top of page

What is Autism-Friendly Quality of Life: A Visit to St. Andrew's Adult Home (SAAH) (for Autistic Adults)

*A Mother’s Wish blog contains a treasure trove of insights. We have deliberately not created a paywall for our mission to share accurate insights about the inner lives of autistic individuals to everyone. But we would be most grateful for an SGD10 payment of love and support if you feel you have benefited and are in a position to help us continue our mission. A new digital photograph of Sebastien's artwork is available each time we upload a new post.

Autistic individuals, particularly those who engage in atypical communication, are great barometers of humanity. They possess a critical survival skill of being instinctive interpreters of the human heart, giving them a sense of whom they can trust and where they can feel safe. And it is through them — at least the ones whom I had the privilege to encounter the day I visited the St Andrew's Adult Home (SAAH) (and the Day Activity Centre, which is housed in the same building) — that I can attest that they are in the good hands or better yet the good heart of Bernard Chew, the CEO.

As Bernard took another visitor and me from floor to floor of the building — moving from the DAC to the residences, I marvelled at Bernard's familiarity with and understanding of each participant/resident. Whether they were relaxed, friendly, tired, anxious, or tense, Bernard knew how to approach them in myriad ways, in the form of an open smile, a warm handshake, a quiet gaze, or respectful requests to enter their space. Here is a CEO operating at the ground level and doing his best to represent the voice of his vulnerable clients — those who cannot articulate their inner lives in a language that most of us can understand.

Of course, despite the best intentions and efforts of Bernard and his staff, this does not mean that the SAAH is running at its optimum. The reality is that Bernard and his team operate under tremendous constraints with a staff-resident ratio of 1:4 (because of limitations in funding) when 1:1 or 1:2 would be more suitable due to the significant needs of the residents and the space in which they inhabit. This also means that the original resident intake of 36 residents per floor has been halved in order to protect the lives of both residents and staff. Even at this number and many residents were away on home visits, we could feel the stress and tension of autistic adults living in close quarters with one another, without a sufficient outside life and aspirations to occupy them. Autistic individuals, who are often overwhelmed with living in a world that is too loud, too busy, too noisy, and too language-based for their sensibilities, need open spaces to help them "speak" with their bodies. This is their "native" language for expressing their inner lives, which include their pent-up emotions stemming from living in a world not made for them. It is a world that reduces them to children in adult bodies and fails to connect with their inner life.

Days later, as I was strolling with Sebastien, my 27-year-old autistic son, on a spacious beach in Australia during our holiday, I couldn't help but think of the SAAH residents. I fantasised about them dispersed across the vast sandy beach and the sea, with ample space to walk, run, talk, move, and yell, as they needed.

At some point, Sebastien settled down on a clump of rocks. While I had been the one who climbed on them, Sebastien sat down, entering into a quiet and contemplative state. Meditative and alert, he stood up whenever the crashing waves got a little too high. It was quite a sight to behold — Sebastien communing with the ocean. This lasted for minutes. He didn’t move. And we didn’t rush him.

Sebastien settling down on at Jones Beach, Kiama, Australia

Sebastien communing with the sea at Jones Beach, Kiama, Australia

I am reminded of how "well" autistic individuals can be when they get to live in an ideal eco-system — a peaceful environment with the space and opportunity for them to breathe, to move, to be. Sadly, autistic individuals living in urban environments look strained and taut in urban environments, needing to jump, run, and even hit in order to release all the tension and anxiety accumulating within them.

Therefore, I hope that Bernard will get the support he needs as he works towards a multi-pronged living model for autistic individuals. In particular, he dreams of establishing a residential facility in a natural living environment away from the bustling heartlands. As for now, he is looking at the big picture — seeking to develop the aspirations of our autistic loved ones with initiatives to establish a bakery and a rooftop garden to train the graduates of the St Andrew's Autism School in order to lighten the burden of the SAAH and creating meaningful purposeful lives.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page