SG Buzz: Boston, Chicago, And Pittsburgh

I was honoured to be invited to speak last week to Singaporeans working and studying in three American cities. Organized by the US Liaison of the Overseas Singaporean Unit – the same people who bring Singapore Day to known Singaporean hubs around the world – the talks were held at cozy venues which also featured some Singaporean-ish food…

I was honoured to be invited to speak last week to Singaporeans working and studying in three American cities. Organized by the US Liaison of the Overseas Singaporean Unit – the same people who bring Singapore Day to known Singaporean hubs around the world – the talks were held at cozy venues which also featured some Singaporean-ish food.

Contrary to what some thought, there was no “official messaging” that I had been instructed to deliver, things along the lines of, “don’t forget Singapore, it’s your home, please come back”. Instead, I was asked very broadly to talk about the media landscape in Singapore. That was an easy brief because I could spend hours making fun of Mediacorp. But people were hungry, and the buffet spreads were waiting, so I let everyone off with a presentation that lasted maybe half an hour.

But there are some points I made that I’d like to reiterate:

1. Stop calling ourselves a “little red dot” (HT Calvin Soh). Be confident, be brash;

2. Don’t be in a hurry to come home. It’ll always be here. You’re already abroad, so take on the world while you’re there if it’s more convenient;

3. The OSU is a great networking facilitator. Register yourselves, keep in touch, and don’t be silly – the Gahmen is not trying to track and limit your movement. It’s merely trying to see how it can help you succeed. Honest!

But thank you for hosting me in the limited time I was there. To my old friends in Boston who contacted me, it was great getting in touch again IRL. Didn’t occur to me we hadn’t seen each other in two decades. Thank you Facebook.

To the Singaporeans in Chicago who stayed on and chatted over a couple of rounds of drinks – thank you, that was fun!

And to Pittsburgh. Goodness, what a pretty town. I’m sorry I had preconceived notions of it being a bleak steel town because that’s how ignorant I am. For the kids and the not so young studying at Carnegie Mellon – you guys rock, and thanks to you, we now know that the last Batman movie had an over-representation of Singaporeans.

I hear this series saw a record turnout in each city, so thank you for coming out (including the fella who flew in from Florida) on the most tumultuous weekend in recent US history. And thank you Overseas Singaporean Unit for organising this whirlwind tour.

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Help For Autism

I’ve very little experience in or knowledge of what care is needed or available for children on the autism spectrum. But I had a chance to speak with a friend with an autistic child, who has discovered a lesser known method of care that may be able to help. Please read and help me share with anyone you think will benefit from this.

Coming to terms with my firstborn and only child having autism has been the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. When we first became aware he was different, he was about a year old. He didn’t respond to his name, and seemed oblivious to the people around him. Friends and colleagues tried to allay our fears by saying he was too young for a proper diagnosis, but by the time he was 2, we had no doubt. Being a Paediatric doctor did not spare me from the many days and nights of crying, questioning and pleading. I had no answers, either for myself or for my family members who were all looking to me.

Life with a child with autism challenged so many things we took for granted, like going to a shopping centre or a food court. Figuring out his everyday needs consumed us, because he couldn’t tell us what he needed. We lived in a state of crisis aversion, doing whatever was necessary to avoid tantrums and meltdowns which lasted long beyond the terrible twos.
We tried the conventional, evidence-based methods available in Singapore. He went for occupational therapy and speech therapy. We started a home-based therapy programme using Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). We enrolled him in a special school. After 2 years, he went from being a non-verbal, disconnected but happy child, to a non-verbal, rigid, controlling, stressed out and anxious child who obviously wasn’t happy anymore. We couldn’t blame him. If your whole day involved people telling you to stop doing what you want to and do only what they wanted you to do, it would be completely understandable if you didn’t want to have anything to do with them.

Our son finally told us through an almighty sobbing episode that lasted 16 hours, that he’d had enough. So we stopped all his therapy and started looking for a better way of reaching him. After many more wrong turns, we found a little-known method called the Son-Rise Program®, which approaches autism from an entirely different perspective. Instead of the conventional understanding that autism is a neurobehavioural problem that causes our children to behave inappropriately, the Son-Rise Program actually believes that autism is primarily a weakness in social and relational “muscles”, and the behaviours that the world deems socially unacceptable are actually self-soothing or self-care mechanisms. One method that this program advocates is joining in with these exclusive, repetitive behaviours, in an attitude of love and acceptance. Basically, instead of telling them to stop what they’re doing, joining sends the message that we are interested in doing what they do just because they like to do it, and because we love them. Although it sounded crazy, we decided to try. We felt we had nothing to lose at this point. So off we went to the Autism Treatment Center of America in Massachusetts to learn how to help our child using this program.

From that first day when we started entering his world through joining his behaviours, we’ve seen breakthrough after breakthrough. Instead of what everyone feared, which was that we would end up reinforcing the very behaviours we were seeking to stop, he actually started to look at us more, and smile at us as if saying, “You finally get it! Isn’t this amazing?”. Soon he didn’t need those repetitive behaviours anymore, because he discovered how much more fun playing with someone could be. In the last 1½ years of running a Son-Rise Program for our son, he has started speaking in sentences, asking questions, and recently even commenting on the world around him. His imagination has blossomed so incredibly; he creates poems and songs and loves dancing. He expresses his concern for us with hugs and kisses.

We are finally hopeful and positive about his future, and believe that he can and will become someone truly amazing.

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Brands Commence Schooling, Including Brands

While Joseph Isaac Schooling experiences a Great Way To Fly home on Singapore Airlines First Class, let’s take a look at what who else has come on board the brand wagon.


McDonalds Schooling
Maccers may start pushing Big Breakfasts as the breakfast of champions. Great timing considering their much awaited move to healthier choices.


Brands Schooling
Sorry, top PSLE scorers. This Brand is jumping ship and swimming to champion athletes.


Taking out a full page ad in gratitude that they were convinced that sometimes, 'commercial decisions' aren't as good as sentimental ones of national importance.
Taking out a full page ad grateful that they were convinced that sometimes, ‘commercial decisions’ aren’t as good as sentimental ones of national importance.


Wah, people are buying newspapers!
Wah, people are buying newspapers!

Any more coming on? Media buy bulk discount!

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My Father And The Melbourne Olympics

One of the many little things in my father's remarkable life
One of the many little things in my father’s remarkable life

I’ve told this story many times before, but as the Olympic Games get under way in Rio, I remember again my father’s stint sixty years ago at the Melbourne Olympics:

In another age altogether, my father scored a temp job at the Melbourne Olympics as a general clerk/intern assisting the accounts department. The Games then were a small affair, unlike the massive logistical behemoth it is now. It would’ve been remarkable enough to be able to tell your kids and grandkids that you once worked at the XVIth Olympiad, but Pa being Pa, had to inadvertently go one further.

There was this boxer from the Japanese team. There was no translator. So they picked the nearest Japanese-looking person to help. No matter that Pa’s knowledge of Japanese was confined to mostly pidgin from the Occupation a little over a decade earlier.

The boxer mentioned something about ‘cutting’ something, and kept gesticulating with his hands, pointing at his waist. He sounded desperate too. Pa put the bits of Japanese words he understood and two and two together and informed Games officials that the boxer had an abdominal problem that needed to be fixed.

They sent the boxer, this time screaming and yelling, to the hospital for immediate medical attention, fearing appendicitis.

A few hours later, the angry Japanese boxer came back to the arena, with real translators, and it seems, all he wanted to tell officials was that he needed to get a skipping rope to cut his excess weight down to that stipulated by his weight division in his event. Pa was sent to the back rooms to be buried under accounting sheets.

(Originally told on this blog in June 2004)

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#KaiFly at iFly Singapore

#KaiFly Full Face
Kyra Poh of Team Firefly very kindly lent #KaiFly her old full face helmet today.

Our son Kai has taken to indoor skydiving like – I don’t want to say ‘a fish to water’ so we’ll just say he likes it very much, and that he’s learning pretty quickly. He’s been wanting to fly since he was four, and has waited three years for his first flight because the minimum age for flying in the wind tunnel is seven.

On his seventh birthday in April, we asked him where he’d like to go, since it was his day and he said without hesitation, “Sentosa, iFly”.

Before his first flight, he had a good few months looking up to our homegrown, world-beating Team Firefly, which comprises two 14-year olds, Kyra Poh and Choo Yixuan. Several times, he declared, “I want to be in Team Firefly”, and so you can imagine he was absolutely thrilled when we surprised him on his birthday with flights at iFly Singapore, and a meeting with his idol Kyra.

Today, with the windspeed up high enough for Kyra to fly with him, and with him being stable (and skilful) enough to fly at that higher windspeed – the two got to trade moves and play tag in the tunnel. The payoff for us? Just check out that beaming face behind the helmet’s visor.

Stay tuned as we track Kai’s progress in the sport he’s fallen in love with. We call it #KaiFly – so you can try searching this tag across other social media platforms.

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