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Painting Series by Jean-Sebastien Choo, Self-taught Autistic Artist #21—Heart of Forgiveness

by Choo Kah Ying

The soft baby pink hue that permeates through the center of this painting by Sebastien, my autistic son, is what has inspired its title: “Heart of Forgiveness”. Just a few days ago, in my serialisation of my book about him, Where Does My Autistic Son Belong?, I had burst into tears. I had finally arrived at Chapter 16—where we packed up Sebastien’s entire existence in suitcases and bag packs and taken that leap of faith to move him to Bali. At the time, I had entertained the desperate hope that all our troubles with Sebastien—his aggression and self-injury—would magically evaporate with this move.

(Heart of Forgiveness, 8 x 16 in, water color and poster color, stretched canvas, SGD150 + shipping)

Well, the miracle transformation that I wished for Sebastien didn’t happen overnight. In fact, It took us almost two years before our heart-breaking move headed on the right track. Sebastien's transformation into an independent, mature, and joyful man with carers today, over the past years, was characterized by tremendous emotional suffering and my discovery of the parenting mistakes I had made as a mother of an autistic young man. One would think that the passage of five years would make the recollection of these hard times less difficult. But my emotional outburst tells me otherwise. Rather, guilt lying at the core of my being is something that I am constantly working through.

The truth is that, over the past five years, as my understanding of the inner life of an autistic individual has increased, I have only become more and more aware of how wrong I had gotten it as a well-meaning mother who had wanted Sebastien to have a fighting change to "fit in" according to the dictates of Singapore society. With my eyes, mind, and heart opened wide, I have been traveling on a journey of redemption by replacing conventional expectations of interactions with striving to understand how Sebastien connects with others in his atypical way. It has been a mind-blowing experience that has challenged me not only to communicate differently, but also to enter into a state of quietness and creativity, so that I can see Sebastien in a different light.

Embracing Sebastien's unique communication style

Many people often mistake Where Does My Autistic Son Belong? solely as a book that depicts the challenges of raising an autistic adolescent, with the negative spotlight cast on Sebastien. The reality is that the book is about how a well-meaning parent of an autistic young man can commit parenting mistakes that can lead to devastating outcomes due to his heightened sensibilities. By airing my parenting mistakes, I am seeking to advance A Mother’s Wish mission to advocate on behalf of non-verbal autistics: we parents need to learn creative and unique ways to connect with our children who relate to the world around them in a unique way. Although acknowledging that we could have gotten it wrong will come with some guilt, we need to forgive ourselves so that we can embark on a brand new beginning that will transform our relationships with our autistic children.


To support Sebastien in his artistic pursuits and his life in Bali, as well as A Mother's Wish's mission of advocating for non-verbal autistic individuals:

Digital versions of Sebastien’s art for Patreon sponsors and epubs with insights about his artistic life: (you can support his existence for as little as USD5/month!)

Thank you so much!


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