SP grad turns dyslexia into strength to win academic honours
Singapore Polytechnic graduate Benecia Tang had her future all planned out at 16 years old.
Now at 19, she is on track to pursuing her dream of setting up a social enterprise for children with learning difficulties.
Being dyslexic herself, the cause is close to her heart.
Despite her learning challenges, Benecia ranked second in her 2022 graduating cohort and was awarded the Low Guan Oon Gold Medal.
She credits her lecturers for being supportive and going the extra mile to give her advice throughout her Diploma in Business Administration course.
With the help of her entrepreneurship lecturers, the former Crescent Girls’ School student and her teammates started a student discount platform business called "ThisCounted" which offers daily discounts to students via a Telegram channel.
The channel attracted 3,500 subscribers in eleven months and earned Benecia and her team first place in the Rocket Pitch Challenge 2022.
From her course, Benecia has discovered an interest in analytics and storytelling using data.
She plans to pursue either Business Analytics at the National University of Singapore (NUS) or Information Systems at the Singapore Management University (SMU).
Benecia said her path has changed slightly from leaning heavily towards business to now going into business analytics and systems management, but her end goal is the same: To eventually start a social enterprise.
She wants to teach children how to live and learn with dyslexia and help them identify their condition earlier.
Benecia shared some of her struggles while completing her diploma: "One of my biggest challenges is remembering and transferring numerical information.
"For example, if someone told me a series of numbers to write down, despite them telling me '866', I might accidentally write down '686' instead, as numbers tend to 'blend' into each other in my mind."
This caused problems for her in modules where papers included questions that spread over multiple pages.
"In Business Accounting, I had trouble with balance sheets as the question would often be on one page, and we would have to draw up the table on the page behind," she said.
"To overcome this, I requested two sets of question papers during exams so that I could see all the information at a glance and use highlighters to minimise transfer errors.
"While it was tedious to maintain this level of mindfulness, it has taught me to be more careful with my work, (and that) has since become a strength of mine."
Benecia has sought various strategies – with help from her parents and teachers – to overcome her academic challenges.
"When I reveal to friends that I have dyslexia, a common reaction is, 'Huh, no way, but your English is so good?
"I may continue to struggle with numbers, but someone else (with dyslexia) may struggle with organising or sequencing ideas. It’s important to find out one's areas for growth and get targeted support in those areas."
She believes it "takes a village to raise a child".
"Oftentimes 'dyslexic' is used as a label, one that reduces the individual to something faulty, broken, and/or inferior," she said.
"This is not unique to dyslexia. There are other learning challenges such as ADHD that people look down on as well.
"But this need not be the case.
"If we can bring about greater awareness about these conditions, individuals like me can get the support needed to blossom, (and) we can make full use of the talents and perspectives they bring to the world.
"Hence, I urge parents and teachers to embrace individuals like me and provide the support and space for us to excel."
Her advice to other students struggling with learning difficulties is to "take that in your stride and turn it into a strength".
"Being able to see things differently gives you the unique advantage of coming up with creative ideas from angles that others may not have considered," she said.
"As Eckhart Tolle once said, 'Awareness is the greatest agent for change'.
"There will be times when you are facing many issues and there might be people who don't understand what you’re going through.
"They may say nasty things and try to get you down, but keep striving on and write your own story. Don't let what they say affect you, surround yourself with positive people who will lift you instead."