Accepting kindness


This story is taken from the book My Unique Child: A Practical Guide to Raising A Child with Autism. Immanuel’s full name is withheld to protect the identity of the family.

Immanuel has autism and is currently studying in a special school. His mother shares how disclosure can sometimes bring about understanding and provide relief.

I encourage parents not to be afraid of telling people that your child is a special needs child. If things happen, just tell people that he is autistic. There are very cruel people, but more often than not, you will get a positive reaction.

I took my son to watch Cavalier. We were seated in the second row, and he kept kicking the seat in front of him. The lady in front gave me several looks, but it was during the show and I couldn’t talk to her. During the break, she turned around and said, “Can you tell your son to stop kicking me?” I told her that I was sorry about it. I added that he has autism, it’s his first time to a show, he loves horses, and I would try to control him. And she said, “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t know he’s autistic. It’s okay, he can continue kicking, no problem.” I was surprised and very touched.

On another occasion, we were grounded at an airport overseas because there was a typhoon. It had been a long day, and Immanuel wanted a pizza, so I took him to an Italian restaurant. When we got there, we were informed that the kitchen was closed and they could only offer us some snacks. I told the waitress that my son was autistic and that he really wanted a pizza. She spoke with the chef and found out that they were actually preparing a Mexican pizza. I was very happy and told her that we could wait, but then she informed us that the pizza was spicy. My heart fell because Immanuel doesn’t take spicy food. Eventually, I settled for pasta. When it arrived, he was not happy.

A short time later, she appeared at our table with a plate of pizza crust. She said, “The chef says that only the centre has the spicy sauce. I hope you don’t mind that it’s bits and pieces.”

I told her, “That’s his favourite part!” I was so happy, and so was Immanuel. It was a very sweet moment.

While I’m all for making it known, my parents are very traditional Chinese, and they don’t want people to know that they have an autistic grandchild.

One time, Immanuel and I were with my sister’s in-laws, and I informed them about my son’s autism. My parents were shocked and asked me how the in-laws came to know about it. I explained to my parents, “I had to tell them because I didn’t want them to think that your grandchild was being rude by not addressing them properly.”

In fact, when my sister’s in-laws knew about it, they were very understanding and even said that they would help me to look out for him.

I’ve learnt that, when you hide it, it doesn’t help.

Of course, you have to protect your child. You can’t tell the whole world about it. There are people out there who will take advantage of our children. We have to be very careful in knowing whom to trust and whom we can disclose the information to.

Read more stories like this in the book My Unique Child: A Practical Guide to Raising A Child with Autism.

Do you have a story of autism or know someone who does? We welcome pitches and submissions. Talk to us.

VoicesJasmine Goh