“I was neither prepared nor qualified to be an Autism Dad”

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"He turned from a happy disconnected boy into a rigid, crying, stressed out and anxious boy, and connecting with him became less and less possible."

 

"My name is Paul and I have a 7-year-old son, Zachary, who has autism. I’m a finance guy by training, and a private chef by passion. But I was neither prepared nor qualified to be an Autism Dad.

Signs that something was wrong

My wife and I first started being concerned when our 1-year-old son didn’t respond to his name being called, and seemed disinterested in the world around him. He was generally a happy baby, but appeared somewhat oblivious to people, beyond getting his physical needs met.

He achieved many of his developmental milestones early, but still had no spontaneous speech by the age of three years. So we brought him in to see the developmental paediatrician in SGH.

"Honestly, we had already guessed that he had autism, so the diagnosis was not a surprise to us. What was a surprise though, was how difficult it was to find an effective way of helping him."

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Initial struggles with raising an autistic child in Singapore

We signed him up for the Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC), though were waitlisted for more than a year for a school placement in WeCAN at the Autism Resource Centre, as well as for 6 sessions of speech therapy at SGH.

We were obviously anxious, and also sought for help in the private realm. We sent him for occupational therapy, audio-verbal therapy, speech therapy as well as therapy using Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), which is held up as the conventional, gold-standard approach for autism.

As a family, we had to make many changes. We made the decision to pour everything we had right from the beginning, believing that early intervention was the key.

Conventional wisdom was that if he didn’t speak by 5 years old, he was less likely to subsequently. So I spent many frustrating hours ferrying him from therapy to therapy, intervention to intervention, all the while feeling lost and clueless as to how to reach my son.

Was there no hope when it came to raising an autistic child in Singapore? Go to the next page to find out...

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