It is quite a feat for a fully abled student to score 9As in the SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) examinations, and even more impressive for a teenager with special needs to do so.

M Kisshen Raj from SMK Bandar Baru Sentul, who is in the autism spectrum, has done just that - with a lot of focus, hard work, determination, and hardly any sleep.

Kisshen and his mother Thava Malar were both interviewed in the Vizhuthugal programme, over his achievement, today.

According to Thava Malar, she cried her heart out when she first learned about her third child's condition. Kisshen has two elder siblings - a brother, and a sister.

"I had to take him to the hospital every month for follow-up check ups. I decided to resign from my job, in order to fully spend time with Kisshen," she said.

Despite having issues with his speech until he turned 5, Kisshen picked up other skills, such as drawing and solving puzzles, when he was just 3, she added.

She soon realized that education was the only way that can make her child advance in life, and seeing him engrossed in books, bought him reading materials he asked for.

TV helped him learn

"TV also helped him a lot. Some people say that TV is bad for children, but in Kisshen's case, he started to pick up speech through cartoons on TV.

"He also watched a lot of wildlife-related programmes on the National Geographic channel, and study tips from UPSR programmes from the TV," she added.

Her tips in dealing with a special needs child - don't keep them confined at home, and expose them to the outside world.

"Find out what your child is interested in, and channel their focus towards it.

"Many people have questioned me about his 'different' behaviour, many times, and many have refused to understand even after I explain to them about his condition. I used to end up in tears after such encounters, but I have learned to ignore them now."

Thava Malar pointed out that she was especially proud of her son's achievement, since special needs students are not given any "special" treatment during exams.

"The question papers in SPM are all the same. It's just that students with special needs are given a little bit of extra time to complete their papers."

Treated normally

Kisshen said he was not treated any different by the teachers at his school.

He also listed down his hectic schedule daily, that contributed to his excellent exam results.

"I go to school in the morning, and then continue with extra classes. After that, I go to tuition, and go home. I complete my homework, have dinner, and revise what I studied for the day until 3 or 4am in the morning. Then I wake up at 6am and go to school," he said.

Asked if the lack of sleep impacted him some how, Kisshen said : "At first, I used to feel dizzy afterwards, but I eventually got used to it."

There has also been a change in his attitude, in the last two years - thanks to the role played by the school counsellors.

"I used to get angry a lot, and get aggressive, and sometimes got fits as a result.

"Thanks to the counselling given by teachers, I am now more level headed and realize that one can still solve problems without getting angry about it," he said.

His mother nodded in agreement, adding that Kisshen had indeed become "calmer" after he turned 16.

Commenting on his achievement, Kisshen said: "I am not active in sports, or co-curriculum, and I know education is the only way I can excel in and help my family advance in life."

His parting message to parents who may be struggling with children with special needs is: "Be a role model to your kids. Identify what they are good at, and lead them towards that."

Catch the interview with Kisshen Raj and Thava Malar on Vizhuthugal, on Vaanavil (Ch201), on Friday at 7pm.