A 12-year-old autistic child eagerly awaited the start of what was to be his second flute lesson. Little did he or his parents know, or expect, that instead of a flute lesson, a rude shock awaited all of them. The music instructor from Yamaha Singapore turned the autistic boy away and refused to teach him.
His reason? The instructor had discussed with his wife and she felt that he should not teach the boy.
A brief account of what happened
Mr. Lim, the editorial director at media firm Typewriter Media, had enrolled his son Alex for flute lessons in the Yamaha Contempo Music School located in Plaza Singapura.
Learning the flute wasn’t a novel experience for Alex. A composer friend of Mr. Lim previously taught Alex but had to stop on account of his work-related travels.
Alex had enjoyed his first lesson very much and was back for his second lesson.
However, on Friday (Aug 11), when Mr. Lim dropped by the music school to hand his son the flute that he had forgotten, he was shocked to find him sitting outside the school.
He looked shattered, said the father.
Their helper then told Mr. Lim, “They said there’s no lesson for Alex today, sir. Grandma and Grandpa are talking to the staff”.
Mr. Lim went on to find out that the teacher no longer wanted to teach Alex because he is autistic. Yamaha Singapore turned away an autistic boy due to his condition! Clearly Mr. Lim was appalled.
Yamaha Singapore turned away autistic boy – his father was furious!
To add insult to the injury, the staff at Yamaha attempted to shift the blame to the grandmother for not answering the call they made to her at 7pm.
Alex’s lesson was set to begin at 8:15pm. The Yamaha staff only made the call to the boy’s caregiver at 7pm, just 75 minutes prior to the lesson. However, the instructor had made the decision to cease Alex’s music lessons the day after his very first lesson.
When Alex’s grandparents requested to speak to the instructor, the Yamaha counter staff said that he wasn’t used to talking to many people at one go, and would only speak to the grandmother in the privacy of his studio.
Eventually, he came out and was apologetic. His explanation that his wife felt that he should not teach Alex, expectedly made Mr. Lim go up in arms. He requested to speak to the management but to no avail.
During the exchange between Mr. Lim and the instructor, the instructor mentioned that his wife was a nurse. This further exacerbated the problem for Mr. Lim felt that a nurse should know better about autism.
While in the heat of things, a stranger, later revealed to be a student of the instructor, intervened and demanded that Mr. Lim leave the instructor’s wife out of the conversation. He stuck his finger in front of Alex’s grandmother, asked her if she was trying to create a hassle and threatened to call the police.
Mr. Lim, who was clearly furious at this point, called the man a coward and a dog. He later regretted calling him a dog for it was unfair to dogs. Eventually, the family realised the futility of the situation, and not wanting it to escalate to violence, decided to leave.
Mr Lim felt helpless and ‘horribly disappointed as Yamaha Singapore turned away an autistic boy, his son, for something that wasn’t his fault.
Yamaha has since apologised and sought Mr. Lim’s forgiveness.
Alex is a 12-year-old special needs child. He is autistic. This means that people might find him rather strange or aloof as it is difficult to communicate with and engage autistic children.
Autistic children have difficulty socialising and communicating.
On the other hand, Alex is extraordinarily bright. He is talented and can identify every flag of every sovereign country in the world and name and spell the capitals without the assistance of spellcheck!
He loves animals and has a great depth of knowledge. He even identified a Himalayan Tahr. Now, how many of us have even heard of that?
Where music is concerned, Alex is extremely sensitive to sound and noise due to his condition. As such, he has musical talents and was easily able to learn to play the flute. In fact, he learned at an accelerated rate.
A teacher’s message about autism and inclusiveness
For those of you who don’t know, autism is not a condition that hinders a child from living life normally. In fact, it’s extremely common to find autistic children in mainstream schools. Here’s what a local school teacher has to say:
Yes, autistic children have special needs but that doesn’t mean that we ostracise them. The purpose of schools and education, not just academic, but even in the case of music, sports and whatever not, is to be inclusive. And anyone who is a teacher should aim for that.
Autistic children can thrive. They depend greatly on consistency, routines and schedules. This is extremely crucial for them and you absolutely must not abruptly change their routine as it can lead to a major meltdown.
This is something that the music teacher should have taken into consideration. If he really did not wish to teach the child for whatever reason, he should have informed the parents well in advance.
In addition, it would have been right for him to call the parents in and explain the situation. What he did was akin to throwing the child out and it’s double the damage. The poor boy would have felt insulted, ostracised and lost, in addition to being deprived the chance to learn the instrument that he badly wanted to.
I feel so bad for him. My heart goes out to Alex and his family. It’s a terrible, terrible thing to happen.
I just wish to tell everyone that autistic children aren’t just special, they are beautiful. Given the right opportunities and dealt with in the right way, they are more than capable of achieving many great things.
Autistic children are brilliant and have many talents.
As a society, it is our responsibility to make these children feel loved, accepted and celebrated for who they are.
Dear Alex, you are perfect just the way you are. Don’t stop believing in yourself and don’t let anyone ever make you feel otherwise. Someday, you will become a great musician. I’ve never met you, but I believe in you.
Sources: The Straits Times, Mr. Lim’s Facebook
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore