She had problems learning in primary school, but found it hard to ask teachers for help.
Until she was in Primary Four, she rarely spoke a word at school.
Millenia Silvianti, 16, has selective mutism, an anxiety disorder whereby children are unable to communicate effectively in certain settings.
Psychologist Daniel Koh said it is hard to diagnose and is usually noticed when the child is of childcare age.
Mr Koh said: “The disorder is quite rare. In my 16 years, I’ve only dealt with two or three such cases.”
He said counselling may help.
Millenia was diagnosed in kindergarten and went for counselling in primary school.
It helped, but progress was slow.
She still had trouble communicating and interacting with teachers and other pupils.
As a result, she failed her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in 2012 and joined NorthLight School.
It took Millenia a month but eventually, she began to talk to teachers and students regularly. She was able to express herself clearly.
She told The New Paper: “The teachers here are very kind and patient with me.”
Her English and form teacher of the first two years, Ms Pauline Soh, told TNP: “I tried to encourage Millenia to communicate in other ways, such as writing notes or on the whiteboard.
“She would also text me and tell me about her day.”
MENTORS: Ms Pauline Soh, Mr Hamdan Hamid, Mr Eemanueil Tan and Ms Della Chu.
She began to flourish at NorthLight.
She even joined the Girl Guides in her first year to interact with people.
By her third year, she became a patrol leader and mentor.
Millenia also completed a 10-week attachment at a FairPrice supermarket earlier this year, where she dealt with customers on a daily basis.
She said: “It was difficult at first, but I had a lot of practice at NorthLight.
“I found the manual work such as moving boxes and standing all day harder than talking to people.”