Our first child, Chris (named changed for confidentiality), was born in December 2012. Chris’ first year was uneventful and everything seemed normal and joyous. After his birthday, however, we started observing some abnormalities in his behaviors which we thought were a little idiosyncratic, but not alarming by any means.
By Chris’s 16th month, we started noticing a pattern of behaviors that started to worry us a little. Chris would not respond to his name, stare into emptiness for a long time (10-20 minutes), hold round-shaped items and not let them go, roll wheels of toy cars at eye level and stare continuously, was unable to point at objects, lack of sustained and consistent eye contact, and inappropriate play with toys (throwing them around and not knowing how to play with shape sorters etc.). The list is not exhaustive, but it was clear to us that something was not right. Also, he did not have any vocabulary (not even a single word) around 17th month.
One of our hypotheses was that he may need some social interactions with peers to kick start his learning and language skills. With that intention, we enrolled him to a play school in our neighborhood. After a week, the school’s instructor also indicated similar concerns after observing Chris. This was the spark that we needed and immediately decided us to get Chris evaluated for Autism or related development-related disability. He was diagnosed, although with some ambiguity, at the Jurong East Child Center that he was on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This was the moment of truth for us. It was heart wrenching to know that our suspicions were in fact true. Although we were completely drained emotionally, we started to look for options to help Chris.
We did some research, made some reference calls and narrowed down our list to a couple of behavioral therapy (ABA and other techniques such as speech, occupational therapy etc.). After our initial meeting with Autism Partnership (AP), it was immediately clear to us that AP was a better fit for Chris and us. The program was described very well and its flexibility, adaptive, and play-based learning techniques seemed suitable for Chris’s needs.
The AP supervisor, a trained child psychologist, was very perceptive to gauge Chris’s weaknesses and strengths and designed a program that would help Chris get back on track with his behaviors and learning capability. To double up her efforts, She emphasized that she works closely with not only her team of therapists, but also with parents, who can also continue the therapy at home and help the child recover faster. In that vein, She visited our house on a couple of occasions to conduct parent training sessions, which required us to play with Chris while working on ABA techniques. After these sessions, she regularly requested us to send videos of our interactions with Chris over the weekends/nights so that she could track the progress at home as well.