I am back from my two-month hiatus! I had gone back to Singapore to visit my family and friends and of course Chris. Another reason for not writing was because there was a point of time when I got back where I just felt quite helpless about my brother and I didn’t want to write – I’ll explain this further later on.
I haven’t lived in Singapore for 4 years. Only occasionally visiting for Christmas or summer breaks. The time Chris and I have together is limited and remains a constant annoyance in my attempts to understand him better. Thus, I value every moment I’m back with him, even if it seems like he doesn’t actually give a damn that I am back! That’s just Autism. No hard feelings.
He was happy I was back, how do I know? Intuition I guess? The moment I got back he held my hand and started telling me about what he was doing and what things he wanted me to get for him. However, the days after that he went back to his usual routine of staying in his room and playing with the laptop. Interacting with him is a bit hit-and-miss when he’s concentrating on the laptop.
I tried talking with him more, but it seemed after being away from him for so long, he didn’t feel the need to talk to me as much and just wanted to focus on his laptop. I tried getting him to join us but he would just come in for a few minutes then leave. Our youngest brother,Kyle, is actually scared of him, I believe this was because Chris pushed him several years back, therefore, he just avoids him. I tried getting Chris to read something to me to see how much he knew about reading, but he just didn’t want to cooperate – although I did find out in the end he could just about make out most 3-letter words and with more pushing, 4 to 5. His unresponsiveness of course saddened me and I felt quite helpless about what I could do for him. It made me feel useless, as all I wanted to do was understand him. I didn’t feel like I was pushing too hard, in fact, I spent a lot of time away from home visiting friends.
So then as it happens, I found out time (and some chicken rice) heals. Instead of telling me to fuck off he started answering my questions about his day and what he’d like to do. After spending more time with him during our family trip to Ipoh and bringing him out on a day trip to a mall for food, letting him do what HE wants, it seemed he liked my company a bit more.
The trick to Chris is not to make him do things he doesn’t need to and stop saying “don’t”. He’s 21; he wants to be treated like an adult, not a child. He is fully aware of his situation even though he can’t communicate it to us. If he is doing something wrong, a gentle reminder will suffice, not a shout or overreaction. For instance, I see he likes to test my parent’s patience by walking on the road instead of the sidewalk. I noticed when he was out with me alone, he knows when cars are coming and will move away. But with my parents, he insists on staying on the road even though they tell him not to. It’s simple defiance. He hates being told not to do something.
So that’s Chris, and compared to four years ago when I left for England, he is calmer, chattier and more independent thanks to the Daily Autism Centre he goes to. The most important thing to improve is his bond with our brother and sister. As they are younger it is harder for them to understand how to handle Chris. Kirian who is 15 soon, is better at talking with him and she understands what is wrong. Kyle, 10, is still too young and I guess it’ll take him time to warm up to Chris. It is important we all interact with Chris, as we are his direct family.