About 2 years ago…
Our daughter, Little Star, was diagnosed with autism. She was 2.5 years old. Although she babbled a lot since infancy, she had almost no words. Communication was challenging for her, she would always prefer to show us than ask for what she wanted.
Her eye contact dropped drastically after the age of 2. She did not point at anything. She heard stuff going on around her, but would not respond to her own name. She would not interact with her peers and wanted to play alone most of the time. She had difficulty coping with loud, crowded situations, and was indifferent to people outside her own family.
But this is not that kind of story. Back then, we were devastated, this is true. We went through a period of denial, followed by a period of feeling lost, then followed by a period of feeling even more lost as we struggled to find the right therapy for our child. Afraid that she would be stigmatized, and finding it difficult to cope with the reality of her diagnosis, we kept her condition within the family, and it ultimately made us feel even more alone.
This was the past.
I am in a completely different place right now, mentally and emotionally.
Little Star is still on the autism spectrum, but I am buoyed with hope and joy for this little person, the chance to be with this wonderful little person every day.
To be part of her growth, and her autism journey that makes the everyday magical.
It began in May 2015, when I went for an Autism training course in Johor, Malaysia, run by the Autism Treatment Center of America (ATCA) and organized by Embrace Autism (EA)* Singapore. The course was named Start Up, taught by teachers and directors from the ATCA. The ATCA introduced us to a wonderful play therapy called the Son-Rise Program (SRP), for children with autism and other developmental delays.
The Son-Rise Program is the best therapy that we have ever done with our child.
Am not saying it is the only one that works; am saying it is the one most suited to our family. There are so many reasons why, which I will explain in a future post. But personally, the key reasons are this:
- SRP totally changes how I see my child and myself. I no longer see autism as a problem that I need to fix, with all the accompanying anxiety, guilt and despair. Instead, I see autism as part of who she is, and I love her in whole, therefore I also love her autism. And this total love for every part of my child is the thing that is helping her.
- SRP is a home-based program, meaning we run it from our home, and do not need to hire expensive professional therapists. It is simple enough that we can teach the methods to family and volunteers, which doubles our child’s therapy time!
- SRP makes therapy super fun and playful, for us and our child. We have goals, yes, but we go about them through naturalized play and games. In the playroom, we aim to have wacky, silly, imaginative fun times! And this — making the therapy fun, is what engages our child and make them more receptive to social interaction and learning.
The next steps
In December 2016, the ATCA is returning to South East Asia, this time in Singapore, for a follow-up to the Start Up Son-Rise Program, called NEW FRONTIERS. Targeted at parents and professionals who attended the Start Up in 2015, New Frontiers aims to take our home-based program to the next level, focusing intensively on social games, creative interaction, and a social curriculum.
Initially, I did not plan to go to the New Frontiers course, even though we practice Son-Rise at home and I believe 100% in the Son-Rise Principles. The exchange rate between Malaysian Ringgit and the Singapore Dollar is just too poor, resulting in high course fees. Furthermore, we had committed our finances and savings to hyperbaric chamber oxygen therapy at this time, on top of Little Star’s regular speech, occupational and other therapies.
However, parents at Embrace Autism* have given us a lot of encouragement and support — thank you guys! They encouraged me to FUNDRAISE what we need to attend New Frontiers come December 2016, citing their own past examples of success. Like all things Son-Rise, attitude is so important the folks at EA have imbued me with their positivity.
So here we are! For the coming month, we will be posting Little Star’s artwork up for sale and auction, as well as a bunch of art memorabilia such as posters, postcards, maybe even some T-shirts. Here is just a sample of some of her artwork, and more on Story of a Little Star’s Facebook Page.
The pricing of these will be staggered as we appreciate all your contributions to reach our fundraising goal, big or small.
Little Star’s Facebook page and blog will also feature a hodge-podge of stuff for sale. We hope to solicit random stuff from family and friends. So if you have anything that you think would sell, please do contact us via PM on Facebook Messenger or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Think creative! Like teaching 2 swimming lessons to a child (or adult). Or babysitting services. Maybe you developed the perfect chocolate brownie mix and would love to donate a few packets! Or offer to set up a web blog for someone. We are not picky and will happily feature it as long as it’s not illegal or shady :p
How can you help?
Our fundraising goal is SGD3,000, which is the NEW FRONTIERS Son-Rise Program course fees.
That is equivalent to about RM9,100 or USD2,200. The ATCA brings directors and teachers of the Son-Rise Program from the United States to train parents. Last year, Raun Kaufman himself (author of Autism Breakthrough) and the incredible Kate Wilde (author of Autistic Logistics) were our trainers. Having been to the Start Up, I KNOW they are the total embodiment of that Son-Rise spirit. So here is how you can help:
- Bid for or buy the artwork, services, and items, that we will put up periodically. For a summary of all items, please check Little Star Art shop on Facebook page
- Contribute items or services for us to sell! We do not guarantee it will sell, but we will certainly do our best to move the items. Just make sure you can follow through when there is a buyer 😉
- You can also contribute monetarily if you just want to support us without buying anything. We will send you a Thank You e-card. Even if it is only RM10, no contribution is too small.
- Finally, do like and share our Page and Posts! Even if you do not buy any of the stuff on sale, someone on your friends list might.
It’s is not up there in the points, but another thing you can do is be on our team. We need all the help we can get doing stuff like writing articles and all kinds of logistical/ administrative/ operational things. Even better, be a Play Volunteer for Little Star (just email us at email@example.com to find out more)!
If we somehow fall short of the target, rest assured the funds raised will not be in vain. We will use it to pay for additional therapy sessions for Little Star.
We will update Story of a Little Star’s Facebook Page and Blog regularly on monies raised so you will always be in the know.
Little Star today
Since Start Up more than a year ago, Little Star has come a long way. We have seen the most gains in eye contact, interactive attention span, and flexibility. Speech and communication are coming along too. Her eye contact is super good now, from a 20% two years ago, to an average of 70% now. And it is totally self-initiated, spontaneous, unprompted, and absolutely meaningful.
Her interactive attention span, meaning her capacity to interact socially with people (not objects), was an estimated 5 minutes. Today I can play socially with her for up to 15 minutes 🙂 She takes a little break, then frequently comes back for more on her own. She also actively seeks out people to play with. Although still strong-willed, Little Star is much more flexible about her schedule and activities. She eats much more and a bigger variety of food, which is amazing for a once extremely picky eater! Little Star is still sensitive to certain noises, but has calmed down, and even enjoys sounds that used to frighten her, such as piano playing and whistles.
As for speech, initially, we were worried as we did not see much gains in the first 6 months. But today I conclude that Little Star needed to build up her attentiveness to people first. Since her eye contact and interactive attention span improved, her speech has bubbled up. She has spoken many words this past 2 months or so. In the past month (13 sept – 13 Oct), she said 70 words for a total of 157 times(!!) and I did not even record all of them 🙂
We still have a long way to go, but today, it is as if we have a map through the unknown territory of autism — once full of fear, now full of adventure.
So you can see why the Son-Rise Program means so much to us. Hope you are excited as we are about making it to the New Frontiers autism training course!
*Embrace Autism is an amazing non-profit organization started by parents who trained at the ATCA in the USA and have been practicing their Son-Rise Programs for years. Seeing the gains their own children have made, they work really hard to bring the Son-Rise Program to Singapore. Parents from all over Asia, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, and as far as Australia and Dubai, have benefited from their efforts.to Singapore.
Thank you – Our Shop is up!
We also accept monetary contributions. The shop is pretty basic as we are on the free WordPress platform which doesn’t support direct linking to Paypal. So if you are interested in any of the products, do drop us an email or Facebook message. Indicate the name of product and quantity, and we will send you a Paypal payment request. Do check out our Facebook Shop for the full selection as well as Little Star Art Shop on this blog!