Never doubt a child’s potential, because they could be a diamond in the rough.
He has received recognition letters from Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth, held his own exhibition and even got his artwork featured as a backdrop for a popular TV show in China.
Delwin Cheah Wien Loong has defied all odds.
Delwin with Michelle Yeoh, who he often refers to as “my best buddy forever movie icon”.
When he was 5, Delwin was diagnosed with aspergers. That took a toll on his motor skills and he didn’t speak until he was 8 years old.
Lawrence Cheah, Delwin’s father, told World Of Buzz how his son would spend hours and hours a day drawing on paper.
To break into Delwin’s world, Cheah and his wife sent him to art class. However, things took a turn when Delwin wasn’t even given a fair chance.
“After thirty minutes, my wife and I received a call from the teacher asking us to take him home because they couldn’t handle him,” said Cheah.
Cheah mentioned how the teacher even called him the “worst artist” and that “he had no potential as an artist”.
“That upset us because how can you say that about a child? You haven’t even given him the fair chance.”
Delwin and his family wearing tshirts with his design on it (a collaboration with WWF)
Cheah and his wife decided to give art class another try after a while.
“The new teacher really opened my eyes to art. He showed me that art wasn’t just lines on a paper, it’s someone’s work, someone’s soul.”
Veteran artist Teng Yin Teik told the parents that Delwin’s art strokes were lively and his drawings “had soul”.
Delwin achieved plenty in 2013 – he held his first solo art exhibition in Living Essenze in Penang, sponsored by One East Museum founder Ch’ng Huck Theng.
He was also listed in the Malaysia Book of Records as the youngest artist to hold a solo visual art exhibition with more than 60 artworks in April. Delwin was also certified as the World’s Youngest Savant Artist to hold a solo exhibition by the US-based Record Setter.
In 2016, Delwin’s drawings were used as a backdrop for Chef Nic, a popular cooking and travel show in China, the show is hosted by celebrity Nicholas Tse.
Delwin has maintained a good relationship with movie star Michelle Yeoh after meeting her in Ipoh in 2015. She even has one of Delwin’s artwork in her collection.
“I believe that opportunity must’ve come from Michelle Yeoh who was invited as a guest on the show.”
“She would talk to him a lot. Both of them love animals,” he told us.
When Michelle travelled to Kenya, she would often send him pictures of the wild animals that she saw.
“Delwin drew a picture of Michelle visiting giraffes and when I sent the image to her – I guess they were brainstorming for the show – she must’ve remembered Delwin’s art and suggested it to the production crew.”
Cheah said that in the beginning, he didn’t expect so much to happen. Cheah and his wife didn’t think that art could have made such a difference.
“We were worried about why he cannot talk but then he can sing Bee Gees’ songs and the lyrics are 95% correct. So it was weird to us that he recognises the songs but he didn’t know how to call daddy or mummy.”
Over time, Cheah and his wife started seeing a difference. They took notice of how gifted their son is, even with his disorder.
“I think that there’s (Delwin’s story) definitely impact in society because people usually think that kids like that are useless. His journey is like from Obama to Queen Elizabeth, it’s definitely inspiring,” said Cheah.
As for future plans, Cheah believes that his son’s works are no longer limited to ones that are hung on the wall. “We’re planning and we will do something bigger than that because he is also a self-taught sculpture,” he mentioned.
Delwin’s story is truly an inspiring one. People with his disorder aren’t any different, they too have their gifts; we just need to know how to turn that talent on.