them."

Ms Tan shoulders most of the parenting duties as her husband, who wanted to be known only as Mr Mun, 45, travels frequently. He works in the technology industry.

The couple have five boys and two girls, with their first six children all born a year or two apart. Their youngest is four years old, and they have no plans to have another child.

"We wanted to stop at four, but when the babies came along, itwas a joy," she added.

"But now we wouldn't want another one because we would have to start all over again."

Ms Tan quit her job as a pre-school teacher after her first child was born.

Three years later, she returned to her job as a pre-school teacher, but it did not work out, and it was back to full-time parenting.

These days, the family uses a calendar app to keep track of one another's schedules, a vast improvement from having to write it down on paper.

Two of their sons, aged 16 and 11, have dyslexia, while another son, 15, and daughter, 12, have inattentive ADHD.

The couple have another two boys - 19 and 13 - and the four-year-old girl.

SCHOOL

The oldest is in polytechnic and the others are in mainstream schools, while the youngest is in nursery.

Ms Tan said it was more difficult for her husband to manage a big family as he is the only child, while she has three sisters.

"Some of my children have difficulties in learning, but they are still intelligent in their special ways.

"It is just that they don't know how to express it," she said.

In the early years, the family hired a special education teacher to help the older children with their studies, but Ms Tan has since taken over.

Since last year, she has been pursuing a specialist diploma in specific learning differences at DAS Academy, a private education institution that trains educators and caregivers of people with special education needs.

Once she completes her diploma, she hopes to pursue a degree in childhood studies and early years and a master's in special education needs.

Ms Tan is considering heading back to work when her youngest goes to primary school, in part to lift some financial burden from her husband.

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