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Embracing the World of Autism with my Autistic Son

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Embracing the World of Autism
with my Autistic Son

By Pearl Bong

A brief introduction to Autism

First and foremost, “Bless the LORD (Yahweh), O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name!” (Psalm 103:1)

Blessed be the name of Yahweh, who is God for every aspect of creation. We live in a complex world created by the almighty God Yahweh. Certainly it would take a whole lifetime for us to explore and to comprehend some of the complicated aspects of humanity in the entire universe.

For the sake of those who are unfamiliar with the world of autism, I begin my sharing with a brief introduction to autism.

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to make sense of the world and to relate to others. Autism comes from autos, the Greek word for ‘self’. A person on the autism spectrum is often described as someone who lives in a world of his own.

Autism is a life-long developmental condition. There is currently no known “cure” for autism. Children do not outgrow autism, but the symptoms may lessen with intervention. Structured intervention and training will help the individuals acquire skills but not cure the condition. There is a wide body of research to support the knowledge that young children experience signifi­cant improve­ments when intervention is started at the earliest possible age.

While the cause or a combination of causes of autism is not fully understood, research suggests a biological correlation affecting those parts of the brain which process language and information coming in from the senses. Other research findings suggest that there may be an imbalance in certain chemicals in the brain. There is no known single cause of autism spectrum disorder, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnor­malities in brain structure or function. Genetic factors may sometimes play a role within certain families. In reality, what we know is that autism may develop from a combination of several causes. To date, medical science has not found the actual cause of autism. Accordingly there is currently no documented cure for autism.

It is estimated that 10% of individuals on the autism spectrum may have special abilities in areas such as music, art, mathematical calculation, memory, and manual dexterity. The majority, however, may have areas of high performance that relate to their special interests or obsessions.

Life is not a bed of roses, but God’s mercies overflow

It is a joy to behold the beauty of the Maker of heaven and earth who is none other than the only true God, Yahweh. Indeed the journey with my autistic son is a never ending story of exploring the mysterious world of autism. The more I embrace the world of autism, the more I find grace and strength from God to press on! Through it all I have witnessed God’s marvelous work un­fold be­fore my very eyes! There is joy unspeakable as I continue to declare some of the miraculous encounters which have taken place over the last twenty eight years of walking hand in hand with my beloved autistic son.

In my first sharing, “A Special Gift From God,” which was written in year 2002, I shared some of the significant events which happened up to year 2000, when my son was nine years old. As the saying goes, “Curiosity kills the cat!” How true! If you have been following my story, I guess you may be wondering, “What happened after the year 2000?”

As I press on in this wonderful journey of life, our awesome God has laid upon my heart the strong conviction to share further on how He had paved the way for my son Brendon from the years 2001 to 2019. How time flies! Twenty eight years have passed by quickly and Brendon is now a fine young man. A few days ago, when I was engaging in some housekeeping work, I chanced upon some of my old photo albums. Many meaningful reflections of my son’s development milestones began to surface in my mind. While reminiscing about the past, I began to count my blessings one by one. Tears of joy filled my heart when I recalled God’s goodness, mercy and love towards Brendon and my family. Oh how blessed it is to know that God is always with us and He is good all the time!

Ever since the day I made my commitment to become a Christian, I have experienced God’s protection and deliverance always. He has granted me wisdom and strength to brave through many of the trials and tribulations which I encountered in my daily life. For as long as I live, I will continue to testify of the magnificent wonders God has performed in my daily walk with Him. Frankly, I cannot find an exact expression to describe the greatness of our merciful God and Father in heaven. All that I wish to declare to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear is this truth, “Our God Yahweh is real! He is forever faithful and true! He is an amazing God and Father in heaven who will never leave us nor forsake us.” Having said that, it is the sincere prayer of my heart that all Christians will remain loyal and faithful to Yahweh God today and forevermore!

Over the years I have learned that the path to the kingdom of God is never an easy road. In fact it is a continual journey of striv­ing to enter the kingdom of God. As the word of God says in Acts 14 verse 22 ,

“Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.”

The Christian life is a continual journey with God that is filled with many challenges ahead. We are Christian soldiers ever ready to fight the good fight in countless spiritual warfares as the word of God has told us. However, I strongly believe that as children of God we will always triumph if we function by the mighty power of God. Our gracious God continues to perform wonders and make ways where there seems to be none. How marvelous! How wonderful!

As I embarked on my spiritual journey, there were many occasions on which I experienced unimaginable encouragements from God. Many miracles happened when I surrendered every aspect of my life to Him. He has enabled me and my husband to experience His marvelous work which is indeed indescribable! There were moments of joy, sorrow, defeat, as well as victory. Nevertheless, God’s unfailing love consumed me, and His divine love lifted me up when I stumbled. I could only come humbly before Him and say, “Abba Father, gracious God Yahweh, You are awesome! I am forever grateful to You.”

When I look back, the year 2000 was a memorable year for my family. My husband and I had prayed for many years while waiting for God’s will to be done! To refresh your memory, I would like to recap a portion of what I shared in my first writing, “A Special Gift from God”. I wrote,

A year later (in the year 2000), God opened Brendon’s vocal cords to enable him to speak. He is able to speak simple sentences with clarity. We taught him to pray and to sing praises to God. The desire of my heart is that my son will know there is a God who has been constantly helping him, enabling him to do things which were considered impossible in the sight of the world. I prayed that someday he, too, could testify with his own lips that God is real.

The everlasting God Yahweh has never failed us. He knows our pain when we cry out to Him. To my amazement, our compassionate God granted Brendon the gift of speech in the year 2000 when he was nine years old. His speech has since become clearer and more comprehensible to his hearers as the days go by. That was truly remarkable! Why do I say that it is “a gift of speech” granted to Brendon? The truth of the matter is that we waited many years for Brendon to speak, but he remained non-verbal. After a long period of assessment by a speech therapist, at last the most shocking truth was presented to us. I remembered the speech therapist’s words very clearly. She said, “Dear parents, please be mentally prepared! Your son Brendon might be non-verbal. He may or may not be able to speak. So in view of the situation, the best approach now is to start learning and teaching Brendon sign language as the possibly workable mode of communication.” Those were the most earth-shaking words I had ever heard! Fear instantly crept into my heart and mind. All of a sudden I sensed my whole world collapsing. I realized I could not accept the truth that was revealed to me. It was so painful to learn that my son might not be able to speak at all. I wept sorrowfully before God and asked Him to help me accept that shocking truth.

Over the years, researchers have been seeking solutions to many of the unanswered questions regarding autism. Sadly speaking, as many as 40 percent of autistic children don’t speak at all. Others may speak but have very limited language and communication skills.

In the world in which we live, the majority of normal kids are able to speak naturally when they reach a certain age. However, for our special son Brendon, the ability to speak was a gift granted to him because of God’s mercy. Every word which Brendon uttered over the last twenty eight years was to me a gentle reminder of God’s love and mercy towards him. I am eternally grateful to God for the gift of speech granted to Brendon. Indeed God knew my fear. When I was in the valley of despair, He showed me the importance of trusting in Him 100% and to wait upon Him to act at His perfect timing. Our God is great! Tears rolled down my cheeks when I heard my dear son’s first spoken words. That was by far the most beautiful testament of what Yahweh God had done. Indeed He is a sovereign God who performs wonders and miracles!

The biggest challenge ahead of us

In the 90’s, there were only a handful of very small-scale government-funded centres and only two private special educa­tion schools in Singapore that provided some basic services for autistic individuals. Information about autism and support for families with autistic individuals were very lacking then. The government-funded centres had limited vacancies, thus the annual intake was very small. At that juncture, we had no choice but to enroll Brendon for the early intervention programme at a private special education centre by the name, “Horizon Centre For Special Education,” where he would spend about three years.

After many years of committing our prayer requests to God, finally in the year 1992, a moderately sized government-funded centre named “Rainbow Centre” was established. I then decided to submit an application for admission into its early intervent­ion programme in 1994, but there was no vacancy at that time. I was told that the waiting list for admission to Rainbow Centre was approximately two to three years. Amazingly, after two years of waiting, Brendon got his placement in 1996. During that period of time, “Rainbow Centre” operated at an old primary school premise while waiting for its new centre to be built.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Finally on 19 July 1999, the new Rainbow Centre was built. It was a well equipped centre with all facilities fully catered to the needs of autistic individuals. The new centre was named “Margaret Drive Special School.” In God’s wonderful plan, Brendon spent five eventful years, from 1999 to 2003, at Margaret Drive Special School.

Throughout the five years at Margaret Drive Special School, God had provided wonderful teachers, speech therapists, and occupational therapists to teach Brendon in accordance with His will and purpose. Although I had lived with Brendon for so many years, I admit that I could not fully understand the complicated aspects of life in an autistic individual. Oh how I marvel at God’s creation. He has created autistic individuals with such unique personalities whereas our human minds can never fully understand the complex world of autism. It was through countless prayers of intercession that many obstacles were removed, thus enabling Brendon to grow and learn as God wills. Indeed glory be to Yahweh God for His unfailing love and provision for Brendon.

On many occasions, I was unable to get through to Brendon but the almighty God knew Brendon from inside out and I had to plead before Him for guidance and direction. All that I could do was to submit to God’s will in total obedience and to walk by faith, for I believed with all my heart that God’s intervention will come some day as He makes all things beautiful in His time. I sought after God’s will and to fulfill them by His power, wisdom, and strength.

As I pondered deeper, I began to perceive one fundamental truth. Our God Yahweh prepares each and every Christian to go through many essential training grounds with the intention of building up strong disciples who will follow Him faithfully to the end. I realized that God had placed me in many situations in order to transform me, as well as keep me humble. When I could not find answers or solutions to the many challenges I faced with Brendon, the only way is to put my trust in God, as I knew He will definitely show me how to proceed from one point to the next. With the assurance from God, I knew He is the one and only true God who holds the future. Indeed how true it is; surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. How marvelous it is to behold the beauty of our awesome God! Although the path before me is long and winding, I have no fear because God has never ceased to sustain me by His grace and to grant me strength to brave through each and every stormy period victoriously.

As the days were going by, there remained a huge challenge in educating autistic individuals to fit into our world which is totally different from theirs. The reason is that autism is a spectrum psychological disorder. One of the symptoms of autism is obsessive-compulsive behavior. When Brendon first started his school year at Margaret Drive Special School, life was tough as we had to cope with many of his major behavior issues. One of the greatest challenges we faced was how on earth do we cope with his obsessive-compulsive behavior issues? There was a time when Brendon become very obsessed with digital watches. Whenever he spotted someone wearing a digital watch, he would grab hold of it just to examine the function of all its tiny buttons. I was totally helpless in dealing with his obsessive behavior, so I prayed and asked God for wisdom and strength to stop Brendon from grabbing items belonging to strangers at public places. Amazingly we experienced God’s mighty hand at work, thus preventing Brendon from offending others unnecessarily. Brendon’s obsession with digital watches lasted a couple of months. Just as we were rejoicing over the victory won, a new obsessive behavior emerged.

The majority of autistic individuals display obsessive-compul­sive behavior in one form or another. Moreover, it will shift from one obsessive behavior to another without any clear indication as to how long each behavior issue will last. That is certainly mind-boggling to parents, teachers and caregivers who are trying their utmost to work out the most effective approach to resolving the issue.

Nevertheless, I am thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to live with my autistic son. It was through what I have gone through with my son that led me to go deeper into exploring the complex world of autism. Through it all I have learned to empathize with individuals who are suffering from some form of physical or mental handicap. As I pressed on, I cried out to our merciful God, pouring out my grief before Him. I desperately needed the courage and strength to cross over the next big hurdle before me.

Although we had won the battle over Brendon’s obsession with digital watches, other obsessive-compulsive behaviors emerged. There were lots of uncertainties as I waited. Lo and behold, out of the blue he started to become very obsessed with pennies (i.e., one cent coins). Strangely he had no interest in any other coins except pennies. I am not sure why he set his eyes only on pennies but I guess it might have to do with their bronze color. During that period of time, we had to gather lots of pennies for him. Worst of all, he would cast aside the pennies once the surface had become tarnished. We had to gather brand new shiny pennies for him from time to time.

Our worst nightmare would come when we were out at public places. Brendon could not control himself when he spotted a cash register at any shop. His immediate response was to climb over the cash counter to see if he could peek into the cash register in search of pennies. His obsessive behavior has turned our world upside down to the point we feared stepping out of our house. It was hard for us to face the wrath of people who did not understand the behavior issues of autistic individuals. I wept before our good LORD and Father whenever Brendon stepped on others’ toes. Each time when Brendon misbehaved, I would cry out to God for help as the Psalmist says in Psalm 121:1 to 2,

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD (Yahweh), who made heaven and earth.”

Whenever I come humbly before God, it was comforting to experience peace in the presence of God although my struggles intensified day by day. As I knelt before our gracious God Yahweh, I experienced His lifting away all the burdens which were weighing me down. The strong assurance of His presence in fighting every spiritual battle is the motivation and inspiration for me to move on courageously! Although my problems did not disappear overnight, and although the tall mountains that stood before me were not removed, yet the promise “I am with you always!” spoke loud and clear to me, reassuring me that our sovereign God is my shield, my strength, my hope and the anchor of my soul! With that in mind, I could face my son’s behavior problems with perfect peace from our everlasting God Yahweh.

As I watched Brendon’s obsession with pennies fade away, a new obsessive behavior emerged and the cycle would go on and on. There is no room in this article for me to share every single account of his obsessive behavior issues. If you would like to know further about some other aspects of his obsessive behavior, I would gladly encourage you to read through my sharing, “A Miraculous Journey To Israel With My Autistic son.”

Blessed Moments at Margaret Drive Special School

I shall move on to share two astonishing events which took place while Brendon was at Margaret Drive Special School. Through it all, I perceived how Yahweh God comforted my heart and soul when I was growing tired and weary. The first event happened on 9th August 2001, which was Singapore’s 36th National Day. How wonderful it was to witness God’s greatness on the day when the nation celebrated its birthday! It was indeed a blessed day to commemorate the event.

Many months prior to the National Day celebration, Brendon’s teachers had spent much time racking their brains to come up with great ideas to celebrate the happy occasion. After much consider­ation, his teacher decided to engage her students to perform the traditional Chinese dragon dance. If you haven’t seen a dragon dance before, basically the dance has a person holding a rod with a big ball at the top that leads the dragon during the dance. The ball is moved left and right, back and forth, up and down, and the dragon follows the ball. Its body, moving in waves, appears to be dancing.

There were altogether eight students in Brendon’s class. As Brendon’s behavior issues had taken a toll on him, he had great difficulties in following the given set of instructions. Thus it was impossible to engage him in the performance. During the rehear­sal, Brendon would sit at a corner to observe the details of the dragon dance movements. Although Brendon is an autistic child, he has a superb photographic memory. His brain has the ability to capture snapshots of things around him in full detail. That was truly amazing! Through observing the rehearsals over and over again, all of a sudden, on one unusual day, Brendon “volunteered” to join the rehearsal. Everyone was stunned and applauded! Amazingly Brendon could follow the whole dance procedure well. His teacher was so impressed with his superb visual skills that she decided to assign him to be in the position of the “dragon tail”. Oh wow! What a pleasant surprise! How lovely!

Finally the much awaited National Day celebration arrived. My husband and I looked forward to the concert. I could not hold back my tears when I saw Brendon perform on the stage. That was too good to be true. Oh how unbelievable, a dream come true! It had to be God’s enabling for Brendon to work together with the whole team to present such a beautiful dance. Absolutely incredible! At that instant I could sense that God’s hands were leading Brendon as he paraded gracefully on the stage. A miracle indeed! Glory be to our most high God Yahweh!

My heart was full of joy and thanksgiving to God as I shared with our church brethren about His mighty and loving hands at work so beautifully in Brendon. The joy was so overwhelming that I literally experienced His unfailing love consuming me. Yahweh God is indeed awesome and beautiful beyond description.

The second amazing event happened in the year 2002 in which there was a special national sports event known as the “Special Olympics Singapore”. The organizer of this event believes that sports can be a platform to help special athletes develop holistically. Besides sports, Special Olympics Singapore also offers initiatives and special programmes that contribute to the overall development of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Over the years, we have seen the impact that Special Olympics is making on the lives of these special athletes and their families.

Brendon’s teacher strongly believed that every child with special needs has the potential to excel if he or she is given the opportunity to do so. After many months of training, Brendon was given the chance to participate in an event known as the “Standing Long Jump”. It was an eye opening experience for my husband and me as it was the first time we had attended a “Special Olympics” event. We were full of curiosity, and looked forward to seeing athletes with intellectual disabilities in action.

It was a beautiful sunny day! My husband and I were all ready to cheer for our beloved son. During the event, we watched Brendon participate with great enthusiasm. It was a blessing to see him enjoying himself immensely. Moreover God turned our curiosity into joy when Brendon won a gold medal that day. We had never expected Brendon to win at all, much less a gold medal! I thanked God for the lovely pleasant surprise. At that instant, God reminded me once again that He can do the impossible as His word says in Matthew 19:26,

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Before the year 2002 drew to a close, my family was blessed to go on a ten-day trip to Perth, Western Australia. The purpose of the trip was to expose our two kids to life in a foreign land. My greatest concern at that time was that Brendon might have difficulties in accepting and eating the totally different kind of food while we were in Perth. The majority of autistic individuals have problems eating food which are unfamiliar to them. Nevertheless, we committed our worries to God. Once again we experienced another miracle during our ten-day trip in Perth. We were truly amazed that Brendon ate everything offered to him without a word of complaint. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I watched him enjoying every single meal. I truly give thanks to God with a grateful heart for He had resolved our most knotty issue.

What a joy to experience the wonderful working power of our compassionate God Yahweh. He had helped Brendon overcome the fear of eating new food. Hurray! How marvelous! After returning from Perth, Brendon began to try out more varieties of food as never before. We were very shocked to see him gain 10 kgs within two months. That is a tremendous weight gain over such a short period of time! I remembered that all his clothes could no longer fit his exploded size and I had to rush off to the shopping mall to buy him new clothes. That sounds quite hilarious but my family was blessed to see a chubbier Brendon for quite a long while.

Indeed God is good all the time. He has granted my family a wonderful trip to Perth. As we explored the country in admiration of God’s handiwork, we thank Him for being the marvelous Creator of the entire universe. How I praise Him over and over again.

An amazing victory at Grace Orchard School

At the close of the year 2002, we were told that Brendon had to leave Margaret Drive Special School by June 2003 when he turns twelve. In those days, there were very few schools in Singapore for autistic individuals above the age of twelve. There were only two schools for the intellectually disabled which probably would accept Brendon. Without further delay, in November 2002, we submitted the applications for admission into either one of the two schools. Two months later, we received news from both schools that Brendon did not meet the admission requirements.

My husband and I were very disappointed, and we had no clue as to what step we should take next. In desperation, I came before God and earnestly committed my prayer request before Him. I prayed,

“Our gracious Father in heaven, if all the doors in Singapore schools are closed for Brendon, and if it is Your will that Brendon should remain at home, I believe You will teach him through Your own channel.”

Amazingly, I found new hope in God’s answer to my plea. While we were searching frantically, my husband and I came across a school by the name “Grace Orchard School” which was founded by two churches in Singapore. However, both the principal and the psychologist of Margaret Drive Special School were against the idea of submitting the application to Grace Orchard School because they felt that the system of education there would be unsuitable for Brendon. As a result, they were reluctant to provide the required supporting documents to be submitted together with the application.

Deep within my heart, I knew God’s way is higher than man’s. I believed that if it were God’s will for Brendon to join Grace Orchard School, He will certainly pave the way for him. After many days of prayers, my husband and I decided to submit the application for admission into Grace Orchard School without seeking help from either the principal or the psychologist from Margaret Drive Special School. It was a crucial period for my family. As I waited upon God, I cleaved to Him for He is my only source of help and strength at all times.

Since we did not have the required supporting documents to be submitted together with the application, we had to engage a psychologist in private practice to conduct a psychological assessment test and to write a report on Brendon. On the day of the examination, much to our dismay, Brendon fared poorly due to the fact that he was totally distracted in an unfamiliar setting. The outcome of the whole assessment test seemed to indicate that the only hope I had was shattered. Just as I was facing another discouraging moment, a still and quiet voice whispered to my ear, “My dear child, I will continue to pave the way for Brendon!” I was stunned when I heard those gentle and assuring words. Our God Yahweh is an awesome God! He knew I needed to hear some comforting words. Instantly my heart melted and my fear was gone! Praise God, Hallelujah!

A few days later, it was absolutely beyond our comprehension when the psychologist in private practice informed us that she had decided not to give the exact score to many sections of the whole assessment test conducted in her clinic. The reason was that she felt things were rather unfair to Brendon since the test was conducted in a totally unfamiliar setting. The majority of autistic individuals cannot perform when they are in an unfamiliar setting.

The truth of the matter was that Brendon had failed the whole assessment test. But to my amazement the psychologist did not mention in her report that Brendon had failed miserably. Instead she decided to write a report to explain her conclusive observation on Brendon’s performance which according to her was good. She also mentioned that Brendon would certainly have performed better in a more familiar setting. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read such an incredible report on Brendon. I was very surprised to hear such an unexpected explana­tion from the psychologist. All I can testify is that our God was at work mightily throughout the whole process. He is the provider for our every need in accordance with His good purpose and perfect plan!

Another unexpected pleasant surprise!

A few weeks later, we finally received good news from Grace Orchard School. The school principal called us for an interview, with further assessment tests to be conducted later. We looked forward to stepping into the new school compound and to have a good view of the school environment. At last we met the inter­viewer who was a psychologist from India. It was an unforgettable encounter for my husband and me to meet up with an Indian psychologist who spoke with a strong Indian accent. While we were communicating with him, we encountered some difficulty in understanding his English. Fear began to creep into my heart as I thought, “Oh no, how on earth is Brendon going to understand his English with such a strong Indian accent? I guess it might be hard for Brendon to pass the assessment test. Sigh….” At that juncture my faith was once again put to the test. A little reminder from our good LORD and Father came to me, “Don’t you have faith in the almighty God whom you worship and adore all this while? He has done great things and He will continue to do so. Have faith in Him.”

The word of God from Matthew chapter 17 verse 20 came instantly into my heart and mind,

“If you have faith as the mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.”

At that instant, there was a sense of joy and peace within my heart. I prayed, “Abba Father, I believe. Yes, I believe with all my heart, and all that is within me praise His holy name!”

After the assessment, we were shocked to learn that Brendon was the “A-Star” kid of the day. The Indian Psychologist had assessed a few other kids on the same day but none could under­stand him as well as our son Brendon. He praised Brendon for the excellent performance! We were so thrilled when the principal of Grace Orchard School told us that Brendon had passed the assessment test with flying colors, and he was accepted by the school immediately. After a good laugh, we wondered, “How on earth did Brendon manage to understand the psychologist’s English with a strong Indian accent?” The only explanation was that God is able! He is able to do all that is beyond our imagination. He has once again paved the way for Brendon. Glory and honour be to our awesome God Yahweh!

The good news of Brendon’s acceptance into Grace Orchard School soon spread quickly. Despite the objections from both the principal and the psychologist of Margaret Drive Special School, God had opened the way for Brendon in His perfect timing. Everyone was stunned as they thought it was an impossible task. Once again our God is great! He used our situation to prove to the world that He is the almighty God who works wonders, for He is able to do the impossible.

There were other pleasant surprises which came later when we discovered that Brendon’s new teacher was in fact his ex-teacher from Margaret Drive Special School. She had joined Grace Orchard School in May 2003, just one month before Brendon was accepted into Grace Orchard School. As had happened in the previous years, God had provided yet another great teacher for Brendon. That was absolutely marvelous!

After joining Grace Orchard School for a year, Brendon continued to progress by leaps and bounds. In June 2004, he was transferred to another class that consisted of fourteen children with mild learning disabilities. I gathered from Brendon’s teacher that he was the only autistic child who was eligible to join that class for that semester. Oh how I thank God for His great blessings!

Although Brendon was given the opportunity to join a class with a group of children with mild learning disabilities, my deep con­cern was that he might have great difficulty in relating to the kids in his new class. I thought, “How is Brendon going to cope with all the changes?” I confess that there was a certain degree of fear and doubt within my heart at the time. But time and again God has to assure me that He is constantly keeping watch over Brendon and I have to surrender every aspect of my life to Him.

True enough, God again provided so much care and love for Brendon. His teacher had assigned not one but three buddies to take good care of Brendon, and they were great buddies who were most willing to assist Brendon in all ways. Although Brendon has difficulty in socializing with others, his buddies did not mind his mental condition at all. In fact they were most willing to tag along and help him when necessary. I thank God for providing wonder­ful people to support Brendon throughout his learning journey.

The other major challenge I faced was tutoring Brendon in his studies. He used to live a carefree life, learning everything through fun and play in his previous class. But now he has to learn two academic subjects, English and Mathematics, which were quite tough for him. I recall that there was a time when Brendon could not understand the subject at all no matter how hard I tried to explain it to him. I had to acknow­ledge before God how incapable I was, and I had to come humbly before Him to seek His help and guidance. Amazingly, God enabled Brendon to understand the subject well. It was within a short time span that Brendon managed to complete his homework. That was an instant victory! How lovely!

The opportunity to know the only true God Yahweh

Over the years, my heart longed for Brendon to know that it was Yahweh God who created him a unique child with special needs. The prayer of my heart is that Brendon will come to know that there is a true and living God who loves him dearly. Indeed God knew the burning desire of my heart. I had never expected that there would be a regular daily prayer session before the commence­ment of classes every morning.

As I said earlier, Grace Orchard School was established by two churches. Some brethren from the two churches started a Sunday school for students to learn teachings from the Bible. Glory, honor and praise be to Yahweh God for the opportunity given to Brendon and the students to participate in art and craft sessions, to listen to Bible stories, and to attend prayer sessions. My heart melted when I received the art and craft done by Brendon in his Sunday school classes. He had learned many spiritual lessons about loving God and caring for others. I thank God for His unfailing love for Brendon.

Yahweh God paved the way to St Andrew’s Autism Centre

How time flies! Brendon spent six fruitful years of learning at Grace Orchard School. By January 2009, he had to move on to another special school meant for young adults with autism. Our only hope at the time was to submit the application for admission into St Andrews Autism Centre which was the one and only centre that specialized in educating young autistic adults above the age of eighteen. We submitted the application in June 2008. A week later, we received news that the centre had decided to place Brendon’s name on the waiting list as there was no vacancy. We were told that the waiting time would be at least two years or more. My husband and I were caught in another dilemma. How depressing it was to learn that in the entire country there was no school available for our beloved son. At the age of eighteen, Brendon was too young to be confined at home. I wept before our merciful God and Father when I was caught in a totally hopeless situation. We were at our wit’s end; the only answer was to commit our way and our cares to God. In desperation I bowed humbly before my gracious God and Father in heaven. I prayed a short but sincere prayer,

“Abba Father, please show us Your way. I believe You have great purposes for Brendon. May Your will be done. Amen.”

Every single day I cried out to Abba Father in heaven, and uttered that simple but sincere prayer. In my heart I believed that God loves Brendon dearly, and that surely He will make the way for him someday. Lo and behold, the answer to my earnest plea came six months later. In December 2008, the best ever “Christmas gift” finally arrived at our mailbox. Oh wow, at last we received a reply from St Andrew’s Autism Centre. The psychologist from the centre informed us that out of the blue a client had withdrawn from the centre, and she would like to conduct an assessment test to see if Brendon was a suitable candidate for that class. We jumped with joy at such an unexpected pleasant surprise! Certainly I knew God had once again heard my sincere prayer request.

As that was the only chance given to Brendon, the outcome of the assessment test would determine if he could continue his school years or be stuck at home for the next two to three years. At that juncture, I committed all my fears and doubts to God. To my amazement Brendon was calm and very cooperative throughout the entire examination. The psycholo­gist was well pleased with his performance and she declared right after the assessment test, “At Brendon’s current level, he fits in perfectly into the designated class. We warmly welcome him to join our centre.”

My heart wept with tears of joy when I heard the confirmation. How timely was God’s provision for Brendon. I pondered: Had there been many choices of schools available for Brendon, then most probably I would not have sought God’s provision simply because I could easily select the top school of my choice for Brendon. However I thanked God for placing me at the dead end of the road. When I was wandering in the darkest valley of fear and doubt, God showed me that He would definitely shine some bright light real soon. That comforting thought gave me hope in a totally hopeless situation. All I had to do was to keep pressing on by His power and might! How incredible and miraculous it was when Brendon was accepted into the one and only autism centre at that time. How wonderful it was to behold our God Yahweh who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I thank Him for teaching me the importance of casting all my burdens on Him, and never to lean on my own understanding. In all my ways I acknowledged Him, and He will direct my path.

Oh how beautiful! Finally Brendon could continue his next phase of learning at St Andrew’s Autism Centre starting from January 2009. Over the past twenty eight years, in every stage of Brendon’s learning curve, we were told that the waiting time for admission into every single special school was approximately two to three years. However, he never had to wait long before being accepted into each school of our choice. Through it all, Yahweh God has never failed to prepare a place for Brendon.

The curriculum at St Andrew’s Autism Centre covers practical training for autistic individuals in the areas of adaptive learning, social development, and daily living skills. After many years of planning, it established the “Day Activity Centre” (DAC) which aims to meet the needs of autistic individuals from the age of nineteen to fifty-five. When I first read about St Andrew’s Autism Centre (SAAC), its vision and mission caught my attention.

SAAC Vision

  • Enabling people with autism to lead dignified and meaningful lives.

SAAC Mission

  • Enriching the lives of people with autism and their families through quality education, training and care, distinguished by Christian love and compassion.

How amazing! As I meditated on those words, my heart was overwhelmed with joy and thanksgiving to God. What a beautiful vision and mission I thought. St Andrew’s Autism Centre is an extension of Singapore Anglican Community Services managed by the St Andrew’s Mission Hospital, whose motto is, “Trusting God, Bearing fruit.”

Oh wow! What a beautiful motto. Those words inspired me to press on relentlessly! It is indeed a good reminder to all Christians. May it be our motto as well, “Trusting God, Bearing fruit.”

More exciting learning journeys at St Andrew’s Autism Centre

In January 2009, Brendon joined St Andrew’s Autism Centre which was operating at a rented premise located at the ground level of an old government subsidized Housing Board Estate. There were altogether seven clients and two coaches in his class. When I look back, St Andrew’s Autism Centre started off with humble begin­nings. In due time the reputable St Andrew’s Mission Hospital foresaw the need to provide a permanent place of learning for people with autism. It was then that the idea of a new autism centre emerged. I thank God for meeting our needs through various channels and through the love of people who have hearts of gold.

Three months after Brendon joined SAAC, St Andrew’s Mission Hospital turned a new page in its history. On 28 March 2009, St Andrew’s Mission Hospital held a ground-breaking ceremony. Construction of a new purpose-built integrated centre for people with autism began shortly after. By September 2010, the new centre was built. The S$23.7 million centre was the first integrated comprehensive facility in this region to serve people with autism from age nineteen to fifty-five.

On the grand opening day of the newly built centre, the chairman of the SAAC board prayed this prayer, saying,

“We remember the commission given to us, the Anglican Church, to be a Christian community serving people in Singapore with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We are humbled by Your grace in providing these premises which are to be dedicated for the service of our clients. Keep us faithful to our calling and strengthen us in our service. It was with this strong sense of calling and a desire to serve the nation of Singapore, that St Andrew’s Mission Hospital Board began to plan for the Centre.”

Many years has passed since the opening of the new centre, and this beautiful prayer by the chairman of SAAC will always remain in my heart as a reminder to me of the vision and mission of the newly built St Andrew’s Autism Centre.

On 3 January 2011, the long awaited day had finally arrived for Brendon and his classmates to start their new semester at the newly built St Andrew’s Autism Centre. I thank God for His continual provision of an environment conducive for further learning.

Tree Planting Ceremony on SAMH’s 100th Anniversary

2013 was a special year for St Andrew’s Mission Hospital (SAMH) as it celebrated its 100th anniversary. As part of its year-long celebration, SAMH held a Tree-Planting Ceremony and Fun Walk event at St Andrew’s Autism Centre (SAAC) on 20 April 2013. A “Gustavia Superba Tree” was planted in celebra­tion of 100 years of Anglican community services in Singapore.

Our almighty God continued to shower His love upon my beloved son Brendon. Much to our delight, Brendon was selected to be one of the participants in the “Tree Planting Ceremony”. Together with the Bishop of the Diocese of Singapore, the President of SAMH, and the CEO of SAMH, Brendon dug deep down into the soil with all his might to plant that lovely tree at one of the prominent sites at St Andrew’s Autism Centre.

A commemorative plaque was put up for this meaningful event. The plaque structure featured the SAMH centenary logo’s “100” design which symbolizes how SAMH continues forth, keeping relevant to current times whilst always remembering the journey that God had led them through.

Two Bible verses from Jeremiah 17:7 to 8 were engraved on that plaque.

7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD (Yahweh), whose trust is the LORD (Yahweh).

8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

How lovely are those words from the Bible! Every time I visit the centre, I would stop to catch a glimpse of that majestic “Gustavia Superba Tree” and to measure its height to see how tall it had grown. Besides admiring that tree, I would spend a moment to gaze at one of the glass wall panels where photos of the “Tree Planting Ceremony” were displayed permanently. I could see the bright smiles on Brendon’s face reflected on those photos. Indeed that special event was another testament to the lovingkindness of our good LORD and Savior lavished upon my dear son. Oh how I praise and thank God for His goodness!

The opportunity to explore Horticulture

In the year 2014, God continued to pave the way for Brendon. A devoted Christian teacher perceived the need to explore new avenues for his students. He foresaw the benefits of starting a new horticulture project. With that vision in mind, he shared it with the board members and they were thrilled! Finally a plot of land was allocated for the new project. That was how the very first horti­culture project started. Besides outdoor gardening, the students were also trained in cultivating air-plants in a brand new indoor workshop. I am very thankful to God for the opportunities given to Brendon to explore another area of learning.

With over two years of perseverance, both the indoor and outdoor gardening projects continued to thrive. In the year 2016, Brendon’s teacher managed to negotiate with the director of a landscape company who was willing to engage the students to work at his nursery. Everything worked out wonderfully. Brendon and his classmates would visit the nursery three times a week for fur­ther involvement in gardening activities such as repotting plants, watering plants, as well as weeding. It was a fantastic experience for Brendon to be a real gardener in a full scale nursery. I thank God for His abundant provisions for Brendon.

All the happenings were truly amazing! By the year 2017, Brendon had mastered the art of creating simple air-plants terrariums. Furthermore his teacher had approached some small companies to support their works of art. Those organizations had ordered some air-plants terrariums as door gifts for their annual company dinner event. How cool! I couldn’t believe how wonderful it was. God is good all the time!

There is no end to learning. In January 2017, Brendon moved on to join a new class. His new teacher decided to take the students deeper into learning. He proposed a new vegetable farming project. Just as the need arose, a plot of land was allocated for their new project work. Brendon was blessed to play a part in vegetable farming. Although life was tough as a “farmer”, Brendon worked diligently in nurturing his little farm. When it was harvest season, a kind-hearted grocer who owned a humble farm produce store had offered to sell some of the harvested vegetables at his store. Moreover, a group of warm-hearted residents at a private condo­minium had rendered their kind support as well by purchasing the remaining vegetables from the SAAC farm. As for my family, we were blessed to enjoy all the fresh farm-grown vegetables which Brendon brought home over a long period of time. Oh how I rejoiced! How I thanked God for showering Brendon with His unfailing love.

Earnest plea to God for an “Adult Disability Home” for persons with autism to be built

To date autism remains an incurable life-long psychological dis­order. Parents of autistic individuals are concerned about the fu­ture of their children. The question is, “Where could these autistic individuals go when their parents are no longer capable of looking after them?” My husband and I shared the same sentiments as do all other parents. In desperation we brought our prayer requests before our gracious God and Father in heaven. Through all these years, we had witnessed God’s intervention in His perfect timing. He had never ceased to make the way for Brendon, and we believed with all our hearts that He would continue to do so.

Amazingly, on 2 October 2015, Singapore’s President Tony Tan, who was the guest of honour at the annual Singapore Anglican Community Services’ St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital Charity Dinner, announced at the dinner that SAAC had been appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to co-develop and operate an Adult Disability Home for persons with autism.

Since then, SAAC and MSF have been working closely to design and build a facility that will provide long term residential care for those without alternative options.

This next big step forward for SAAC is a part of the centre’s commitment to continue to walk and work alongside families of persons with autism, and to be a bridge for education, training, intervention and advocacy.

My husband and I were shocked when we heard the good news. Once again our compassionate God Yahweh had heard our earnest plea. That was so incredible! Oh how we thanked Him for answering our prayers. With a grateful heart, we looked forward to seeing the very first residential home for autistic individuals to be established in Singapore.

The Adult Disability Home (ADH) that St. Andrew’s Autism Centre (SAAC) co-developed with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) began construction on 21 February 2017. The new residential home, St. Andrew’s Adult Home (SAAH), is specially designed and built to meet the needs of persons with autism. It has the capacity to house 200 residents and also has a co-located Day Activity Centre (DAC) with a capacity for 50 adult clients.

SAAH provides long-term residential and respite care services that centre on three core development goals: Daily Living Skills, Communal Living Skills, and Emotional Behavioral Management. A team of staff nurses and healthcare assistants, together with allied health staff such as psychologists, therapists and social workers, work with the frontline care staff in helping the residents live dignified and meaningful lives.

As of 19 April 2018, the 10th floor of one wing and the 7th floor of the other wing had been completed. Work on fittings and equipment, programmes, staffing and logistics to support the residential home, was ready. Finally St. Andrew’s Autism Centre (SAAC) officially received the purpose-built St. Andrew’s Adult Home (SAAH) building from the Ministry of Social and Family Development on 16 January 2019. An official grand opening cere­mony was held on 11 February 2019. Thereafter SAAH received its first residents in early April 2019.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when my husband and I were invited to a tour of the newly built St. Andrew’s Autism Home (SAAH). Indeed Our God Yahweh knew my anxious thoughts, and His consolations delight my soul. Truly no words could rightly express my eternal gratefulness to our awesome God for providing a future earthly home for our beloved son in unforeseen circumstances when my husband and I are unable to look after our son anymore.

Currently there is a Day Activity Centre (DAC) at St. Andrew’s Autism Home (SAAH) which has a capacity for 50 adult clients. Since SAAH is closer to our home, we decided to apply for Brendon to be transferred to the “Day Activity Centre” at SAAH. We were very grateful to God when Brendon was accepted into the new DAC in April 2019.

It has been a long journey in learning to submit to the will of God while embracing the mysterious world of autism with my beloved autistic son over the last twenty eight years. Through it all I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to the one and only true God Yahweh for granting me and my family His grace, mercy and courage to face every obstacle which stood in our way. Oh how good and how pleasant it is to experience the love of God through the miracles He had performed.

Before I end my sharing, I would like to thank all my dear brothers and sisters from all over the world for reading my writings. To those who have been supporting us in prayer, we would like to say, “A big thank you for remembering us.” May our gracious God and Father in heaven bless you with the abundance of His spiritual blessings! Amen.

All Bible verses quoted from
English Standard Version (ESV 2007 edition)   

Photo (c) taken in 2015 by Bentley C.F. Chan

 

(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church