Against The Odds
My name is Moon Chong. My wife, Jaclyn & I – we have 3 children, aged 18, 16 & 10. Our youngest one, Matthew was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old. We joined the Family Inclusion Network about a year ago.
Matthew was non-verbal till he was about 5 years old. Today, he can, at times be frustrated at not having the language skill & vocabulary to make us understand him. When he goes into a meltdown – intense tantrum – it can last an hour or more. Matthew also has sensory issues with loud noises (eg clapping), dislikes strangers & crowds in enclosed spaces and has a phobia for babies, for reasons we can’t explain.
When he was smaller, going to my in-laws for our weekly extended family dinners, riding in a crowded bus or MRT train, and attending church services were unmanageable. Getting into the lift with a baby inside would end in embarrassing hysterical cries. A visit to the dentist or to the barber was out of the question.
When he was 4 years old, by the grace of God who supplies me with love, patience & wisdom, I was able to quit my job and stay home full-time to help Matthew in his developmental needs – his emotional, verbal, social & cognitive needs.
Against all odds, Matthew graduated from a special needs preschool to a mainstream primary school. He is now in Primary 3 and while he still has his bad days, he is not coping too badly.
I thank God that in the last 3 years, Matthew has made developmental breakthroughs, one after another. He has learnt to eat with chop-sticks, sit thru a dental cleaning, have his haircut at the barber, learn to say grace at meal-time, pray the Lord’s prayer, fold his own clothes, make his own drinks & ride a bicycle. You can imagine the intense joy we felt, each time he hit one of these milestones.
Matthew still struggles with making friends, displays visibly awkward reactions to his phobias in public and is linguistically not skillful enough to cope fully with schoolwork. But most importantly, we can see that he is happy, feels secured with people around, speaks with self-confidence and is surrounded by love.
Matthew has taught me to be a better parent. His autism has opened doors for me to reach out to other parents. For the past 5 years, I served in his primary school by organizing parenting workshops for other parents & activities for father & child bonding. Together with a few other dads in FIN, we have also initiated a Dads’ network to support one another in our fathering journey.
My continuing prayer for Matthew is that he can grow up to be a responsible man of God – fully functional in society, able to hold down a job, manage his relationships with others & in his own special way, be a blessing to others.
Family Inclusion Network (FIN) is primarily a network founded by parents and volunteers with a HEART for families of persons with special needs and disabilities.