AG Times had the privilege to speak to three parents from our churches about their journeys with their special needs children. Hear their thoughts and as a community, let us learn how to be a better support to them.
.a) What were the initial struggles with your child?
KH: It took us almost a year after Lynette was born before we realized that her development wasn’t normal. Our pediatrician told us to be patient when we found her growth to be slow and the size of her forehead to not be growing at a normal rate. We were devastated when she was diagnosed as quadriplegic. We kept asking ourselves repeatedly why it happened. Ruby stopped work and I become the sole breadwinner. As Lynette grew taller and bigger, we had to put her in a pram or carry her around. People began to look at us differently and wondered why my child couldn’t walk or talk. We were also too focused on Lynette and at times, our son was neglected.
LN: Kai was born in Beijing and at aged three he started attending an international Nursery but had many challenges assimilating into the school culture. During that time, he had a speech delay as well as social communication impairment. This affected his ability to express himself and understand others, as well as contributed to a lack of emotional awareness of other people’s feelings and needs. Compared to his peers, he did not have the required attention span for effective learning and was slow with reading and writing. We wrestled with his many other behavioral issues at home and social settings. His distress often escalated into meltdowns including long crying spells, temper tantrums, and aggressive outbursts toward others. We struggled with knowing what to do and were often perceived as overly permissive or just plain ineffective. All these led to increased conflicts within the home and in our marriage.
ML: Our daughter Min-shan was diagnosed with Autism with mild cerebral palsy. She turned blue in the nursery room a few hours after birth, and we do not know till this day if that was the cause of her disability. It is pointless to ponder over “How it happened?” “Why it happened?” because we know that we just have to trust God and move on. We have left those questions at the feet of the Lord. God knows best. From the ages of one to four, Min-shan had been slow in her developmental progress. For example, she turned her body on her own at about one year old, sat up at one and half years old and only started walking at four years old. We worked hard on her physical movements and exercises and when she finally walked, we rejoiced greatly over this developmental milestone. However, when speech didn’t come on at age five, the psychologist then confirmed she has autism, which affected her speech, and other cognitive and social developments. It was disappointing to us as we thought we had overcome the hurdles…”What? Another hurdle? And a bigger one?” Oh God, where is this leading us to?” were the questions that went through our minds.
b) How did you manage these struggles?
KH: It took us time to accept that Lynette is a special child. We desperately sought treatments and divine intervention (at that time we were not saved). We went to the temple and consulted a spiritual medium. Each time, Lynette cried when we brought her to see the medium and she saw the chanting. We embarked on western therapy programs conducted locally and got to know other parents with similar situations and joined the parent support groups. We tried to balance our time to be with our son so as not to neglect him. Deep inside our heart, we desperately wanted to see a miracle for Lynette.
LN: We attended a cell group for young parents to seek help but it made us feel that we were ineffective and lousy parents when we compared ourselves to the standards set by the Christian literatures. We not only doubted ourselves as parents, we felt as though we might have failed as Christians. I was frequently hitting my son in rage under the guise of not “sparing the rod”. We eventually stopped serving in church. This was in stark contrast to before, where my wife and I were actively serving in the Children Ministry in addition to my active involvement in the worship ministry. Despite seeking pastoral prayers and support, we were quickly spiraling downward. My wife was sinking into depression. I was stressed at work and was increasingly angry. We weren’t managing our struggles very well.
ML: We saw how the Lord did his “little by little miracles” and turned Min-shan from a flobby, hypotonic baby to a walking little girl, and this gave us the assurance that God will walk with us in this formidable task to tackle autism and the challenges it presents. Having a child with special needs is not an easy road to travel. Min-shan has to be taken care of by someone all the time, she is non-verbal and doesn’t have much independent life skills. At times, the overwhelming sensory sensitivities to noise and sight can result in meltdowns. Daily we commit her to the Lord, and a constant prayer we pray with her before she goes to bed is “God, grant Min-shan the fruit of the Holy Spirit of Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness and Self-control.” We have often received feedback from outsiders that Min-shan displays a genuine smile and joy and we know that can only come from the Lord. She has taught us the joy of acceptance and contentment and trusting in our loving God daily.
c) What support did you turn to?
KH: One day, my sister invited us to Lighthouse church in Tampines where we witnessed miracles with people walking without the walking aids they had brought along. We were immediately stuck with what we had seen and wanted very much for miracles to happen to us, specifically for Lynette. We went back to Lighthouse several times and we got to know a lady friend with a special child like us in Lynette’s school and she attended Moriah AG.
We were invited to Moriah AG in October 2000 and we felt very welcomed and comfortable with the people in the church. Lynette no longer behaved like when we had first brought her to the spiritual medium. We really felt peace for the first time in our hearts and I clearly remembered that the late Pastor Alfred Yeo told us that God had a purpose by giving us a special child.
Given Lynette’s condition that she may cry suddenly at times, and that she was wheelchair bound, Moriah’s brothers and sisters had given us great support and encouragement to take care of Lynette. We attended Moriah regularly and even went to the Bible classes conducted after church services.
Lynette’s physical condition limited our travel pattern to attend cell group. The whole cell took the trouble to relocate from Bishan to my place at Bukit Batok. There were 12 people in the cell including us. The cell members helped us to grow spiritually. We were baptized in 2008.
My wife and I have been serving actively in the ushering ministry for about 10 years. On usher duty days, as we are unable to be on time in the morning, the usher ministry gladly accommodated to our timing. Last year, in October, my wife joined the music ministry, singing hymns and worshipping God.
For Lynette’s condition, we have total faith in God’s Word (Matthew 19:26) that with God, all things are possible. The miracle will come one day and Lynette will be restored. Amen.
LN: I was hesitant to go to church after returning from Beijing to Singapore for good. Eventually we went back to Trinity Christian Centre under strong persuasion from my wife. Both my wife and I grew up in this church since the days of our youth. Before we completely released Kai into the children’s service, we spoke to the Children Ministry’s pastor. She was empathetic and didn’t dismiss our apprehension. She assured us that she would work closely with us to support Kai and she did. Despite the fact that there were more than 50 children in a single service, she kept a keen lookout for Kai. When Kai’s behavior needed addressing, she didn’t single him out but corrected the behavior of the group. We were contactable by phone if Kai had a meltdown. While Kai did have a violent meltdown after the service at the playground, the parents of the kids who were hurt were not hostile but continued their friendship with us.
The recent most concerning inevitable process was his transition from the Children Ministry into the Youth Ministry. We spoke to the pastors in charge. Again, they displayed no disdain but empathy and acceptance. They encouraged us to attend the service together with him to help him feel comfortable. They wanted him to attend the youth camp, which was a three-day-four-night camp away from home. That was scary for us as Kai had never left home, nor had he shared rooms with strangers. However, with enormous trepidation, we sent Kai for the camp. Kai’s camp leader, roommates and group dynamics were carefully handpicked to best accommodate his needs. I was allowed to attend the camp as a volunteer to provide support toward Kai should the need arise. And it did arise when Kai suddenly became upset and ran away just when the service began. The pastor was quick to inform me. When I got there I was comforted to see my senior pastor already there attending to Kai. He was actually about to preach to the group of 500 youth campers on stage. However, his decision to be there reminded me of Jesus leaving the 99 sheep in search for the single lost sheep. I was personally very moved because my senior pastor had been my youth pastor when I was just an adolescent in the Youth Ministry.
After the camp, Kai cell group’s leader was again carefully selected to suit his personality, someone calm and mature. So far, Kai has assimilated smoothly into the worship service and into the cell group. He enjoys attending service and texting his fellow cell group members and friends from the Youth Ministry. No meltdowns thus far (phew!). On his spiritual life, Kai is growing in his Bible knowledge and understanding of God’s love, which is equally important.
Over the years, we have more downs than ups in parenting Kai and coming to grasp with Autism. God has taught us a lot and changed us through the years. The story of the prodigal son is a good illustration on how I was once a prodigal, but God has progressively changed and molded me to become the embracing father to demonstrate the heart and character of the heavenly Father, both to Kai and to others around.
Through it all, we have experienced God’s faithfulness and grace which is more than sufficient for our daily use. God taught my wife and I teamwork, and continually reminded us to uphold each other’s interest. We progressively learned to never blame each other but to encourage and promote each other’s wellbeing.
ML: We are thankful to our church and extended family for extending their encouragement and acceptance. Min-shan was welcomed in the kids’ church though she made noise and could not participate in most of the activities, but the embracing acceptance of the teachers and the kids was heartwarming. We know deep down many brothers and sisters are praying and still praying for us. We can rest assured in our band of prayer warriors to cover us in prayer when we need the reinforcements in moments of despair and need.
We also have tremendous support from groups of parents with special needs kids through the Whatsapp chat group, such as HOJ (Hope of Journey) group, ASD group, and within the groups, a sub-division into “prayer support group” among the Christian parents. Oh! Such a privilege to have these “special” parents rallying to provide emotional, moral and most important of all, prayer support. We have witnessed wonderful testimonies coming from these fervent, persistent and faith-filled prayers. All glory to our God who hears us even in our softest whispers to Him.
About the Interviewees:
Lee Kah Heng (KH),
Kah Heng and his wife, Ruby was married in 1989 and they have two children. Their first child is a son and he works with CAAS and his second child is Lynette, a special needs child. Kah Heng has been working in the semiconductor manufacturing industry since 1987 and Ruby used to work in a bank. She has stopped work since 1996 to be a full-time homemaker attending to Lynette. Lynette has cerebral palsy (quadriplegic) which affects her speech, brain function and four limbs.
Lawrence Ng (LN),
Married in 2001, Jen and Lawrence had their son, Kai in 2004, who was diagnosed with Autism around the age of three. After they were married, the couple answered God’s call to serve in China for eight years, and then to Australia for four years. The couple was actively serving in Trinity Christian Centre since their youth and has returned to Singapore for about three years. God has given an opportunity to Jen to teach in an international school, impacting many foreign families with special needs. Lawrence was a human resource management practitioner and a professional counsellor. He had given up his career to be the main caregiver to Kai, while building a business as a weight management coach as well as reaching out to families within the special needs community.
Tong Mei Leng (ML),
Mei Leng has been a real estate salesperson for the last nine years. She is married to Eugene Chan, a retired RSAF pilot, currently a lay leader with missions (Indonesian Ministry) in Grace Assembly of God. He is also the full-time caregiver to Min-Shan. They have three adult children and Min-Shan is their middle daughter. She attends day center at Eden Adult Centre under the Autism Resource Centre.