Uncovering the Strength of Youths: Beyond the “Me! Me! Me!” Facades | SPD - Singapore

Uncovering the Strength of Youths: Beyond the “Me! Me! Me!” Facades


There is a lot of spotlight on the young generation these days. As each generation takes over the ‘youth’ baton, people are often quick to make snap judgements on them based on existing preconceived notions. Ignorant. Lazy. Self-entitled. Aimless. Defiant to authority. As a youth, I am no stranger to all these words being thrown around to describe me. But I always wished someone would spend some time to know me for the things I can do, and what I stand for.

Living in a media-rich world, my generation is the most interconnected generation ever. As digital natives, we are the easiest generation to reach, yet the hardest to engage because we have become so accustomed to the digital. We seek authenticity.

Behind this facade of the seemingly cold and faceless digital natives, we seek authenticity in our relationships. Evidently, youths with disabilities thrive on relationships for identity formation (Erikson, 1968) through the changes they experience both physically and psychosocially. Successful coping and good role modelling would culminate in the formation of clear identities in them, to prepare for transition to adulthood. Whereas, failure to cope may bring about behavioural issues that hinder their development.

As part of the team of social workers and case management workers working with youths with disabilities, we connect with them and leverage their expertise and strengths to create changes.

As social workers working with youths, we often have youngsters coming forward to share their first-hand experiences plagued with issues relating to low self-esteem, feeling lost, being unable to cope with multiple stressors. Many face school or workplace challenges stemming from other’s lack of understanding of their disabilities - some overt (e.g. physical disabilities), some less conspicuous (e.g. hearing loss, Autism Spectrum Disorder). These challenges are barriers in the physical, social, psychological areas in the time of their lives where possibilities are thought to be limitless.

“Being a youth in this position/sickness, I find it very hard to participate in school or outings such as camping. To me, doing more for the community means teaching others not to give up on themselves and to teach them to embrace themselves,” said Mohamad Eyzra bin Mohamad Annuar, 18, a youth who has a history of Craniopharyngioma, a rare type of brain tumour. Eyzra has been receiving comprehensive care and support from his social worker at SPD.

To help youths like Eyzra connect more effectively, we employ innovative approaches to promote resilience, connectivity, and sense of autonomy.

At the individual/personal level, we connect personally with the youths and partner caregivers to strengthen individual families with the youth at the heart of it all. We believe that successful youth development promotes independence which means seeing them exercising a choice and control in the management of their lives and their environment (Rock, 1988).

To build social capital through participation, we work with corporate partners to expose our youths to leisure and recreational activities otherwise not accessible in schools. To understand and represent their interests better, our humble attempt through an internal survey revealed that photography, bowling, a movie night out, and singing (karaoke) rank highest— activities that many youths can identify with.

An outing with our youths at the bowling centre.

Through our Youth Development Programme (YDP), we have brought together youths of diverse backgrounds on a common goal to bring about positive changes in our society. Skilled to uncover needs and discover solutions, the youths took ownership of gaps in the disability field, banded together to make positive changes through creative means.

The Youth Development Programme helps youths with disabilities find their place and develop them for their future.

Youths are savvy, bold and poised to shake up the future as any generation before them - if we allow them the space to blossom. As such, it may be apt for us to urge all youths who are reading this to be challenged to explore their curiosities, passions, capacities, and limits and turn it into action. It is time you see yourselves as capable assets of change. There are no efforts too small. What is more pernicious is never to have started. SPD has your backs!

Article contributed by Chia Xin Yi, a youth worker in SPD’s Community and Social Service Department. Xin Yi works with youths with disabilities and their families through the provision of a comprehensive range of services that address the physical, emotional, psychological and financial needs of the youths.


Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton.

Levitt, A. (2015, March 29). Make Way for Generation Z. The New York Times. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/29/jobs/make-way-for-generation-z.html?_r=0

Rock, P. (1988). Independence: What it means to six disabled people living in the community, Disability & Society, 3(1), pp.27-35

Stokes, H., Turnbull, M., & Wyn, J. (2013). Young people with a disability: independence and opportunity: a literature review. [Parkville, Victoria] Youth Research Centre, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Youthsense. (2017, February 28). The 5 Most Critical Insights in Youth Engagement Today. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from http://youthsense.com.au/social-media-engagement/the-5-most-critical-insights-in-youth-engagement-today/