In support of Autism Awareness Month, I want to share with all of you – Ryan’s Autism Journey, and how your child can be the miracle too!
Ryan’s Autism Journey : Be The Miracle!
It’s been a full decade since my son, Ryan, was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), just 3 months shy of his second birthday.
Today, he’s like any other kid his age. He goes to a normal school, keeps up with his studies, and can interact with people pretty normally.
Take a look at how Ryan went from being completely non-verbal, with poor motor skills and no eye contact, to the boy he is today.
Look at how far he has come along in the last 10 years. Your child too can become your miracle!
Ryan’s Autism Journey : How He Became Our Miracle!
I’m sorry, but your child exhibits behaviours consistent with the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
That is something no parent ever wants to hear. That is something no parent deserves to hear. But it is what it is.
It would explain his inability to speak or stay still, his lack of eye contact, repetitive behaviours, screaming fits at night (night terrors), etc.
IMHO, acceptance was KEY to our success.
Over the years, many people confided in me how their friends or relatives refused to acknowledge the diagnosis, which prevents them from moving to the next stage – helping the child.
If it helps, ignore the label. The diagnosis really doesn’t matter.
All you need to know is that your child is missing key milestones, and he/she needs help. That is all that matters.
Every Day Counts
Everyone goes through the stages of grief when you get the diagnosis. But time is of essence. Every day counts.
So I decided right away to speed right through to acceptance, and get right down to work.
That meant reading up on the latest studies and treatments, and getting urgent referrals to the best doctors and therapists in the area.
It may be somewhat easier for me, because I already underwent a similar baptism of fire when my wife had two strokes just 1.5 years earlier.
So I would understand if you may have trouble moving past this stage. If I may offer a personal suggestion, try focusing on the fact that your child urgently needs your help.
It soon became clear that the key was THERAPY, and the earlier he started, the better; because young brains are especially “plastic”
Neuroplasticity – the ability of our brains to “rewire” itself – is how stroke patients regain function through therapy, and it’s the same reason why therapy works in children with ASD.
The key is to start therapy as early as possible, to take advantage of the developing brain of young children, which is highly plastic.
You don’t even have to wait for a diagnosis. As our developmental paediatrician, Dr. Rajini Sarvananthan, once told me – as long as a child has developmental issues, therapy should begin.
Recommended : Autism + Special Needs Q&A With Dr. Rajini Sarvananthan
Therapy, Therapy, Therapy
We put Ryan on occupational therapy with Madam Teo Lee Fun to work on his sensory and behavioural issues, as well as his fine and gross motor skills.
We also put Ryan on speech therapy with Dr. Cindy Lian, to help him learn to speak, and later, to improve his pronunciation.
Finally, we managed to get a slot in an Early Intervention Programme – Bridges EIP – for two hour sessions, twice a week.
This is an incredibly useful programme, where special need kids are taught cognitive skills at the table for about 30 minutes, followed by 15-20 minutes of gross motor activities.
Then they learn to eat by themselves, and interact with other children during snack time. After that, they usually have some kind of art and craft activity, and end with singing.
Many thanks to great teachers like Jeremy Yong, Rachel and Lois Fu!
Therapy Is Brain Exercise
Therapy is literally brain exercise. The harder you exercise, the better you get.
The weekly therapy sessions alone are NOT ENOUGH.
We not only made sure we do not skip therapy sessions, we made sure we attended every session ourselves.
Why? So that we can learn to perform the same therapies, and repeat them at home. The key is to repeat, repeat, repeat at home.
Even if you are rich enough to afford daily sessions, that still amounts to just a few hours a week. It cannot beat parents teaching their kids at home too.
Don’t Give Up
Looking back at my records now, it looks like Ryan did not improve much for quite some time – at least 1.5 years.
But I never considered stopping his therapies, even as I watched other parents give up to try alternative treatments.
As expensive in money and time as they are – I attended most of them, and we repeated the therapies at home – I understood that therapies are literally the only proven treatment for ASD.
Then suddenly, Ryan started to show improvements, and by golly, when that happened, it just kept snowballing.
In just 1.5 years, he went from speaking a few words with awkward motor skills, to normal speech and mastering the waveboard in just two weeks!
He improved so much, we ended up sending him to a Chinese school – to keep pushing the envelope.
He is now in a public school, where he even won an award for being the most improved student in his class!
Don’t Chase After Miracles!
To parents with children on the spectrum, please don’t fall for what’s easy and what’s miraculous.
Biomedical treatments that promise quick solutions, or supplements that promise a fast cure – they are all enticing, I’m sure.
But don’t listen to what they have to sell. Find out what WORKS, and seek advice from those who actually SUCCEEDED.
Don’t chase after miracles. BE THE MIRACLE!
No Special Treatment
This is not part of therapy, it’s just common sense.
Don’t pamper or coddle your child, or treat him/her differently from the other siblings.
We made the conscious choice of making sure Ryan is treated no differently from his siblings.
Not only is he FULLY VACCINATED, he has NO SPECIAL DIET / SUPPLEMENTS, and certainly NO PASSES for bad behaviour.
We are not going to be here forever. If we want him to be fully independent as an adult, he has to learn to eat, drink and behave like everyone else.
Ryan’s Autism Journey : Why It’s Important To Speak Up
While we are still working with him on his social skills, it truly is amazing how far we have come in the last ten years.
I spent hours creating the video and writing this article, because it is important for those who have succeeded to lend a hand, and help those who are struggling to understand ASD, much less cope with the enormity of the task at hand.
I hope Ryan’s journey will inspire all of you to persevere and trust in the evidence, trust in the science.
He did it, and so can your child.
All we ask is that when you succeed, you too will lend a helping hand to other parents, and a voice for other children on the spectrum.
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