The Rhythm of an Afternoon at Raintree SSCC
Mdm Nurimah Ghani barely has time to say goodbye to her morning group before her afternoon wards troop through the doors of MINDS Raintree Special Student Care Centre at Woodlands Gardens School. Aged between 7 and 18, the young Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (PWIDs) are here after school, and there are 9 of them in Nurimah’s care.
Among them, 13-year-old Toh Guo Rong is watching out for his buddy. Farrel, 7, has autism and Guo Rong is helping him take his shoes off, and making sure his school bag and water bottle are properly placed before he assists Farrel into the classroom.
It is a sight all the more heart-warming for Nurimah because Guo Rong has Global Developmental Delay. The condition affects his ability to comprehend complex instructions, understand and adapt to situations, and decipher facial expressions of those around him. Yet, having watched his teachers look after Farrel, Guo Rong has taken the Raintree peer buddy system to heart and is now an assured helpmate.
Reassurance and respite for caregivers
“Mdm Nur”, as the children call her, has known Guo Rong “since he was still small”, she says. They both joined Raintree in 2019, when he was 9, and Nurimah has watched him mature into a more observant and responsive teen, who has grown into his role as a peer buddy. She attributes this in part to Raintree’s learning environment — the before- and after-school care facility offers students like Guo Rong opportunities to hone essential skills, with enriching experiences beyond the regular school curriculum.
Guo Rong, who attends the morning session in Woodlands Gardens School, heads over to Raintree after school. The safe setting of Raintree affords Guo Rong’s mother — a shop assistant responsible for the care of Guo Rong and his siblings — peace of mind as she tends to her work and family.
A recipe for carrying on
It is lunchtime, and the students, well taught, observe mealtime manners. But with different needs and methods of communicating these needs, challenging behaviours can occasionally escalate. Days when more than one child has a meltdown count towards Nurimah’s low moments, she admits. What helps are the values she holds dear. “Perseverance, passion, patience and positivity help,” Nurimah imparts with a smile.
A mother of 3 children herself, the 44-year-old finds her work as a training officer rewarding.
“Since my teens, I have always wanted to teach,” she shares. At Raintree, she has found the chance to see first-hand how “disabilities can turn into abilities”, and even better, to be a part of the process.
A raft of lessons and craft
After lunch and a shower, the students embark on the day’s guided lessons in Literacy & Numeracy. Nurimah has them tracing words and using mathematical counters.
Raintree’s reading programme kidsREAD has boosted Guo Rong’s fluency and focus, Nurimah relates proudly — he has advanced to reading long sentences, and spells and writes his name correctly when he struggled to before.
Such practice, routines and open communication have built Guo Rong’s confidence; so much so that the previously diffident teen was cast as Prince in the centre’s performance of Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs recently, playing his part with aplomb.
Activity themes at Raintree vary monthly. Bespoke stations run the gamut from Activities of Daily Living (ADL), Art & Craft and Dramatic Play, to Cookery, Music & Movement, and Information & Communication Technology. These all nurture the interests and confidence of the youngsters, aiding their journey towards independent living.
Over the years, Nurimah, too, has picked up new skills to use with the children. Constantly learning keeps her motivated at her job. “Every day is interesting!” she laughs, when asked about her favourite thing about it.
Time for rest and time for romps
When the children lie down for a nap in the mid-afternoon, Nurimah catches up on email and administrative tasks. Staff meetings and lesson planning are often squeezed in as well. It is not long, though, before the students are up and recharged, and some physical activity is just what they are looking forward to.
Their favourite? Tag and ball games. Just being able to run around and play is a great motivator, and the sports also teach them teamwork, besides enhancing their coordination and motor skills. They also learn to deal with losing, and accept that losing a game is normal.
For Guo Rong, it is as good a time as any to break out his dance moves. The BTS fan knows some of the K-pop band’s steps and isn’t shy to show them off. Nurimah shows her appreciation, praising his footwork.
As the kids wind down with a little TV before the school bus sends them home at 5 o’clock, Nurimah reflects on their little trials and triumphs of the day. For her, each day at Raintree is one to treasure.
As MINDS celebrates its 60th anniversary, we strengthen our commitment to journey with caregivers of children with special needs.
MINDS Raintree Special Student Care Centre provides before- and after-school support and respite services for young PWIDs and their families. Guided lessons and enriching experiences help nurture confident youngsters.