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Multi-talented Mentally Retarded Angel – Chen, Shu-Wen
[Making Breakthroughs to Live Gloriously]

Thanks to everyone’s companionship, care and guidance to help me transform from a cocoon into a butterfly and fly freely. Believe in yourself and your ideals, and overcome yourself in whatever difficulties you encounter.
—Chen, Shu-Wen
 
Chen, Shu-Wen, the first outstanding alumnus of the Department of Product Design in Tung Fang Design University is an ambitious, thoughtful and ideal girl with Down’s syndrome. She has been receiving patience, and meticulous support and guidance from her family members, relatives, friends and teachers at every stage. Under the insistence of her parents Chen, Fu-Shan and Su, Ying-Ying, Shu-Wen was arranged to integrate in regular schools to study starting from Zhongyi Kindergarten, Exquisite Kindergarten, Kuo-Kuang Elementary School, Tong-Feng Junior High School, and Mingde High School to Tung Fang Design University. The purpose was to allow her to have more opportunities to interact, learn and grow with other students. She is very grateful to everybody’s assistance and inclusion.

In the course of her studies, Shu-Wen had been subjected to humiliation, embarrassment and stimulation, but in every learning performance, such as paper clay craftsmanship, she has won honors from all walks of life at home and abroad, and contending for collection. She has also won five street performer licenses in ocarina performances, and the “Metamorphosis of a Butterfly – Tung Fang Design University Dreams Exhibition” has allowed Tung Fang Design University to gain tremendous popularity in Asia.

The most commendable is that: Chen, Shu-Wen has made breakthroughs in paper crafts, using paintings to live gloriously and ocarina to blow out hopes. She is often seen to follow the Orchestra of Disabled Musicians to send love to hospitals, prisons and nursing homes. Not only has she testified that “everybody is born useful,” but also driven the wave of love for life. So she deserves to be praised as a “Multi-talented Mentally Retarded Angel” and stood out among 2616 candidates of Loved Life Medal in the world and won the “21st Fervent Global Love of Lives Award” in 2018 from Chou, Ta-Kuan Foundation in Taiwan. The Foundation always welcomes recommendations for life warriors from all walks of life in the world who are hardworking, benevolent, courageous, and have made great accomplishments, etc. (Fervent Global Love of Lives Award recommendation hotline of Chou, Ta-Kuan Cultural and Educational Foundation of Taiwan: 02-29178770, Fax: 02-29178768, Address: 3F, No. 52, Mingde Road, Xindian District, New Taipei City, Website: http://www.ta.org.tw, e-mail: ta88ms17@gmail.com).
 
Encouraged by family to study in regular classes

Shu-Wen was born into a scholarly family where her grandpa, grandma, father and mother were all teachers. Although Shu-Wen suffers from Down’s syndrome, but her family members did not treat her specially but encouraged her to socialize with her peers and wanted her to learn to be a happy and ordinary student.

Her mother Su, Ying-Ying explained that her child with Down’s syndrome has an additional pair of genes on the 21st chromosome, thus affecting her intelligence and various developments, including the symptoms of amblyopia, anarthria, hearing impairment, incompetence of heart valves, premature aging, etc. When she was placed in a regular class to study, she often cried due to insufficient capabilities and self-confidence, frustrated, easier to withdraw, poor expression ability, and poor interpersonal interaction.

Never gave up and made breakthroughs in ocarina, paper crafts and painting
Fortunately, Shu-Wen has a family that is extremely caring and tolerant, and always accompanying her to overcome the realistic environment and learn to grow. To promote her small muscle development, she was encouraged to play with paper clay during her 3rd grade in elementary school. Unexpectedly, it has opened up another window for her and she has even become a street performer in ocarina and paper clay crafts in Tainan, Yunlin, Taichung and Kinmen.

Generally speaking, children with Down’s syndrome are less assertive and have less planning for the future. However, Shu-Wen has plentiful own ideas. She studied cosmetology during high school and her family suggested her to study arts and crafts in university. However, well aware of a lack in oral expression skills, she thought of becoming a fashion designer and painter in the future. Hence, she chose to study in the Department of Product Design instead.

"She has an angel and a demon in her heart. When they fight in her heart, she would find a corner to talk with them. So you can often hear her answering herself in the toilet, or nagging while walking; but she would resume normally when the time has passed.” Aunt Wang Han-Yu who accompanied her in studying during her university life noted that Shu-Wen is very smart girl and does not admit defeat. Although she was asked to adapt to the requirements set up by Auntie, but she would also be let free to develop her self-creation.

He mother talks in earnest that her daughter is unlucky to suffer from Down’s syndrome, but also fortunate enough to receive assistant and care from so many teachers, relatives and friends.

She shares her experience that parents who have a disabled child at home must first accept the defects of the child in the first place, and find out the most appropriate mode of parenting through observation and literature. Meanwhile, the child can only be helped through the support of parent groups and social resources. Never give up or afraid of being ridiculed.

※The following are the purest self-descriptions of mentally retarded angel Chen, Shu-Wen※

The birth of a meteorite superstar, the start of a life challenger
In one early morning before dawn, a pregnant woman hurriedly awakened her husband to rush her to the hospital. The pregnant woman was immediately sent to the labor room and her husband rushed home to drop their son to the nanny’s home. In the twinkling of an eye, a special baby was born into this beautiful world. That man mentioned above is my dear father, and the pregnant woman is my dearest mother. That son is my loving and envious brother, and that baby girl is of course me – Chen, Shu-Wen!
 
Two hours after I was born and when mother was in the ward resting, the doctor told her that I was suspected to suffer from Down’s syndrome and was seriously infected to cause premature and other symptoms. I might soon die. Even if I survived, I’ll be a child with intellectual insufficiency. My mother was asked whether or not to give up rescuing me, but fortunately, my parents insisted not to give up. After trying hard to rescue me by the doctor and careful care by the nurses, I was placed in an incubator for more than two months before being discharged from the hospital and went home.

I’m grateful for auntie and the hard-working medical staff who were working in the hospital then. Although I was discharged from hospital, but I was gradually checked to suffer with atrial septal defect (ASD) which critically needed to follow up with an operation and tracking, hearing impairment which critically needed to follow up with a hearing aid and tracking, amblyopia which critically needed continuous tracking, sleep-disordered which critically needed to follow up with a respiratory ventilator and tracking, and other health issues that require long-term care. In other words, the challenges are long-term and limitless.

The honest doctor’s alarm is an incentive for potential development
Beginning from one month old, my parents started to seek therapy methods everywhere, from the Department of Special Education at National Changhua University of Education and all the way to St. Raphael Opportunity Center in Taichung. So since I was six months old, I went back and forth Taichung and Tainan to St. Raphael Opportunity Center every week to perform physical therapy. I cried bitter tears during the treatment period.
 
But upon finishing my treatment, I would smile happily again. I seemed to know that there’re many challenges in my life that I must be brave and smile instead of crying. I’d been doing early childhood treatments until the 3rd grade of elementary school, including physical therapy, functional therapy, speech therapy and music therapy. The solid and continuous rehabilitation has helped me lay a good foundation.

This has also helped my mother to walk out of the haze gradually and denied what the pediatrician said: “She’s a child with a lack of intelligence, incompetence, and inability to learn. The only option for you parents is to work hard and earn money to raise her. She’s incurable!” She has even become more determined to develop my potential as much as possible.

Developing problem-solving strategies as stimulated by humiliation and embarrassment
I was accompanied by my brother since I was one and a half years old. Mother would always communicate with the schools in advance and would let us study there if only they agreed to accept us. Because of this, we were rejected by many kindergartens.

I’m grateful for the Head of Zhong Yi Kindergarten for letting me climb the stairs from the first floor to the fourth floor every day to stimulate the development of my whole body. I’m also grateful for the Head of Exquisite Kindergarten, Camel Mama and the teachers for creating a safe and friendly campus for me to participate in the outdoor painting classes every week to enhance my small muscle coordination. This has also allowed me to fall in love with painting.
 
In Kuo-Kuang Elementary School, I still studied along with the ordinary children. Due to my appearance and stubbornness, I was often shouted by my classmates as idiots in the campus, causing my brother to fight with that classmate. Since then, I still feel sad and remorse for that dispute that occurred once in my life.

But mother told me that people who scold others are scolding themselves. From then on, I no longer care about the other people’s abuses, and also tell myself that I must not scold other people arbitrarily.

I always got lost in the campus while in elementary school. For the sake of my safety, the teachers designed a SOP after discussing with my mother. Later on, the system was used by other junior students and even been promoted to use in other schools. I’m very grateful for the intimate help from teachers.

Breaking the stereotypes with the learning results presentation
I enjoyed my school days during junior high school as I could attend the class every day with my parents. The school teachers were like my uncles and aunts who watched me grow up since childhood. The school was as sweet as a family, and I was so familiar with the campus.

However, during the mad age of youngsters, there were always classmates who bullied or mocked me in private. One time when I displayed beautiful paper cutting crafts and paintings for the class decoration, my classmates started to changed their attitude slightly towards me.
 
Later on when I was supposed to learn the element symbols by hard in Chemistry class, I made use of rhythm and homophonic to recite them and finally able to spell out all the symbols smoothly. Not only did I amaze my classmates, but also encouraged many of my classmates.

To improve my fine movements, I started to learn paper clay crafts with teacher Chen Bei-Bei since I was a 3rd grader in elementary school. I really liked to knead paper clay into various shapes and picture compositions in my mind, and especially loved to knead lotuses and paint them in beautiful colors. Despite being grown in the mud, the lotuses look so fresh and refined that I also look forward for being as elegant and outstanding as them. They have inspired me to work very hard.


Then, I discussed with Teacher Pei-San before graduation to organize a series of paper clay works solo exhibition in alma mater Tong-Feng Junior High School as a thanksgiving for teachers. I did not expect it to be covered by the media, and later on extended to be exhibited in Taichung Municipal Da-Dun Junior High School, Min-Hwei College of Health Care Management, Taichung Municipal An-Her Junior High School, Taipei Private Dongshan High School, etc. The exhibitions have encouraged more students with the help of my life story.

Later on in high school, my works had also been used to decorate part of the venue layout in school affairs appraisal. I’m grateful for the help and companionship of many teachers and classmates along the way, enabling me to challenge myself continuously, and make progress and mature gradually.
 
Taking arts course in junior high school has allowed me to enroll in the Department of Cosmetology in Ming-Der Senior High School, Taichung City. I was very impressed with the Cheerleading Competition while I was first year in high school. My teachers and classmates carefully designed a dance that I could integrate with, and also prepared a backup plan in case I was too scared to show up. I did not expect to perform very well that day and it excited my classmates and all the students in the school. Later on, I was able to participate in all activities in the campus until I graduated.

Do not limit yourself as life is infinite
I was treated as a normal student since then, which seemed like an overwhelming test as I was far less intelligent and skillful than my classmates in my academic studies. They were very good indeed for being able to acquire Level C Technician for Beauty quickly.

I felt tremendous stress and kept on practicing the skill in school, and even went back to do simulated tests online until I cried while practicing. Why couldn’t I be as smart as my classmates? I asked myself. However, I didn’t want to give up either. Later, although I didn’t succeed in the first attempt like my classmates, but under extra guidance from my teacher to allow me to practice repeatedly plus careful reminders from my mother, I finally passed the Level C Technician for Beauty exam. It made me realize that: Don’t limit yourself, overcome difficulties but don’t allow difficulties to overcome you. This has even provoked me to move on further by continuing to study in university.
 
I want to prove to the world that although people with intellectual disabilities have inherent limitations, but they can still realize their potential through patient guidance from their teachers and full support from their families. They can even demonstrate their potential abilities.

To move forward with my dreams of studying in university and become a fashion designer, cartoonist and street performer, I must make persistent efforts in order to realize my dreams. I hope to enrich my abilities to make preparations for the next stage.

Hence, I began to learn oil painting from teacher Chen Mei-Hui. Being quite obsessed with cleanliness, I couldn’t adapt myself to being full of dirty hands and body, and the pungent smell of oil colors. I was also mad with myself for unable to paint the results I wanted. Fortunately, I was constantly encouraged by my good teacher by giving me systematic guidance on the technique of painting before gradually leading me into the oil painting domain.

Although my painting skills were still immature, but the teacher would always appreciate the way I used the colors, and the storytelling pictures filled with imagination, letting me to gain confidence and continue to paint.
 
This also prompted my teacher to study art therapy later on to help me face with emotional and setback problems. I’m very grateful to teacher Hsieh Mei-Hui indeed. I was very fond of painting since I was young, and I also liked paper clay crafts very much. The teacher often advised my parents to let me participate in competitions and also recommended me to apply for the selection of presidential education award, but my parents felt that I was still incapable, and on the one hand, afraid that people might doubt that I was given with special courtesies by the teachers. So I naturally missed many opportunities then.

However, I also agreed with my parents’ view that the most important things for me at that moment were to learn seriously and have a heart filled with gratitude. Therefore, to please grandpa who admired beautiful women and get healthier, I drew a series of beautiful women but my hope failed. What made me even sadder was that grandma also passed away. I hope they were still alive and realized that love must be expressed in time. Now I must filial my aunt and my parents.

Cross-domain learning to develop diversified capabilities
Speaking of learning ocarina, it was another unforgettable challenge. I remember when I was a 2nd grader in high school, my mother asked me if I wanted to learn ocarina. I asked Mom why should I learn ocarina as I’m learning paper clay crafts, dancing and piano. My mother said that ocarina was easy to carry around and easy to learn, and there was a new class that would not coincide with my paper clay class. It was a rare opportunity even though I didn’t particularly willing to learn, but was a little bit curious. That was how I started my journey with ocarina.
 
Every Saturday is a rare day for me to sleep a little more, but I needed to get up early to learn ocarina and had no time for breakfast. It felt very painful and often dragged slowly to attend the class and annoyed my mother from time to time. Luckily, teacher Lin is a very nice and patient person. He often encouraged me and gave me the opportunities to perform, build up my self-confidence, and enhance my sense of accomplishment.

There’re a lot of songs that I like. Slowly, I began to like playing with ocarina. When I found out that the teacher was always standing in a class as my mother did while teaching, so I also chose to stand with the teacher and learned earnestly, regardless of singing the scores, beating, controlling the air flow, pressing the holes, and reciting the scores.

However, because of heart problems and lack of exercise, I could always blow softly and couldn’t blow the songs perfectly and felt very frustrating and guilty. When my mother was practicing with me, she would especially remind me where I should improve. I didn’t know why I couldn’t improve, thus causing mother to be very angry and myself crying.

There was also a lot of stress during that time as I also needed to prepare the Level C Technician for Beauty exam, as well as the university entrance examination. As my schedules were tight, the happiest things for me were playing with paper clay and piano, playing music and creating songs with my piano teacher, and playing and singing the songs casually.
 
I’m pleased with my wise teacher Lin who helped me face with learning and emotional issues through feedback and applause from stage performances of the Orchestra I joined, mutual encouragement among students with Down’s syndrome, and conducted private chats with me through the mobile phone. I’m also very grateful for the leather’s guidance, allowing me to extend my skills to areas other than painting.

Making all efforts to inherit truth, goodness and beautiful love
After spending a long time studying hard, my efforts have paid off for being accepted by the Department of Product Design of Tung Fang Design University in Kaohsiung to study with a group of very creative, artistic and caring teachers and students. I tried to follow the same curricula as my classmates. During the course, my works were highly appreciated by teachers, including a color-changing golden metalwork, a hand-dyed totem, a scarf that I crocheted patiently, a unique ceramic work, and a finely ground wooden box.

Of course, some professors couldn’t let me choose their curricula because of safety considerations. However, I still dared to try different courses. I remember one time that my classmates forgot to inform me of a temporary change in classroom, causing me to go to the original classroom. I found it empty though, but I didn’t excuse myself to skip the class but lined to ask my classmates to lead me to that classroom. Throughout the four years in university, I didn’t skip classes for no reasons, ranked among the top few in the classes in exams, and always received the scholarships.
 
Under encouragement from Principal Wu and Professor Zhen Yi-Rong, I graduated from the University smoothly last year (2016), and my graduation work – “The Magical Fantasy” was also been displayed in Pier 2 Art Center at Kaohsiung, and Young Designers’ Exhibition at Taipei World Trade Center. One of the modeling works was deeply appreciated by Principal Wu. He hardly believed how I was able to create a simple human figure that resembles in the ancient era.

During the exhibition, many people from home and abroad came to appreciate, admire and collect the art works. In the past four years, I would especially like to thank my grandma and aunt for their companionship and assistance to fulfill my dream to study in university. To thank all my family members, relatives, friends, teachers and classmates, and to remember my grandma and grandpa, I especially hosted a solo exhibition –Metamorphosis of a Butterfly – Tung Fang Design University Dreams Exhibition,” which received good responses from all walks of life and media coverage.

At present, my parents and I are often invited to share my life stories and works with teachers, students and parents of other schools. I’ve also obtained the street performer certificates in art creations and ocarina to perform in Tainan, Yunlin, Taichung, Hualien, and Kinmen.

 I’ve especially joined the Orchestra of Disabled Musicians which composed of people with Down’s syndrome to give ocarina charity performances in nursing schools, care centers and schools of all levels in the country. I also went back to my junior high school alma mater to serve as an art volunteer.
 
In the future, apart from learning harder to allow me to have the ability to earn a living through more sophisticated skills and creations, I hope to be able to share my life stories and works with more people in person, and even go back to campuses to teach paper clay crafts. I also look forward to offering more joy and hopes to the elderly through performing with the Orchestra of Disabled Musicians, and conveying my love to remote schools to allow the students there to feel the truth, goodness and the beauty of human nature.


I’ll uphold my motto: “Believe in myself, believe the ideals inside me, overcome whatever difficulties that come into my path,” and work harder to fulfill my dreams and pay back the benefactors who have loved me and helped me all the way.