Saturday, October 2, 2021

Wall Fan

We have a wall fan in the living room. When we set out floor mats for workouts, we often asked Calder to rotate the fan towards those mats. But he didn't know how to control the remote control to point the fan in the right direction. So we prompted him. One day, I realised that he didn't need our prompting anymore - he knew when to press the button to stop the fan's rotation. Today, when I asked him to turn on the wall fan, he proceeded not only to turn on the fan but to rotate it slightly to the left (using the remote control) to blow at where we were seated. Wow.

Thank God for little breakthroughs! 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

My Rose

Shared about autism (via Zoom) to 38 NUS Year 4 Psychology students yesterday, and received a question that made me think.

Q: In this challenging journey, what has enabled you to appreciate your child for who he is? 

My response: 

Yes, it had occurred to me how much easier life would be without such challenges. But something happened 4 years ago that made me realize how precious Calder is to me. That day, he boarded a bus that took him to Changi Airport and we couldn't find him for two hours. In between searching the vicinity and returning to check if he had made his way home, I was kneeling on the living room floor and crying out to God to send him back to me safely. I knew without a doubt that I never want to lose this child, autism or not. 

Subsequent thoughts:

When does love start and end? Do I say - I can appreciate Calder now that he has mellowed so much, to be able to help me cut vegetables and hang the laundry and go out together without risk of meltdowns? Do we love a person only if he is good, or show promise of improvement? Do I appreciate Calder because he is trusting, and pure and simple? 

No, I have started loving Calder when I started caring for his needs and wanting the best for him. It's because of the time and the efforts, the sweat and the tears, that I love him. 

The Little Prince says it well:

"But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she's the one I've watered. Since she's the one I put under glass, since she's the one I sheltered behind the screen. Since she's the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three butterflies). Since she's the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she's my rose."

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Passed Away

Calder was typing his old journal into the computer. Once again, there was a mention of him making hamster bedding. Wondering if he understood the concept of death, I asked him, "Calder, where is the hamster?" He turned and pointed to where the hamster cage used to be. "But the hamster is not there," I contended. He looked at me with enquiry in his eyes. I explained, "The hamster died." "The hamster died," he repeated. Then I asked him, "Where is mama (his paternal granny)?" He replied, "Mama is passed away". 

"Passed  away" was the term I guided him to use when he wrote his journal on the day of Mama's cremation. I'm amazed he remembered. And it occured to me perhaps his sense of reality (or memory) is made of what he wrote in his journal.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Music

It used to be our routine to put on a nice music CD and Calder would then cheerfully cut up kitchen towels to make hamster bedding. But Ethel's hamster passed away and I wondered what could fill this activity gap. Little did I realise that Calder is just as happy to sit on the sofa, swaying as he listens to the CD. In this multi-tasking world, how many of us do that - just enjoy the music as it is (not as background to other tasks)?

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Toothache

One day, Calder pointed at his cheek and told me "painful". "Oh, is it toothache?" I asked. "Toothache," he repeated. I shone a torchlight into his mouth but couldn't see anything amiss. Hubby suggested wisdom tooth eruption, to wait for it to grow out. When Calder complained of pain again, I bought Medijel to apply on his gum. Then I decided to bring him to the School Dental Centre. I made the appointment via Healthhub app and indicated in the comment section that Calder is autistic and cannot express himself well. 

The day of appointment arrived yesterday. The dentist had obviously read my comments, because immediately he directed the questions at me. Then he told Calder he's going to lower the dentist chair. He took a look and revealed it's not a case of wisdom tooth but gums inflamed from trapped food. He proceeded to clean Calder's teeth. 

He meticulously explained to Calder the equipment that spurts water and the straw that's going to suck out the water. When the noisy straw started operating, Calder clamped his mouth shut. The dentist gently plied his lips open and coaxed him to open his mouth a bit more. "Very good, Calder... Yes good..." The dentist kept up a litany of encouragement. A few times, Calder's hand was ready to go up to his mouth (probably to push the equipment away). Instead of a vice grip, the dental assistant repeatedly returned it to his lap. I started stroking that hand as I prayed for Calder to cooperate. I could see that Calder's body was all tensed up - it must have been a frightening experience, but he kept his mouth open. 

At the end, the dentist assured me that he had done a thorough cleaning, to make sure Calder brushes his gums when he brushes his teeth. "Finish! Very good, Calder!" Calder hopped off from the dentist chair with a grin and I got him to say "thank you" to Doctor Nicholas.

A friend had offered to send us to the dentist, so we returned in his car. Later in the afternoon, Calder was putting out the exercise mat when he nearly tripped (he accidentally stepped on the mat as he tried moving it). And he exploded. The tripping did not justify the level of agitation, so I figured he's releasing the stress he experienced at the dentist. I brought him to the bedroom and sang him a few of his favourite songs on the guitar, before we proceeded with our daily workout. Then I got him to write journal for the day. When I looked back, I'm thankful for:

1. The dentist who was sensitive to Calder's fears, yet firm enough not to give up on the treatment.

2. The friend who insisted on driving us to the dentist, who waited at the car park for an hour to drive us back. (This friend is a retiree and I feel he's doing what he would for a grandson - what a blessing to have him in our life.)

3. Calder for his courageous trust in us as he remained seated on the dentist chair.

4. God for answering my prayers for a successful dental visit, for keeping Calder calm until we're safely home. 

Quoting the verses inscribed on my sister's wall:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord , the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalms 121:1‭-‬2 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Respite

Calder was moody this morning. I knew because of the low humming  he made followed by murmurings of "is missing is missing". At breakfast he was moaning as he ate. And I wondered if he could make it for school today. If not, the free morning I was anticipating would be gone. Instead of a quiet time studying the Bible (via Bible Study Fellowship materials), I would have to attend to him - stay with him while keeping him calmly occupied, hoping no one would make any loud sound to set him off. And yes, I prayed. When your child is troubled and cannot tell you why, what else can you do but pray? In my heart, I prayed and wondered - 7 min more to arrival of school bus. Is there enough time for me to take out the guitar to sing him our favorite songs? How about playing his favourite music on my handphone? So I click the link to last Sunday's online service. Songs that Calder played on the piano flowed together with our singing (our family was in charge of worship last Sunday). He didn't revert to school-boy glee as would often happen when I take out the guitar, but he was calm enough to put on his socks and shoes to go downstairs to wait for the school bus. In the lift, we prayed our usual benediction "The Lord bless you and keep you..." At the void deck, he fixed word puzzles of bible verses on my handphone. And the bus arrived. Calder has left for school - I've been granted respite. I'm thinking: How precious every day of peace and well-being is, especially for families with autistic children. I wouldn't know when Calder, now 16, is going to be the cheerful little boy or the upset and unstable teenager. If the latter, I would have to put down all work and plans and rest to soothe him. So I need to cherish every day of peace. Consciously appreciate it and live the day fruitfully, thankfully. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Guitar

I found a way to calm Calder when he gets upset - join him in a quiet room, take out the guitar, and start singing worship songs with all my heart. I used to think it's a diversion tactic. Today he didn't calm down as quickly and it occurred to me that perhaps he needed the music to convey his sorrows. So I continued singing as he continued crying. 

Dear Lord, I have no idea why Calder is upset. Is it because he's tired, or he's hungry? Did something happen in school to make him sad?You know best. And so please help us deal with the problems that Calder is facing. Please comfort and protect Calder as only you know how and you can. Thank you, Jesus.