Thanks again Ginny for the very encouraging letter.
I am the "Sandra" Ginny was addressing to. Thanks MLR for the sharing :) There is a lot that my husband and I have to learn to journey on. My son was only diagnosed 2 mths ago, being very new to this, we are really overwhelmed and sometimes feel quite helpless.
But I'm very touched by the no of new friends that I've met, be it in cyberspace or the real world, they have been most generous with their help, care and concern. I know God will provide us with the strength and courage to bring out the best in our children!
"Sandra" (mr brown: that's a nice name that u have given me :))
A few days ago, a reader sent me an email to ask if my wife could send a word of encouragement to his friend, "Sandra", a mother whose son was diagnosed with autism. She had been struggling with her son's tantrums and behavioural issues, and even neighbours who complain about the racket her son makes late at night when he runs and jumps around the house due to sensory problems.
He wrote, "It breaks my heart to see my good friend going through this... She is... feeling really bad now that she could not help her own son... She thinks she is a horrible mother."
"Sandra" is very blessed to have a friend like him who cares so much.
With the wife's permission, I am reproducing her letter to "Sandra", whose name has been changed for obvious reasons. I wanted Ginny's words to be an encouragement to others too, and my wife kindly agreed to let me publish this here.
P.S. Ginny would also like me to publicly thank all you readers who gave her words of encouragement at her "I am Singaporean" podcast. She was very touched by those gestures.
How are you? I hope you are feeling calm at this moment. If you have read the source of this mail, you will know that your friend, [name deleted], has been so kind as to have ask me to share with you my own experience as a mother of an autistic child. I wanted to show you that despite all the grief you are feeling, you are very fortunate to have a good friend who is willing to feel the pain you are feeling and is desperate to help you. I am not as eloquent as my husband, mrbrown. But I will try my best to share with you the encouragement I have received myself.
I am also learning. Even now, I still grieve from time to time. When I read how you are feeling, my heart felt very heavy because I knew exactly how you are feeling. I remembered crying my heart out when the doctor confirmed that Faith has ASD. Although the period prior to seeing the doctor for evaluation, we had hoped that the doctor would say otherwise. You see, Faith was my firstborn and she was a world to me. (and is still! : )) I had so much hopes and dreams for her when I was pregnant with her. I had imagined myself as a modern mummy who will listen to her growing up woes. Little did I know that there is more to this than that. I was so overwhelmed. In fact I felt suffocated. I cried out of desperation, out of fear and most of all, out of sadness for Faith. I know the path will not be easy for her. I am weak too, I told God. I can't do this alone.
I slipped into anger and depression most of the time. I blamed everyone, myself especially. In the initial stage, I was often lost. I did not know how to deal with Faith at all. You said your son laughed uncontrollably even when you disciplined him. I had that experience too. I had even laid hands on her at one stage. But I regretted almost immediately because I know Faith did not know how to modulate. She was probably feeling all kinds of emotions but she has no outlet to vent and she does not know how to handle an emotion. The only way she could tell us is through all these sensory seeking behaviour. We need to and we have to be more tolerant. I learned not to try too hard. Often we try so hard to make our kid learn, we get so worked up when she just did not get it. I learned to let go. We will try, but don't get despair when it does not work out because it may not be time yet. We need to allow ourselves time to see the progress. I am sure your son will and as you have mentioned, get better and better.
Yes, you are right. Instead of moping in misery, we should use our remaining strength to help our kids. But do remember, we need to grieve too. We need to talk to friends and seek help when we cannot shoulder this burden. It will do you a lot of good and it will help us do a lot of good for our kids in return. I am fortunate to have a supportive husband. I am also fortunate to have the support of my own parents and my in-laws. They have helped us in many ways than we can imagine and till this day, I still wonder if I would have made it if not for all these support. I hope you will continue to share your burden, in a constructive way. I have moments when I just 'lose' it. I take some moment out when it gets this way and then my husband would step in. Likewise when my husband gets 'worned' out, I would step in. We must share this burden. It is not healthy to coup up feelings and unhappiness ourselves. We got to work like a unit. In a way, there is a tighter bond in our family as a result of Faith's condition. This is rather ironic.
I have this lady friend in church who has 2 autistic children out of 3. Her strength in dealing this amazes me. I remembered when I was pregnant with my 3rd and felt suddenly fearful that she might be autistic as well, you know what was her reply, "then you thank God for the double blessing!" Huh, what was that all about? It's then I realised we should see beauty in all things, perfect or imperfect. Faith is beautifully made and through her, I see the world outside myself. The children of this lady friend turn out to be well at the end of the day. I could not even tell that the kids were autistic. They were so 'normal' in their behavour!
The most important thing I have learned is: ACCEPTANCE. Most often, parents of autistic kids become depressed because of denial. By accepting, it does not mean that we give up hope. We accept because Autism is part or our kid and we need to accept it before we can understand how to help our kid. I always tell myself I need to accept the fact that Faith will be dependent on me for quite a while. I need to accept that Faith may never recover but it is only fulfilling if we help her live life to the fullest in her own capacity. I used to be so unhappy for Faith but I thought, maybe Faith is happy because she knows she still has us. She knows she is loved and that is enough for me: to let Faith be happy.
There will of course be more bumpy roads down our journey. But as long as we are clear on this, we should be able to brave through the storms. We will get better and stronger, just as our kids get stronger and better each day.
I am not very good in giving advice. I am only glad I have the opportunity to tell you how I feel and I hope we will be able to sail through this journey smoothly, together.