Educating young blind children for a better future

Aug 7, 2014

The boy of who catches hearts!

Terrence is a five-year-old boy who was born with Congenital Blindness and lives with his parents in Perak, North west Malaysia. During the day when both parents are at work, he spends time with the grandparents who have abundant love for their only grandson.

Terrence recognizes people by their voices and interacts with surroundings through touch, smell, and sound. He can speak three different Chinese languages and is able to communicate basics in Malay and English. However, from the beginning it was not this easy. Visual impairment comes with its own challenges; it takes ways of learning in which teachers and parents have to give so much of their support and the best reward is, of course, watching him grow to an independent capable child. Terrence’s friendliness catches hearts, he identifies people with the touch of their hands and asks, “Who is this?” if there is someone he is meeting for the first time.  He speaks gently with adults, especially elderly people.

Early Intervention Program is a program in which teachers are sent to the house of children in early ages to help them with their education and also to consult with parents and give them suggestions of how they can assist their children to learn specific skills that will benefit them in the future. In the beginning of this program, when the teachers met Terrence for the first time, they set up particular goals such as walking with the cane independently, holding it in the correct direction, and gaining the courage to go outside the house for outdoor activities and interact with people. He is now able to walk around by himself with minimum assistance and identify objects.  Another objective was to overcome the language barrier. In the beginning he could speak only Chinese and that made it hard to communicate with teachers or others outside the family. Through this programme, Terrence learned Malay and English word by word and now uses them regularly in conversations especially when the teachers ask him to.

Beauty exists where there is love.  It is in the words of the teacher who learned simple Chinese words to communicate with him, and the efforts of the parents who desire to see their son develop day by day. It was a journey, a very unique journey that only Terrence can feel and talk about perfectly. Maybe one day, when he grows to a young man, he can complete this writing knowing how precious he was, how everyone wanted him to be the best he could.

“20 years from now, Terrence might be a successful businessman, like his father, and I believe with his potential, he can do all that he wants.”

This was said by the teacher who travels 6 hours every two weeks to meet Terrence to give him new ways of learnings and record down the detailed improvements. For now the next steps are getting him prepared for school, starting to learn braille and be exposed to another world, a world of children where he gets opportunities to socialize with and experience new types of friendships.  

We are happy and proud of Terrence's good progress and with donations received through Global Giving; we can continue to help Terrence and other children in the programme towards improving their lives for a bigger and brighter future! Therefore, we would like to thank all our contributors form the bottom of our hearts for your support and donations.

May 9, 2014

Mirza's Story

Early intervention is a process, whereby babies and young children with visual impairment (both totally blind and low vision children who face considerable risk developmentally, are given help and support in learning skills, thus helping them to develop in the areas of psychomotor, cognitive and social to the most optimum level possible. Early intervention extends support and counseling to parents of children with visual impairments to help them cope with the trauma, emotions and challenges of caring for their children.

The Early Intervention Program is a home-based program whereby our full-time coordinators, makes frequent visits to the homes to give advice, support and help parents with strategies and approaches on how to raise their child with visual impairment. An interdisciplinary approach is adopted whereby the assistance of ophthalmologists, optometrists, social workers and other health care workers from various agencies and ministries are sought in the coordination of early intervention services to the family.

An Individualized Training Plan (IEP) is drawn up to meet the individual needs of every child every 6 months based on assessment profiles and priority goals of the parents.

In one of the visits, our team found out about Mirza. The child was born on 01/01/08 and was detected with “Retinopathy of Prematurity”. In layman’s terms, it is a disease that affects immature vasculature in the eyes of premature babies. It can be mild with no visual defects, or it may become aggressive with new blood vessel formation (neovascularization) and progress to retinal detachment and blindness. He was completely blind and our team took charge of him since 26/02/09.

The little one was the youngest of his five siblings. The parents were not equipped to deal with his incapacity . The task of the EIP was to make the child  improve in basic skills of living . The milestones which are easy for a normal child is a humungous task for the impaired and often the parents are incapable of understanding it.

Since then Mirza has been under the constant supervision and training and is expected to go out of the EIP programme and step up to the next level by end of 2014. Apart from being blind , he is affected with cerebral palsy . He has inability to stand on his own and all his cognitive skills are delayed. Soft diet is what he is able to have.

Continuous effort of the team has enabled him to reach milestones though in delay. He is now able to walk with help. His cognitive skills have improved from 12% to 69% . He is able to chew his food and grasp as well . He makes significant movements and is able to be happy in his surroundings . He recognizes his parents and also makes a sound for calling the mother as “ mamam” .

Mirza has shown great improvement and has graduated now to primary school at the age of 5. He is in the process of learning alphabets as well and is showing skills to lead a more independent life then what he was deemed for. His physiotherapy sessions are now being done by Program Pemulihan Dalam Komuniti (PDK) which is the “Community-Based Rehabilitation" (CBR).

Although Mirza may not be able to lead a perfectly normal life because of his multiple disabilities, yet with early intervention to tackle his disability, we are sure he would have much better compatibility with his surroundings. Most encouraging is the fact that his household is now equipped to deal with him with grace and accept him as a member with special needs.

Mirza would cease to be in EIP this year end and hopefully would graduate to the next level. We hope and pray for his success to cope well. 

We at St Nicholas Home are very proud of Mirza’s good progress and with donations received through Global Giving; we can continue to help Mirza and other children in the programme towards improving their lives for a bigger and brighter future! Therefore, we would like to thank all our contributors for your support and donations.

Feb 17, 2014

Finding Hope for the Future

Farah is a 6 year old girl who lives with her parents. She is the eldest and the only child. She was diagnosed with Hypoxic Ischaemic Enephalopathy and cerebral palsy. She is slow and delayed in her development.

When she was first attended to in April 2009, she was only able to lie down and not able to react to any form of stimulation. Her parents were depressed and worried about her future and were not sure what to do.

After being in the Early Intervention Programme (EIP), she is now able to eat soft food and drink milk given to her in the bottle. She can move her neck and respond by making a sound when she cries and is able to recognize her parents’ voices. She cannot do much as she is still an infant and is just learning to sit up and move about.

Farah is trained in six different skill sets which are cognitive, language, social, motor skills, gross motor and daily living. One of the annual goals set for her for the year 2013 is to be able to explore new objects with both hands systematically. After being trained a few times, she is now able to shake toys attached with strings or bells.

She is also now alert to a wide range of auditory stimulation. She repeats the sounds that she hears such as the teachers’ voice, bell ringing sound and drum sound. She also responds to signals through gestures such as waving hand and clapping. In terms of motor skills, she is able to turn her head and her eyes are able to follow the lights. Also, she can feel and explore objects with her hands and mouth.

Now, her parents are all out to look into her needs. Her mother often stimulates her by talking to her and telling her what is happening around the house. They are committed to do everything possible so that she can lead an independent life in future.

One major objective of the Early Intervention Program is to educate children like Farah to adapt to a normal school environment. The teachers of the EIP work closely together with the children and their parents in order to develop their cognitive skills in functional academic skills such as paying attention, reading and writing braille, memory and participation skills. The Early Intervention Program has enabled Farah to lead a more independent life on the long term.

Your donations and generous contributions are the reasons that our children could blossom and build up their self-confidence. These kids are learning new skills in a safe and caring environment which is helping them to create a better future. We hope that you will continue to share your compassion for them. You can help us to continue planting the seeds of success and make a difference in the lives of these special children.

Nov 15, 2013

Not Longer Just a Hope

Being born blind is perhaps the worst dreaded disability, an able world can think of. A life without light, is in askance of pity always and that is what, one thinks. Dignity takes a back step.  Surviving is more important.  The horror of a dark world is numbing to one who has experienced light. The predicament for an individual who is born blind is much larger, as one is not even aware what it is to “see”.  It is survival, amongst those who see, that takes a toll and the fight is a life long.

Siti is one such child. Born with multiple disabilities and blindness she was a bundle of inactive life, till the age of 8. Born to an unwed mother, and abandoned in the care of an old and poor grandfather, she was growing up in penury lacking basic survival needs of independence.

She was born without eye balls and multiple clefts on the lower jaw. Nostrils were not properly formed and hence respiration was her problem. Her intake of air was only through mouth and lack of oxygen proper reaching the brain resulted in her stunted growth, both physically and mentally. She was lagging in her milestones immensely and today at almost 12 she is of a size of a 7 year old and mental ability according.

Yet Siti is the brightest star at the Home. She reiterates the fact that, all the world is made of faith and trust and pixie dust. When she was brought to the home, she was only eight and with a physical and mental growth of only a toddler. Helpless, introvert, totally unaware of surroundings, unable to communicate and walk, she was a life with no hope.

Abject penury, undernourishment had worsened her growth levels. Imperfect speech made her introvert as she was unable to communicate well. However she was blessed with perfect hearing and agile mentally to learn. Non conducive living conditions at her home had made her an unhappy, introvert, scared and shelled. She lacked toilet training, eating norms and many other basics which one actually learns as a way of life.

It was here at St. Nicholas that she got her proper home. Her vegetable, pitiable conditions had to end and the home took full charge of making her independent and worthy of living a life of self dependency.

Dedicated efforts from the teachers, house mothers and medical attention slowly made impact on Siti and she was able to mobilize her self towards facing life. She was slowly able  to stand, move and now ably walks around the home without even an aide assisting. She pushes the wheel chairs of other immobilized friends guided by her teachers. A sightless angel, she lights up each corridoor, each path she crosses. Patience of her teachers have made her learn to do her own basic chores independently, She is able to take a bath, wash her plate, eat on her own. She also goes to her classrooms to learn tasks of ability. Identifying a known touch is her forte and she never misses to gurgle a sound of acknowledgment or passing on a hug.

Her deformity of face is her current problem as the low oxygen levels cause her delayed growth. The home has been succesful in getting her case well attended by medical team and Siti has undergone her first facial reconstruction earlier this month. Her lip cleft has been sealed and she has recovered well.

Our sincere thanks to you for providing a better future for the young blind and multi-handicapped children. You’re a lifesaver. Your contributions will continue to help many other children like Siti to lead a secured and better life regardless of their disabilities.

We at St Nicholas Home are very proud of Siti’s good progress and with donations received through GlobalGiving; we can continue to help Siti and other children in the programme towards improving their lives for a bigger and brighter future! Therefore, we would like to thank all our contributors for your support and donations.


Nov 11, 2013

Good Start for an Independent Life

Afiq is a 6 year old boy who is diagnosed with Bilateral Retinopathy of Prematurely, stage 5. He underwent an operation when he was 3 months old. He also goes to hospital frequently for his pediatric treatment.

When our Early Intervention Programmeme coordinators visited him at the age of 5 months, they aimed to improve his cognitive skills by doing some related exercises, to focus on acedemic skills, to train on daily living skills through touch and feel and also to improve on his communication skills by teaching him to construct long sentences.

With very limited vision, Afiq still needed help to do some tasks on his own. After a series of training for two years, he was able to eat by himself. He could hold his milk bottle or cup firmly when drinking. He was also able to tell when he wants to use the toilet. He could even read the alphabets and say out numbers. He does not have any problem with his communication skills and is able to play and mingle with his family members as well as new acquaintance very well. He is able to put on his clothes with little assistance. However, he was still not able to bathe on his own.

            After six years of constant training and evaluation, he is now able to find the beginning, end and middle of a line of print or Braille dots on the paper. He is still in the process of learning the alphabets in both print and Braille. When the Brailler is given to him, he explores it with his fingers and inserts paper in correct order.

In terms of fine motor skills, he is able to trace the template of the objects given to him. Besides, he is also able to name and point the different parts of his body such as his eyes, nose, teeth and fingers. What’s more, he can even point out the same parts of body of the doll which is given to him. Afiq responds very well when called. The words ‘Do’ and ‘Don’t’ has been introduced to him so that he is aware of what can and cannot be done.

            Afiq is able to walk forward and backward on the balance beam without falling. Since he needs to familiarize with white cane, he was also taught to hold the cane correctly and to show left and right direction which he is able to do properly. This independent young boy also removes simple items such as socks, underpants and untied shoes on his own.

All the children enrolled in EIP programme are with special needs due to their multi disabilities. With an education plan developed to match their special needs individually, especially in improving their independence and communication skills, we are positive that we can improve and enhance the potential of these children to lead a life of quality and dignity.

All of them have improved their skills by following the EIP programme. All of them have the capability to learn new things everyday with more educational materials which will be provided with the presence of donation from you.

Our sincere thanks for providing a better future for the young blind and multi-handicapped children. You’re a lifesaver. Your contributions will continue to help many other children like Afiq to lead a secured and better life regardless of their disabilities.

We at St Nicholas Home are very proud of Afiq’s good progress and with donations received through Global Giving; we can continue to help Afiq and other children in the programme towards improving their lives for a bigger and brighter future! Therefore, we would like to thank all our contributors for your support and donations.


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St. Nicholas' Home, Penang

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Project Leader

Daniel Aik Bin Soon

Bagan Jermal, Penang Malaysia

Where is this project located?

Map of Educating young blind children for a better future