Wednesday, July 31, 2019


These days, when Calder turns off the fan, he would watch until it stops spinning. The other day, I caught him eyeing a swinging door latch. Then his right hand shot out to slap it into place. And the latch stopped moving. And he could finally get ready for bed.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Books for Mei

During June, Ethel had to return to school for supplementary lessons (Primary 6). Ambitious to bring back all her school books at one go, she packed them into two bags. As expected, she forgot to take one. I saw that the bag contained books she would need for the day's lessons, so decided to bring them to her. Calder and I took two buses to reach Ethel's school. At the gate, I told the security guard my intention to pass Ethel her books. He looked at Calder and I figured he's wondering why a simple errand needed two persons. "He's autistic, so I cannot leave him at the gate," I explained. The guard must have understood, because immediately he nodded his head and earnestly waved us in. Stepping onto familiar ground (Calder had been to his sister's school a few times), Calder was so excited he broke into a run along the sheltered linkway and disappeared into the building. Would I be able to find him, I wondered. When I entered the school, I saw a teacher and another security guard with Calder. It's apparent that they had tried questioning Calder to no avail. I explained why he couldn't answer their questions, and passed the teacher Ethel's books. Before we left, I prompted Calder to "bye bye, teacher". The teacher raised her hand to wave goodbye and received in return Calder's mighty slap. She exclaimed, "Wow, that's the best high-5 I've ever received!" 

Monday, July 29, 2019


When Calder came home from school, I saw he was holding something in his hand.
Me: What are you holding?
Calder: Tissue.
Me: Who gave you the tissue?
Calder: Mr Thomas (his teacher).
Me: Why did Mr Thomas give you tissue?
Calder: Because I cried.
Me: Why did you cry?
Calder: Because he is so sad (he got the pronouns mixed-up).
Me: Why was Calder sad?
Calder: Because I kick my leg. I shouted. I screamed.
Me: Did you throw tantrum?
Calder: Yes.
Me: Why were you upset?
Calder: (silent)
Me: What was the problem?
Calder: No.
Me: Did you go for outing today?
Calder: Yes.
Me: Were you upset because it was too hot, or too noisy? Or were you hungry, or did somebody scold you?
Calder: It was too hot.

But when I checked with his teachers, I was told there was no tantrum - in fact he was very cooperative at the outing to the eco-garden at Tampines Hub. So I tried to clarify...

Me: Who gave you the tissue? Is it the bus driver or Teacher Thomas or bus aunty?
Calder: Bus aunty.

Problem with this form of clarification is you don't know if the multiple choices include the right answer.

So had Calder thrown a tantrum or did he spin a tale to satisfy questions?

- Another mystery of our life.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Runninghour 2019

Signed Calder up for Runninghour 2019. Since the meeting point was Safra Punggol, I decided to cycle there (35 min), walk the 5km (1 hr) before cycling back again. (When I told Calder we would be cycling to Waterway, he started galloping around jubilantly which was wonderful to see. )

Was pondering if I should dress Calder in a different colour in order not to lose him in the crowd. Decided to let him wear a luminous cap instead. I also placed a handphone in an elastic waist pouch for Calder to wear, in order to track him should he get lost. We were each given a blue lanyard which would enable us to claim the medal at the end of the race. Instead of putting the lanyard around the neck, I figured it would make a convenient leash and so tied it around Calder's waist pouch.

The meeting place was noisy with loud music accompanying warm-up exercises. Since we were going to just walk this year, I brought Calder to a quieter, less crowded area for some photo-taking. Thank God he no longer presents awkward grimaces before the camera.

Flag-off and we walked with the crowd. Weather was perfect, all was well until some aeroplanes started flying really loudly over our heads (NDP rehearsal, probably). I thought Calder would cover his ears. Instead, he bit down on his index finger. Not a good sign, so I got ready to hold him by the lanyard. Sure enough, he began to prance with big steps and looked like his movements would turn wild. So I suggested eating the yogurt biscuits in his waist pouch. We sat down to do so and continued walking after that. Calder started shaking the half-emptied mineral water. Should I stop him, because if he drinks from the bubbled water, he might get tummy ache? I decided that the bottle could be a stress reliever and let him shake it. But he dropped it twice and looked none the happier about that so I threw it into a garbage bin. Meanwhile, there were marshals reminding everyone to keep to the left, because the cyclists would be using the right side. But Calder kept veering to the right where it's more spacious.

Finally we reached the finishing line. There were cans of 100 plus to drink which pacified Calder. We got on our bicycles and escaped the crowd in just one minute. The weather remained perfect and we had a wonderful ride back which surely removed any remaining grouse.

If you ask me, I think Runninghour 2019 was a perfect outing for us, where Calder was tested on his self-control and won.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Washing machine

In the bedroom, I read a library book with Calder. (What this means is that we took turns to read a sentence each.) After that, I asked Calder to help me check how much time the washing machine had left before the laundry was ready. He went into the kitchen, stood before the washing machine and made some sounds that I figured must be the timing. Then he came back into the bedroom, but did not report to me. I asked him, "So how much time is left for the  washing machine?" He went back into the kitchen and did the same thing again. Wishing to know if we could start hanging the laundry together, I persisted, "How much time left?" He was going to return to the kitchen a third time! I realised that Calder did not know I couldn't hear him from the bedroom. Are we talking about theory of mind here - he couldn't grasp that my perspective and experience is different from his?

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Runninghour shirt

I like the design of Runninghour shirts so much that it's become some sort of collectible. It's one reason why I want to take part in the run every year (beside the heartwarming provision of free registration for special needs persons and their caregiver). I always pack them for family vacations because the vibrant colours shirts make for good photography. And when I'm bringing Calder to somewhere crowded and wish to be able to spot him easily (in case he walks too quickly for me to catch up), I would dress him in a bright shirt like Runninghour's.


The other day, I brought Calder with me to buy fried rice for dinner. When the girl at the store was taking my orders, I noticed from the corner of my eyes the chef asking Calder what he wanted to order (not knowing Calder's with me). Calder must have ignored him, because what I heard next was the chef muttering "cannot talk". It occurred to me that many autistic children are like Calder, only able to "communicate" with family members and close friends. Outsiders do not understand their utterances nor their ways. So letting  Calder out of the house on his own   is like releasing a pet into the jungle. That is, unless more people understand what autism entails and are patient and kind enough to find out the autistic person's needs or preferences without relying solely on spoken language.

Monday, July 22, 2019


Calder was on a fastidious streak, pushing in all the drawers, aligning clothes pegs, asking for shirt tags and loose threads to be cut off, even waiting for fans to stop spinning before moving on. The other day, he was keeping the laundry when I saw him bring a pair of shorts into the kitchen. "Where are you going, Calder?" He reached for the kitchen scissors. "Oh, you are cutting off loose thread?" I was impressed that he could do it himself instead of asking for my help. He kept snipping which made me curious, so I stepped into the kitchen. And saw what he cut off - the drawstrings from Daddy's jogging shorts.

Friday, July 19, 2019


Calder came home and saw, hanging in the kitchen (away from the ants) the $1 square cakes (anniversary promotion) I bought from Breadtalk. In the afternoon, after he had his fruit (in this case, an apple), he went into the room to play wordsearch on handphone. I saw that he hadn't turned on the fan and so sauntered into the room to remind him. Immediately he hopped up from the bed. With great expectancy in his eyes, he ventured,
"Anything you need?"
That confused me for a moment; he'd never asked me such questions before. Then I realised he wanted me to pose him the question. So I did.
Me: Anything you need?
Calder: Mommy, I want cake please.
Ah... the cakes in the kitchen.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Family devotion

Every Sunday, the four of us would sit together for dinner and have family devotion as we eat. Taking turns, we share about one thing we're thankful for and one need. Each Sunday, one of us would also share something learned from sermons or from the Bible. Family devotion ends with another person praying over the mentioned needs.

Last Sunday, it was my turn for Bible sharing and I decided to recite with Calder Isaiah 40: 28-31, which is a passage we memorised and on which our pastor focussed for that morning's sermon. Then I shared why I like the passage - it is very conversational, it relates to our lives - a great way to introduce friends to our good  God -

Isaiah 40:28‭-‬31 NIV:
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

If you're wondering how Calder, with his little speech, participates in our family devotion, we ask him to read out (which he does very loudly) the relevant Bible verses during Bible sharing. For thanksgiving, we prompt him with the starter "Thank God for ___". Maybe he got this confused with meal grace, because he always chooses food he just enjoyed (which is fine with us, since Calder really likes to eat). Last Sunday, he said: "Thank God for apple cider vinegar".  As for prayer needs, his is a standard: "God, help me to stay well and healthy, and not keep laughing."

Monday, July 15, 2019


The Huawei Partea giveaway has finally ended, and I tried three flavours of their tea:
1. Rose Pu'er Fruit Tea
2. Mango Green Tea with cream and white pearls (my favourite)
3. Sijichun Fruit Tea with coconut jelly 
When Ethel got to know about the giveaway, she was so keen we decided to collect the last cup yesterday:
4. Gaoshan Oolong Fruit Tea with aloe vera
Alas the queue was so long at Waterway Point it took more than an hour before we could place our order. Meanwhile, Ethel decided to sit on the floor to do her PSLE assessment book while Calder parked himself beside the lift. Order placed but there were many customers before our turn to collect the tea, so I brought the kids for lunch first. The kids were barely seated when Ethel came to me (I was at the counter viewing the menu) and succinctly communicated: "Pack and go, Mommy." It seemed Calder had knocked his elbow against the table and emitted a very loud "gok gok", in such an upset tone as to signal evacuation. I was not surprised - it had been a long wait in a noisy place and he's probably hungry as well. So I packed chicken pies for the kids and let them eat the pies (better feed the hungry bear asap) while I went to collect our tea. The next thing I knew, Calder had spilled his chicken filling on the floor (at home, I let him eat pies with a plate underneath his chin - no such facility eating on the go). While I was making sure there's no more spillage, Ethel did something that warmed my heart.
Ethel: Mommy, do you have a tissue for me to pick up the chicken on the floor?
My dear, thank you for joining me to care for and clean up after Calder whom we love.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


I wonder where he learned it from, but these days, Calder would sometimes stretch out both arms (think Titanic) when walking. Last Tuesday, he did just that when he was walking across the platform of Kovan mrt. The platform happened to be empty except for a Secondary school girl. I think what she saw was this tall youth with arms strangely outstretched swooping down towards her (he must have been curious and wanted a closer look at something she had). And she cowered in bewilderment. So Calder swooped towards her and veered off as he walked on. I was rather far behind (because Calder walks much faster than me) but near enough to witness this amusing scenario. Ethel told me, when I related the incident, that I should have explained that Calder is autistic. That's true. The girl must have thought she met a weirdo.

Friday, July 12, 2019


Do you floss? This question was asked me when I visited a friend for a painful tooth two years ago. Honestly, I replied "nope". Even though the dentist friend did not express any surprise or chide me, I was embarrassed enough to decide to give flossing a serious try.

Previously, I had tried flossing before but readily gave up when the string got stuck between my teeth and then, when the stick version scraped my gum. This time round, I persevered learning to wield the string around my fingers to get the best taut line to insert between the teeth. I succeeded and realized flossing is just using a thread to get at stuck food - there's nothing scary about it. In fact, I could no longer ensure a day without flossing. And guess what? This new habit reduced my dental problems so significantly that I decided to teach my kids to floss too, especially Calder, whose unexplainable angst can stem from hidden discomfort like a toothache. Ethel learned fast and I proceeded to start on Calder.

Attempt 1 - At bedtime, after his brushing, I flossed his teeth using the string.

Attempt 2 - Figuring he would have a problem manoeuvring the string (he can't tie shoelaces), I flossed his teeth with the stick version.

Attempt 3 - I passed him the stick, wondering if he had enough purposefulness and tenacity to push the string right through. To my amusement, he went at it with great aplomb and instinctively adopted a method that I found ingenious - instead of pushing with his hand, he used his upper teeth to bite down on the stick and thus effectively drove the string down in between his teeth. And he understood without instruction that the string had to visit every gap between his teeth.

Attempts 4 to 6 - I reminded him to floss his teeth after brushing and he proceeded to do so for his lower teeth. I did not ask him to do the upper because they were spacious enough not to get food stuck in the gaps. I was amused that not only did he push the sting all the way down, he knew to wriggle it between the teeth. Perhaps he had watched the flossing procedure on TV before?

Attempts 7 & 8 - I decided to do it proper and now expect him to floss both lower and upper teeth.

Attempt 9 - He had no problem flossing except that he had yet to develop a clear system and would visit the same gap over again until I signal a stop to the activity.

Attempt 10 - Without prompting, he reached for the floss right after brushing his teeth.

And so in 10 tries, Calder has caught on this necessary habit that would save him from much dental agony.

Praise the Lord!