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Happy 23rd Chris!

First check in for the new year! Today is Chris’s 23rd birthday but unfortunately I’m away in England again so I only had the chance to join in on webcam. I did however visit him over Christmas, and I was thrilled to find how chilled out he was compared to the last time I saw him in the summer. I got him a (cheap) watch that he wanted for Christmas but I think, it’s like he knew it was cheap, and he just gave it back and asked for another one! Cheeky bugger. Anyway here’s a video of him blowing out the candles! Happy chappy!

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Chris is Fine

Beaming Chris

Beaming Chris

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.

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Chicken Rice

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.

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Can’t take him anywhere! Or can I?

Tioman, Malaysia.

Tioman, Malaysia.

One of the things we struggle with as a family is taking a peaceful holiday. We don’t struggle with taking a holiday. We struggle with trying to have a peaceful one.  Chris has always loved hotels and every time I come back to Singapore to visit he will ask me, “can we go hotel now?”. And we oblige. Guy loves the high life! He definitely knows what he wants but he can’t always get it due to the communication issue. When we do take him on holidays and hotel trips he still runs into tantrums that come seemingly out of no where. Certain things in his head or in the environment suddenly set him off and he would start either hitting himself or swearing and talking in a more repetitive way. The reality is that we just can’t understand what he wants sometimes. At times he would ask for impossible things and throw a tantrum when we can’t give it to him.  All we can do is try to pacify him. I myself, try to distract him with a game on my tablet or point him towards something interesting to look at and tell him encouraging things.

When we went to Tioman for a four day trip, he wasn’t in the best of moods and I think it’s because the hotel didn’t have an elevator to be honest! (every hotel with a lift is in danger of Chris, he just loves riding them!). Although he likes adventure, this time, he just wanted to get home as fast as possible . He was happy to go swimming and hiking but he got bored staying in the room very quickly. He’d get very irritable and start shouting in public, which causes stares from people. I really don’t mind the stares myself and just leave him to it until he gets over it if my distractions don’t work. Telling him to lower his voice makes it worse and is rather pointless. It’s difficult trying to figure out the best methods to calm him but It’s something we will constantly have to try and cope with.

Last summer, I was looking forward to having him come over to England to visit me with the rest of our family, but the rest of the family ended up leaving him in Singapore because he kept throwing tantrums before the start of the trip. Dad decided he would be too hard to handle if he came here, especially since everything would be completely out of his comfort zone.

What causes these tantrums and unreasonable behaviour? Could it be the pills? Or maybe he got over-excited and wanted to go then and there? Or maybe he really didn’t want to go, even though he tells me he wants to come over every time I Skype him? I wish I knew! I wish I could support him all the way and beat his imaginary demons with him! Until they invent some sort of brain communicator, we’ll still continue making the effort to understand him and take him on trips because it’ll always be a good learning experience. On the plus side, bringing people with Autism out more spreads awareness to the general public and will show that yes, there are people like this and we should all learn to accommodate, not point and laugh. Who are we to define what is normal as they are just as much a part of our society as you and I.