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Beating the Odds: Visually Impaired Singer Adelyn Koh & Her Mama On ‘Seeing the True Me’

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What does ‘See the true me’ mean to you, mama? Successful young singer and voice actor Adelyn Koh and her mama share how they’ve found success in the local music industry despite her disabilities

If you’ve caught a movie in the theatres recently (any Captain Marvel fans here?), you may have spotted the music video for Fire in the Rain playing before the trailers! Created in collaboration with National Council of Social Service (NCSS), Fire in the Rain is an inclusive music video featuring over 100 performers with and without disabilities. It’s part of the NCSS’s See the True Me campaign, a public education campaign that encourages the public to see persons with disabilities for who they are, instead of the disabilities they have.

Starring visually impaired lead singer Adelyn Koh, rappers ShiGGa Shay and Danial Bawthan aka Wheelsmith (who lives with muscular dystrophy), and dancers from deaf hip-hop dance group Redeafination, Fire in the Rain is an inspiring song written by singer-songwriter Don Richmond and directed by award-winning local filmmaker Royston Tan.

Read more: Meet Four Differently Abled (and Majorly Inspiring) Singaporeans 

We got to chat with Adelyn, who is no stranger to the local TV and music scene. Starting at a young age, her musical talents got her featured on multiple President’s Star Charity Shows and she’s since produced her own albums in addition to working as a voice actor. We caught up with Adelyn and her mama, Madam Mary Lim, to talk about their experience as a family with different abilities, and how mamas and dads can teach their kiddos to celebrate differences and learn more about persons with disabilities.

Tell us more about yourself, Adelyn!

I am 18 years old this year, and currently studying at ITE College East.

When did you start singing? What is it that you like about music?

I started to learn to play the piano at the age of 3. I was in primary school when I started playing the keyboard and singing. My love for singing grew in secondary school when I diverted my attention from the unpleasant social experiences I had in school and looked forward to practice sessions with the school choir.

My favourite thing about music is that it expresses emotions. It brings out the deepest feelings of the person singing or playing the music, and it also helps people who are listening to it make sense of their own emotions. Music brings people together and helps people to feel and understand feelings better. It is a really good way to express yourself and a powerful way to spread meaningful messages.

How did you get into voiceover work? That’s so interesting!

I got into voiceover work when I started liking cartoons such as My Little Pony at the age of 15. There are people in the fandom who tried imitating voices and doing fan-dub and I wanted to try it out too. After experimenting with it, I realised I really like imitating character voices and expressing emotions for the animated characters. My passion for voice acting grew ever since. I would love to audition and be a part of professional television series someday.

Adelyn Koh with pianist Joshua Allen German (left), who has autism

What was it like to work on the Fire in the Rain music video?

It was a wonderful and new experience. I have never worked with a hundred people on a music video, or on any other project. There were a few minor challenges, such as coordination, but overall it was a very fun and meaningful experience.

What does “See the true me” mean to you?

To me, it is a very good campaign that promotes equality for people with disabilities. People are people no matter what conditions they have. I think the See The True Me campaign helps people to see that more clearly.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

I just finished recording in the studio and next month I will be filming a music video for a big event that I have been waiting to be a part of. That’s all I can tell you!

Adelyn Koh with Irene Jansen, vocal coach for children with special needs

It’s lovely to meet you, Madam Mary Lim. Tell us more about yourself! 

My name is Mary Lim, I am 46 years old and self-employed. I am a single mum to three children. Adelyn is my eldest daughter.

Adelyn is most famous for being on the President’s Star Charity shows and the albums she’s produced. How did you get her started on her various TV and arts projects?

It all started in 2010, when she was selected to be featured in a Family TV commercial by MCYS through an audition in her school. In the commercial, she aspired to feel the hopes and dreams of the athletes of the Youth Olympic Games. Subsequently, we were approached by people from various organisations/schools/public agencies/media for her to participate in their events.

What challenges have you faced raising a child with different abilities? What tips do you have for other parents in Singapore to empower their differently abled children?

Personally, I feel the biggest challenge for any parent is to accept his/her child’s disability and assisting the child in his/her learning journey. Singapore has very limited resources for visually impaired children below the age of six. As Adelyn was growing up, there were no early childhood programmes available for children with visual impairment. It was very challenging for me as a parent and I had no one to ask or learn from, especially because information wasn’t as readily available as it is now with the Internet. But I wanted Adelyn to experience life like any other child, so I exposed her to activities such as cycling, roller blading, swimming and horse riding.

My tip for other parents is to not to limit your child’s ability due to their disability. Let go of their hands and let them try. You will be surprised by their capabilities. Be proud of them and always encourage them. Nothing is impossible. Move on!

What tips do you have for how we can all practice empathy?

Be more observant. Put yourselves in other people’s shoes to think for them from your heart. Imagine they are your family/loved ones. You will be able to feel for them.

Read more: Author Eva Wong Nava on Autism and Teaching Kids About Empathy

In what ways can we teach younger children to celebrate differences and learn more about persons with disabilities?

Parents play a very important role. Parents need to expose their children to persons with disabilities and explain to their children that they are no different from persons without disabilities. Teach them to be more sensitive when interacting with persons with disabilities, and at the same time, take the initiative to lend a helping hand.

Thank you for speaking to us, Adelyn and Madam Mary Lim! Learn more about the See the True Me campaign here.

Images by Isabelle Lim

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