This image, taken by Sapna Kewalramani, who made these beautiful cards with Sebastien's paintings and my inscriptions about autism, encapsulates the dedicated love of parents for our autistic loved ones and our wish that our children can find happiness in our world. This was pretty much what my book, Where Does My Autistic Son Belong, was about...
Thus, I would like to thank the eight parents who made it to the inaugural gathering of A Mother’s Wish (AMW) Community. Though small in number, we still created an atmosphere buzzing with our collective love for our children and concerns for their current situation and future. For those of us in our middle-aged years, the need to take the initiative to improve the quality of life for our children has become ever more urgent.
It is AMW's belief that, by tapping into our collective resources and strengths, as well as those of our children, there is nothing that we families cannot accomplish. We can be each other’s customers, champions, collaborators, and business partners, in small clusters and as a whole.
AMW wants to harness the love, strength, and resourcefulness of our families to help build funds, resources, and a community that will transform our fears and anxieties into hope and optimism for our children.
Below is an action-oriented summation of our discussion and possible programmes moving forward.
Please share with fellow parents, professionals and supporters of our cause. If you are interested to join us, please WhatsApp me @ +65 8163-4509 to join our WhatsApp group. This group will allow for ongoing discussions in between in-person activities for EITHER Parents only Or Parents and Autistic individuals.
Concerns about inconsistent quality of the treatment of our autistic children and youths at various institutions (special needs school, Day Activity Centre, mainstream school) due to the helping professionals. If your child is "lucky" to have a caring and experienced professional, then the experience would be good and vice versa.
Need for parents to advocate for their children, but their voices may not be heard, which can make parents feel alone and disempowered.
Stories of our journeys as parents — how our children challenge and push us to improve ourselves and be better guides for them. We have become much inspired by their progress to become fierce advocates and supporters of other parents.
Parental initiative (local and abroad): We had the opportunity to sample the lovely cookies of Crunchy Teeth brought to us by Mildred, one of its founding members. Crunchy Teeth is a social enterprise that offers autistic youths with the opportunity to earn an income while acquiring baking and related work skills.
In my case, my family has set up a new life for Sebastien, my autistic son, in Bali, with empathetic carers (after much trial and error), nature and a dynamic programme such as community life at school, carpentry, and farming to give him a sense of purpose in life. We see what we have established for Sebastien in Bali as a potential foundation for others who may be interested in exploring the overseas option in the region.
Sharing of helpful materials written by autism experts for inspiration and reflection.
WhatsApp group and one-on-one interactions: We would like to engage in an ongoing discourse with the group to provide constant support between in-person activities. Certainly, parents who hit it off should feel free to connect and work together on your own initiatives. We want as much support for each other as possible.
Suggested In-person Programmes and Activities (fee dependent on activity, starting from SGD10/per person and above). Please express your interest in 1 or 2 activities that we could possibly organise for this year.
Sharing of experiences by guest speakers at meetups: They can be experienced parents of older autistic individuals with insights that can be helpful for parents of younger autistic individuals. Professionals and therapists are also possible speakers.
Support group discussions with specific themes at meetups with a wellness component: To give more focus to our meetups, we can narrow our discussion to specific themes.
Further, we can also invite wellness service providers to help us to relax during these respite experiences!
AMW would also like to PAY Crunchy Teeth to organise baking workshops for parents and their autistic loved ones to interact, bake, and eat! Mildred, what do you think? It could be a regular thing!
Excursions: hydroponics farm at IMH, SIA (?) to see if it can organise an exposure activity to help families with anxious autistic kids experience what flying is like as a precursor to them flying
Process-oriented, rather than outcome-oriented experiences offered by empathetic service providers to cultivate parent-child interaction and relationships: Coordinated movement (using sock and rice), making bubbles, dance activities, yoga, rock art, tennis, etc.
Volunteer opportunities for our youths: National Library Board (Library at Chinatown and Harbourfront - sorting, shelving and providing information - quite sophisticated classification system) and SUN-DAC at Upper Thomson (thrift shop) have volunteer opportunities, which can help our kids to acquire some skills. The NLB option can lead to employment. Parents can pursue this individually or we can also do it together as a group to make it more social.
Yoga at the Park outings for the general public: I attended the one at Bishan Park with an autistic young man. I found the instructor and the attendees to be very welcoming. If anyone is interested, I can send you the info: you can get special deals with the organization when you sign up for combo packages. We can choose to go together and then have a picnic afterwards as an activity. So there are many variations.
Gracia (our wonderful supporter who has been a general host of previous AMW holiday programmes for autistic kids) and I will be checking out a Bali mountain retreat in November as a potential place for families to enjoy a positive experience in an autism-friendly space.
For any families interested to check out Bali or holiday there, I can connect you with our local network in Bali — our carers, shared activities with Sebastien (farming, surfing, carpentry, etc.), visit the school he attends, as well as check out some peaceful sights and sounds.
We are also exploring travelling to the Philippines to check out Zambawoods — a resort — set up by a mum for her autistic son who is working as a member of the staff. I still haven't been able to meet up with her yet...
Other travelling alternatives include taking a bus to neighbouring Malaysia and collaborating with locals there to offer an autism-friendly initiative.
I open the floor to our attendees, interested parents, and our supporters to share their perceptions on the insights that I have gathered from everyone from our first meeting! Thank you, everyone! You guys are amazing!