Encouraging his love for baking

Gerard Veerasingam Nicholas was in his element during the Our Lady of Fatima Family Day on April 15, selling delicious chocolate chip cookies, scones, and brownies that he and his friends baked. All items sold out quickly.

May 05, 2023

Gerard with the moon cakes he made and packed.

By Gwen Manickam
Gerard Veerasingam Nicholas was in his element during the Our Lady of Fatima Family Day on April 15, selling delicious chocolate chip cookies, scones, and brownies that he and his friends baked. All items sold out quickly.

A supportive family, dedicated teachers, and hours of vocational training at Learn to Grow, a special needs therapy centre in Kelana Jaya, enables Gerard, diagnosed with Down Syndrome two weeks after birth, to find his passion and cultivate the art of baking.

Parents, stockbroker Fintan Romuald Inbaraj Nicholas and accountant Yong Kwa Juin knew there was a possibility their second child could be born with an extra chromosome but they chose not to do the necessary test, as terminating the pregnancy was not an option.

At first, they were shaken to their core by the news, but accepting it as God’s will, they continue to seek paths that will best help Gerard along his journey. Besides the challenges of raising a child with special needs, Fintan said the negative comments and hurtful remarks by ill-informed people were traumatising, especially those directed at Juin.

When Gerard was eight months, they enrolled him at the Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation for occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech therapy. Fintan said the foundation was well organised and a great place for his son, but unfortunately, once a child reaches the age of seven, they have to move on.

The now 18-year-old Gerard went to Grace Kindergarten for about a year before joining the special needs classes at a primary, and later secondary, government school in Bangsar.

“In each class, there were 10 to 15 students with different types of special needs. There is only so much the teachers are equipped to do. We just wanted Gerard to interact with other children and learn Bahasa Malaysia.”

Gerard continues his sessions at Learn to Grow a few times a week to learn special skills. Over the years, he has been taught self-care skills and trained in several areas including painting, colouring, and jewellery making. It was only three or four years ago, when Gerard started baking and cooking to improve his fine motor skills, that his special education teacher, Jessie Lim, realised how much he loved it.

“We noticed he enjoys baking and light cooking like frying sausages and making fried rice. He can perform these tasks with supervision,” the Star reported Jessie saying.

“Gerard likes food and always looks forward to our baking and cooking lessons. He enjoys scooping and rolling cookie dough. Even though he is slow, he does everything nicely and patiently, one by one.”

Fintan says Gerard is more communicative at the centre. Besides baking and cooking there, he helps pack the items into boxes and cleans up. He takes his time doing the tasks assigned to him, but the final results are always good.

However, at home, he refuses to do anything. “His cookie dough balls are rolled in the same size. He will meticulously cut sausages to cook fried rice at the centre, but when we go out for a meal, he insists I cut his sausages for him,” said the bemused father.

At home, Gerard likes watching season-appropriate movies and videos on his iPad. For example, at the beginning of the year, he enjoys Lion Dance performances and Chinese New Year tunes, during Easter, he watches Masses from Rome and in August he listens to patriotic songs.

The family attends weekly Mass at the Brickfields churches of Our Lady of Fatima or Holy Rosary. Gerard loves going to church and makes it a point to dress well for Mass.

The affectionate teenager adores his older brother, Luke Bastianraj Nicholas, who is completing his law degree in the United Kingdom.

When Luke was little, he couldn’t understand why his brother didn’t play with him like other children.
“Often, we would hear Luke praying for a little sister to play with,” quipped Finton.

“My wife and I have high-pressure jobs, but when we come home and see Gerard’s warm and infectious smile, it makes the day’s burdens slip away.”

When Gerard is ready, Finton hopes to start a café for him and other children with special needs or work with his current learning centre so these children can have a sense of inde-pendence.

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