As the nurse called out “Sara”, I got up and led my daughter into the room, a rather child-friendly room. We were recommended by Dr. Stone, a family friend, to have an appointment with Dr. May, a child specialist.
The review and observation took slightly more than half an hour. The doctor gently released her views that Sara’s action and behaviour resembled a child with autistic tendencies. That statement came as a bit of a shock to me as I would have thought my daughter, barely 3 ½ years old, has autistic tendencies. If the doctor had said she is hyperactive, I would have agreed. But, autistic tendencies…..it took a bit of time to accept and get on with it.
Without much hesitation, I contacted people whom I knew had worked with autistic children and was advised that the next best thing to do was to get a second opinion. We made several visits to medical specialist from speech therapist to psychiatrist and child specialist. We were told that Sara had speech delayed and some degree of autistic tendencies.
We had a family meeting with my two older children, who were 13 and 10 years old and our maid. We told them that Sara had a peculiar behaviour and social communication impairment. There is going to be a change in the priority in which we spend our time in the family. Right now, we are going to spend a bit more time with Sara as she required more of our attention.
We quickly made arrangement for tuition classes for my two older children thus freeing myself to look after Sara, which include morning and evening walks at the park. As for me I ceased all my weekly night meetings and NGO activities and devote weekends solely for my family. To some of my friends it may seemed drastic, but looking back it was well worth it.
We have more family outings and Sara would be toting along. We would explain and teach her whenever we face a new surrounding. We make it a point to bring her to as many places as possible thereby familiarising her with the normal daily activities e.g. shopping in the supermarket where we involved her as much as we can in the selection process.
When Sara was 4 years old we registered her with a special school once a week with the intention to modify her behaviour and to improve her attention span so that she can sit down for a reasonable time to be taught !!! At night I would also prepare similar activities for Sara to play and learn at the same time. This is to supplement the once a week session at the special school.
My previous association with voluntary work with children were very useful to me. I managed to gain access to people who work with special children. It was also through these contacts that they offered valuable advices and shared experiences on how to raise a child with special needs. I also make it a point to attend seminars, dialogue and talks relating to this issue. It was also at this meeting that I came across the term “Early Childhood Intervention”. Such meetings were beneficial as it offer an avenue for exchange of knowledge and learning experience of both therapists and parents. It also brought me an awareness that there are parents out there making tremendous sacrifices quietly for their children. I must admit that we are thankful for the prayers, helpful advices and assistance rendered by relatives, friends and colleagues both locally and overseas.
We surfed the net frequently to learn more about the subject and have tried numerous food supplements to further enhanced the improvement of her attention span. I would give credit to my wife for her tremendous effort to teach Sara academic skills. She would read and watch education videos with her whenever the opportunities arose.
Over the past one and half year we had noted considerable improvement in Sara’s verbal communication development, attention span and ability to withhold her frustration especially waiting in a noisy restaurant. Her tantrums had reduced considerably but we still experience occasional outburst of uncontrolled tantrums in the house (not in kindergarten).
We are very happy with Sara’s overall behavioural development so far but I admit there is still a lot of work to be done. It is a wonder that we were able to put in so much effort and work within the time frame. For that I am thankful for His grace, provision and providence for me and my family. Amen.
…….. Columbus (All names mentioned are fictitious and do not imply or resemble anyone)