Learning on the go


This story is taken from the book My Unique Child: A Practical Guide to Raising A Child with Autism. Names have been changed to protect the identities of the persons mentioned.

David has autism and currently studies in a mainstream school. His father talks about their adventures on public transport.

I believe that children need boundaries. You need to set rules for them. If they can work within boundaries and follow the rules, it will be easier for them to carry on in the future.

The first time my son went on a bus, he started stamping his feet and stomping around. Everyone was staring at him—what’s wrong with this kid?

I realised that the deck of the bus seemed to be a bit hollow and stepping on it made a sound. It was fun as sensory input. But I had to tell him that this was not appropriate, “Everyone is looking at you. You cannot do this. Do you see anyone else stomping?” He realised then that it was a mistake.

The bus ride became an educational tour. On the bus ride back, he didn’t do it.

All these little things in life are cues to teach the child what is appropriate to do. To you, it’s normal. To him, it’s not. You have to explain it to him. You need a lot of patience, but you have to explain it to him.

Another time when we were on the bus, he was seated but wanted to stand. Besides telling him to sit, I explained why he had to sit. “If you stand, you might fall and hit your head. If you injure yourself, you can’t go out and you can’t meet your friends.”

He wanted to go out and so, he sat for the rest of the journey. You explain and give him the consequences. Tell him the next course of action, the consequence, or the path forward. That helps him to think and process a little bit more. If you tell him to sit and not move, without any explanation, he will think that going onto a bus is just to shut up and sit down. He doesn’t know why. It’s important to teach them why; that will help them think for themselves.

You need the 5W1H (Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How) in your life. Where are we going? When will we be going? Why? All these will help them to organise their lives as they grow older.

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