At 15, Heeren Kaur Gill knew psychology was her thing

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By Anandpreet Kaur | Singapore |

It’s not always that student get a definite drift as to what they want to do when they grow up. Many are in a bit of a dither about what they want to do. But not Heeren Kaur Gill. Pretty early on, she was quite certain as to what she wanted to do in life.

From a young age, she was intrigued by social interactions and the human mind.

“I had a keen interest in understanding how past experiences craft future actions, and how one could mould human behavior through different kinds of interventions. As such, since the age of 15, I was certain that I wanted to pursue my studies in psychology,” she told Asia Samachar in an interview.

Two years after graduating with a psychology degree, in 2018, she ventured out to set up special needs education company Therapy Masters. The Singapore-based company provides a holistic approach to behavior therapy and intervention to kids with special needs and other developmental delays.

The pasta-lover also e tells us more about her journey, including how she had to overcome second guessing herself in the process. Read excerpts from her interview.

T H E I N T E R V I E W

Tell us more about yourself?

I am the Founder and Director of Therapy Masters, a special needs education company that I founded in 2018, two years after I graduated college. I was born and brought up in Singapore, and completed my Bachelors in Psychology from University at Buffalo, New York. I have always had a passion for psychology and understanding the human mind. I love children and as such, I decided to direct my passion towards contributing to the wellness and development of children with special needs. This drove me to start up my company that strives to improve the quality of life of these children and their families..

Tell us more about your parents?

My parents have been married for 35 years. My mother was born in Malaysia and my Father in Singapore. My Mother is a beauty consultant and ran a salon for over 25 years and my Father has been a Financial Manager for 30 years and counting. They are also proud grandparents to six grandchildren and counting.

Tell us about your immediate family?

I have 2 older sisters who are married. One lives in Singapore and the other lives in Dubai. They both have 3 children each and so I am a proud aunt to 4 boys and 2 girls! We have also grown up with a helper who has lived with us for over 30 years and she is a second mother to us and has raised us like her own.

Why did you choose psychology?

From a young age, I was intrigued by social interactions and the human mind. I had a keen interest in understanding how past experiences craft future actions, and how one could mould human behavior through different kinds of interventions. As such, since the age of 15, I was certain that I wanted to pursue my studies in psychology.

What prompted you to establish Therapy Masters?

After completing my Degree in Psychology, I worked with a company for almost two years and although I really enjoyed my job, I wanted to have more autonomy and flexibility in the way I work. I wanted to do more with my time and explore other areas of interest while still having a stable career and income. The irony was that I started Therapy Masters to avoid working a 9 to 5 job but ended up working at all times of the day instead but I enjoyed every minute of it.

It has been more than three years since you established the company. How has the experience been?

It has been an enriching and fulfilling experience for me throughout. The industry has evolved immensely over the past few years, with a lot more awareness now about the need for therapy for children with special needs. This has also led to many new companies in the industry to serve the growing need of parents for therapists. I have been fortunate to be a part of this evolving space, and to be able to do my part in shaping the future of behavior therapy. With the advent of COVID-19, it has been a rollercoaster ride at times adapting to the changes and disruption of certain services. However, this has taught me to push against odds and strive despite the challenges.

What were the challenges that you’ve faced when founding Therapy Masters?

I think the biggest challenge was second guessing myself in the process. I was not sure if I would be successful at it given that I had no background in business. So I had to learn and read a lot along the way and seek guidance from the right people to help me achieve my goals.

Family time. Heeren Kaur Gill and family – Photo: Supplied

What are you passionate about?

Besides helping children and families, I love travelling and learning about different cultures. I believe learning about different cultures helps in self growth and understanding people better.

When did you first decide that you wanted to work with children with special needs and other developmental delays?

I started my first job not knowing what to expect. In fact, after a month, I felt like quitting because it was too overwhelming for me. However, I persevered and eventually loved going to work every day and meeting and interacting with the kids and their parents. Thereafter, I recognised that this was my true calling.

Are people generally aware of autism?

When I was younger, I was not very aware of it. I had learnt about it in school but I had not seen or understood it first-hand. I had never interacted with a child with autism prior to that. So I believe most people are aware of what autism is but do not truly know what autism looks like or fully understand what it entails. This is something that is fast changing now, and I hope to contribute to this increased awareness continually.

What is the one thing you would like everyone to know about autism?

That each child diagnosed with autism isn’t the same. Just because they have the same diagnosis does not mean they are going through the same experiences. Autism looks very different in each child that has it. Sometimes it is more obvious and sometimes you are not able to tell until you interact with the child.

What are some of the difficulties when working with children with special needs?

It requires you to think on your feet and come up with strategies/interventions quickly. Besides dealing with the children themselves, you also have to work with their parents and families and manage their emotions effectively as well.

How do you overcome the challenges mentioned above?

With constant patience and perseverance!

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Sometimes we see children at malls or parks that come off as ‘naughty’ or ‘lack discipline’ but often there could be more than what meets the eye. So let us all be understanding and be aware at such times and to help instead of judge.

When the borders open, which is the first country and place you shall pin and visit?

I would love to go on a long Euro trip!

If you’re out for dinner at your favourite joint, what would you order?

Pasta all the way!

Heeren Kaur Gill and husband – Photo: Supplied

At the end of a long day at work, what best helps you to unwind and relax?

A nice long bath, catching up on shows, and cooking a nice dinner with my husband.

Have you ever felt that you are disadvantaged professionally because you belong to a minority?

I have never personally faced such a disadvantage but sometimes have faced issues with language barriers with my clients and therefore I ensure that my team of therapists is diverse.

What is your message to everyone with regards to their career pursuit or other ambitions?

Follow your dreams while you have the opportunity to because you don’t know when you will get such an opportunity again. If you are passionate about something, do more with it because the impact you can make with something you are passionate about will be a lot more than a job you are not interested in. My motto is “if you never try, you’ll never know” so take that leap of faith and don’t fear failure.

ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond.Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: editor@asiasamachar.com | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here 

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