The Rainbow Centre student, who has autism, will be taking to the stage for the first time ever at the APG’s opening ceremony, performing to a live audience of approximately 8,000 people.
That’s impressive for a debut, and a phenomenal achievement for one who used to face difficulties controlling her emotions, and still communicates mostly through simple words.
Recounting how she got started on singing last year, Lidiya’s teacher Shivneet Kaur Virk shared that music was played as a pre assembly activity.
“Music has the ability to help people like us relax and it’s the same for her,” explained Shivneet, who also added that Lidiya has since been able to introduce herself using little tunes during therapy.
And, as luck would have it, Rainbow Centre was invited to recommend students to participate in the APG’s opening ceremony. Following two observation sessions that functioned as auditions, Lidiya was eventually selected to be a part of the performance ensemble, and will be singing in the first and final movements of the show.
“The therapist would play some jingles, some popular songs from Frozen. She started humming these while doing work in class and we realised that it was in tune! I highlighted this to the music therapist and suggested that they do a small singing session together” Shivneet shared.
Conveying that she was “happy and excited” to be performing at the ceremony, the vivacious youth also told us that she had been making new friends.
Indeed, besides finding expression through music, Lidiya has been picking up social skills from the rehearsals. Being the only student from Rainbow Centre, she has had to share a waiting room with another group of students from the Grace Orchard School.
“The other students have been helping to guide her around. I’ve also seen a little bit of interaction on her part – they say ‘hello’ to each other! It’s such a pleasure to see Lidiya mingling with other children,” remarked Shivneet, noting that it was actually through observation of her peers at school that got Lidiya started on using simple communicative gestures in the first place.
Of course, Lidiya’s APG journey has certainly not been without its hesitations and trials. Shivneet revealed that there had been concerns initially, as children with autism don’t normally take well to large-scale events.
“Her first rehearsal was at another school, and it didn’t go well because everything was too loud. We even contemplated pulling out. We didn’t want this to be a traumatic experience for her. It should be a part of her growth,” she pointed out.
“But then I brought her to the actual venue, where we have a room with air conditioning and her fellow performers were all very welcoming and friendly. Things changed. She’s been brilliant! It’s all about making the environment comfortable.”
Both teacher and student remain quietly anticipative, and are looking forward to the show. Professing to relish the costumes and make-up that she will get to put on, Lidiya appears ready to take on this extraordinary challenge.
“I’ve gone through with her the sequence of events that will happen on the day of the actual show. She roughly knows what to expect, and that there will be lots of people watching. In fact, during rehearsals, we’ve already had people sitting in the audience.”
“My only worry is that the fireworks will startle her. I’ve already informed her, but how she reacts then, only time will tell. But I think she’ll handle it well. She has become a very confident girl!”
Keep an eye out for Lidiya at the 8th ASEAN Para Games’ opening ceremony on 3 December this year!