Caring for a child with autism can be a journey filled with love, challenges, and immense dedication. Parents like Benjamin Tan, whose twins have autism, understand the unique struggles faced by caregivers. In this blog, we will delve into the issues children with autism and their caregivers encounter, and explore ways to overcome these challenges.
The Reality of Autism Spectrum Disorder:
Children with autism, like Benjamin Tan’s son and daughter, often face a range of unique challenges. Their abilities and needs can vary greatly, making caregiving a complex task. Some children may struggle with communication, while others may excel in certain areas, as Mr. Tan’s son did when he identified the correlation between Saturn and Saturday. Understanding these differences is crucial.
The Struggles of Acceptance:
Accepting a child’s autism diagnosis can be a difficult and emotional journey. Some parents may initially resist the diagnosis, seeking alternative treatments. The fear of what the future holds can be overwhelming, leading to emotional stress and struggles with acceptance. The weight of lifelong caregiving can take a toll on caregivers’ mental health.
School Support and Its Importance:
In Singapore, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is taking steps to support students with special education needs (SEN). Approximately 80% of students with mild to moderate SEN study in mainstream schools. However, mainstream schools must work in harmony with caregivers to ensure these students receive the right support.
The Transition to Special Education:
For children with more severe needs, transferring to Special Education (SPED) schools may be necessary. The Education Ministry encourages parents to consider SPED schools, which offer intensive and customised support. Such a transition requires parents’ consent, and MOE emphasises a smooth handover process.
Early Intervention and Holistic Support:
Early and timely intervention can significantly benefit children with autism, helping them develop essential life skills. It’s essential to provide holistic support that goes beyond academics, addressing social situations, life skills, and mental well-being.
Coping with Caregiver Challenges:
Caregivers must navigate financial, emotional, and relational challenges. The demands of caregiving can lead to burnout and strained relationships. Balancing work and caregiving can be particularly challenging, and many families face financial constraints. Building a support network, whether through friends, church, or like-minded families, can help caregivers share their experiences and alleviate some of the burdens.
Overcoming the “Post-18 Cliff Effect”:
As children with autism reach the age of 18, they graduate from SPED schools, leading to a potential support gap. Adult daycare facilities become essential for these individuals, providing a pathway to a more independent life. This area currently faces a severe shortage, highlighting the need for further development and support.
Promoting Awareness and Support:
Raising awareness about autism and the challenges caregivers face is vital. By building an inclusive and non-judgmental culture, we can create a society where people with autism and their caregivers feel less alone and more supported.
Caring for a child with autism is a journey that requires unwavering dedication and immense love. The challenges faced by children with autism and their caregivers are real, but with the right support, understanding, and acceptance, caregivers can provide their loved ones with the best possible future. Let’s work together to create a more inclusive and supportive society for all.
At SG Assist, we understand that caregiving can be a challenging and overwhelming experience. That’s why we provide resources and support for seniors, people with disabilities, and caregivers alike. Whether you’re in need of care services or looking to volunteer at our Caregiver Resource Centre, we’re here to help you make a difference in the lives of others. Visit our websites at SG Assist and CareConnect or sign up for our newsletter here today to learn more.
Story was adapted from Channel News Asia, https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/autism-support-child-xavier-yap-twins-bukit-timah-3718496