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Niranjan Mukundan, a 24 year old para swimmer from India recently made his country proud at the Norwegian Swimming Championships 2019 (Ado Cup). Niranjan took home not one but 5 gold medals in the swimming competition. He won in the 50 metre butterfly, 200 metre IM (Individual medley), 200 metre breaststroke, 100 metre freestyle and 50 metre breaststroke categories. His victory at the championship earned him an important milestone in his career, exceeding the 50 medals mark. However, his victory goes beyond the accolades he has earned over the years. Niranjan was born with spina bifida, a congenital malformation that is caused due to the malformation of the spine and the spinal cord. As a result, this has an effect on his physical and intellectual development. In fact, Niranjan had to undergo 17 surgeries when he was growing up. For instance, when he was only six years old, he had to undergo a 16-hour long operation to straighten his legs which was caused by muscle compression. The surgery required 32 metal rods to be inserted in his legs. His family was devastated. Doctors advised him to take up horse riding or swimming to aid his recovery. Eventually, Niranjan decided to take up swimming to improve his lower body movements. As a  TedTalk  guest speaker, he shared how his love for the sport began – “First, they put me in a bathtub. There, I was flapping my hands and legs, but when they put me outside, my legs weren’t moving. So, water became a very magical element in my life.” He was only eight years old at that time. Little did he know swimming was going to change his life forever. Lucky for him, his swimming abilities caught the attention of his coach, John Christopher, who spotted Niranjan’s incredible talent and encouraged him to try para sports. Niranjan was reluctant initially but after much persuasion he gave in. He represented Karnataka at the Nationals. Sadly, he lost the race and almost gave up. His coach pushed him to train harder, telling him – ‘patience and perseverance is going to take you higher.’ Thus, he started training harder by increasing his hours day by day. Three months later, he competed again. This time he finished first and won his first ever medal for the State. That was the exact moment he decided to become a para-athlete. Niranjan has come a long way since then. Aside from his recent victory, he was also the world junior champion at the 11th IWAS (International Wheelchair Amputee Sports) Junior Games at Stadskanaal in the Netherlands in 2015. In addition, he earned a bronze at the Asian Para Games in 2014 and is also a Limca Book of World Records inductee. Niranjan’s story of accomplishment shows us that ‘your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start’. As long as one is willing to put in the effort, the sky’s the limit!   Posted by John Tan   Read more  
Tyler Butler- Figueroa may only be a fifth grader at Walnut Creek Elementary in Raleigh, yet his story is nothing short of amazing. At the age of four, Tyler’s mother learned that her baby boy had cancer. His illness first came to light when she suspected something was wrong at dinner one night – “One day, we were out to dinner, and we said something doesn’t look right with Tyler. He turned kind of pale. So a mother’s instinct said ‘let me get him to the emergency room’.” Sadly, her intuitions were right when the doctor diagnosed Tyler with cancer. This unfortunately led him to being bullied at school. He shared that once he started losing his hair due to the chemotherapy treatments he had to undergo, his classmates at school would laugh at him. They even made false rumours about him, saying how his cancer was ‘contagious’. Tyler and his brother,  Adam at home. Source: Instagram/tylerbutlerfigueroaviolinist Thankfully, Tyler pulled through and found refuge in playing the violin. His interest in the violin was sparked when he came across a flyer at school offering free violin lessons. Tyler immediately jumped at the opportunity – “when I play the violin, it helps me forget about all the bad stuff. I just didn’t want to be the kid with cancer. So now, I’m the kid who plays the violin.” Little did he know, this would be a turning point in his life. After years performing on the streets to raise money for the audition on America’s Got Talent, he came on stage and melted the hearts of the judges and the world at large with his rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s hit song ‘Stronger’. Simon Cowell was moved by his performance that he gave him a golden buzzer. His performance even gained the attention of pop star, Kelly Clarkson who gave him a shout-out on her Twitter account. Congratulations, Tyler! You definitely proved that ‘what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger’! Source: Instagram/tylerbutlerfigueroaviolinist We wish you success and can’t wait to watch you perform again. Watch Tyler’s soulful performance on America’s Got Talent below:   Posted by John Tan   Extracted from
Thila Laxshman may be best known for her singing prowess or even her days as a leading actress, producer, master of ceremonies and trainer in the Malaysian Indian entertainment industry. Yet, being actively involved in community service and being an advocate for children with autism is by far her most important role, she says. Thila’s own son, Danvi Laxshman Siva Kumar, now a 19 year old student at the IMC Centre, was diagnosed with autism at the tender age of three, which spurred her interest in advocating for autism, a testament to the strength and depth of a mother’s love for all. She is the President of PERSAMA-2gether4autism, a non-profit association dedicated to providing help to B40 families affected by autism spectrum disorders. “My calling is perhaps to deliver a message of hope for families struggling with autism,” she tells GoodNews. As World Autism Awareness Month starts today, April 2, 2019, Thila shares her personal journey with autism for our Good News readers. Here are some of the highlights from her interview. 1. Tell us about yourself. I come from a small town in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan. My working life began at the age of 19 with a subsidiary of TV3. Subsequently, I moved into sales with Grolier Malaysia and eventually branched out into public relations and events management. Needless to say, I went through a very challenging time to make it up until now. 2. What is  Autism Spectrum Disorder ? Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or autism for short, is a condition which affects brain development. It is characterised by social challenges, difficulties in communication and behavioural issues, according to experts. The effects can range from slight social challenges to severe cognitive impairment. 3.  At what age did you realise that your son was autistic? He was diagnosed under the Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 3 and a half years old. 4. Were there any early ‘warning’ signs of autism noticeable in your son? My son was actually showing signs of autism which at that point of time we knew nothing about. He was walking on his toes, gazing, flapping his hands and humming. We took him to see a doctor after he stopped communicating and bonding with us. This was followed by a consultation with a child specialist to confirm his diagnosis. That was the last time I met a doctor regarding his condition. 5. What was your immediate reaction to the diagnosis? My whole world came crashing down for a moment! I remember being only able to think about what I could do for him and what his future would be like. 6. How important is early intervention? I immediately resigned from my job without thinking twice to raise my son and got him started on ABA (applied behaviour analysis) therapy with the assistance of Ms Caroline Chong (a strong mother of two ASD children). Each intervention session lasts for 4 hours and is usually done twice every day. This was the base of growth and bonding between Danvi and me. Since we could not afford most of the one-to-one therapies for Danvi’s condition back then, I thought as a mother I should take the opportunity to help and train my own son. Bearing this in mind, I enrolled for Diploma/Advance Diploma courses at the Linguistic Council which provided courses on behaviour management, learning disorders, language development, counselling and psychology. I also never missed out on any workshops or training sessions to be aware of the latest research and developments related to ASD. 7. As a parent of an autistic child, how has your son’s condition impacted your relationship as a family? Raising a child with special needs is definitely a daunting experience for many parents. I have been through a lot of challenging times but the only thing that keeps me going is positive thoughts. Some families are torn apart or on the verge of separation due to poor management of emotions and stress. Both parents have to work together to care and integrate their child with special needs with the rest of the family. At the end of the day, every family goes through hardships and different levels of stress but never give up on each other. 8. Tell us about your purpose for establishing PERSAMA. Throughout this roller coaster journey in dealing with my autistic son, I came across many parents with autistic children from the underprivileged income group and wanted to do something to help them. I gathered a few of my friends and formed PERSAMA-2gether4autism, a non-governmental organisation, providing sponsored services for the B40 category. Through our autism-friendly events, workshops and educational activities, there has been immense support from the community and I am humbled to inform that we have successfully funded many families in need. It is also my hope that PERSAMA offers support to families whose children have recently been diagnosed with ASD. While Malaysia is “still a work in progress on treatment and awareness”, Thila said her “life is different because I now have a different way of seeing things” and she is grateful to everyone who assisted her family when in need. “Danvi has gone from very low on social skills to acing a ping pong game! As an extremely gifted boy, but yet socially delayed, my hope is that Danvi always continues to have the support that he has now. With April being Autism Awareness month, I feel that it’s my job to be a voice for Autism families”. “My biggest advice is this, do not be ashamed or dismiss your child’s special needs. Find your child the help that they need, and if you need help, never be afraid to ask. It can get overwhelming for you. These children are no less – they are gifted and intelligent and just happen to process things differently than the neurotypical”. “Celebrate your child for who they are!” Visit for more details,
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